As exciting as going on holiday is, the thought of driving in summer and hot weather can evoke high amounts of stress due to the organisational and logistical challenges it creates. With that in mind, it’s crucial you spend the necessary time to prepare for your summer holiday driving, whether that be brushing up on new driving laws or carrying out essential maintenance checks before setting off. 

To help ease the burden that comes with planning a trip and ensure your holiday gets off to a flying (or rather driving) start, we have compiled a summer driving guide to make sure you and your car have the best time away. With our latest *research revealing one in five people will take their car on holiday this summer, it’s evident our motors will play an important role in facilitating a summer packed full of fun, laughter and unforgettable memories. 

Want to skip to a specific section in this article? Use the jump links below:

Five essential checks to make before setting off on your summer holiday

Breaking down at any time is a major, and often costly inconvenience, but breaking down while driving on holiday is all the more frustrating.

Nobody wants to be stuck at the roadside in the scorching heat when they should be soaking up rays on a beach. So, to keep you on the road and headed for a stress-free holiday, here are five ways to reduce the risk of a summer breakdown.

1. Start with the basics, top up your fuel

It sounds simple, but vehicles do break down due to a lack of fuel. Long journeys on unfamiliar and sometimes remote roads can leave drivers caught out.

To easily prevent this blunder, fill up your tank before you leave home and stop to top up when your tank drops between half to a quarter full.

2. Check your coolant levels

It may go without saying, but checking your coolant levels regularly is essential, especially when driving in hot weather. 

Low coolant levels can result in your engine overheating and breaking down. To prevent this, check your coolant levels before setting off on your trip. The current level should sit between the maximum and minimum level lines. 

Don’t forget to keep some coolant in your car to top up during your trip and check levels regularly, especially if you’re driving long distances.

3. Inflate your tyres

As Brits drive up and down the country this summer and even further afield across the channel, many vehicles will drive the longest distance they have all year. Throw hot temperatures in the mix and it could be a recipe for disaster.

Existing weak spots and damage on tyres can be exacerbated by travelling for long periods on hot roads. To prevent damage and bursts, check your tyres’ pressure and tread depth before setting off on your journey. Remember, the outer band of a 20p coin should disappear when slotted into the tread. If it doesn’t, or you notice any cracks or punctures in your tyres, get them replaced before setting off.

If you have room, it would also be wise to carry a spare tyre with you should you suffer a puncture during your trip.

4. Check your oil pressure

Many of us wait for the oil light to go off on our dashboard to investigate our oil pressure, but it’s well worth checking before your trip to avoid getting caught out.

When driving in hot weather, the oil in your engine becomes less viscous and lubricating for moving parts, which could lead to engine failure and an expensive breakdown. To avoid this, check your oil pressure before leaving for your break. 

If you have any concerns about your oil pressure take your car into a dealership or mechanic to get it checked out properly.

5. Get to know your dashboard warning lights 

Warning lights popping up on your dashboard is the most obvious sign that there is an issue with your motor. While it’s easy to ignore these signs, it’s important you take the time to investigate the problem your car is alerting you to. Here are 6 common warning lights not to ignore this summer:

Engine/coolant temperature warning light

Engine/coolant temperature warning light Long drives and hot weather put a strain on your vehicle to keep itself cool. If your engine cannot regulate its temperature, the engine temperature (also known as the coolant temperature) light will pop up on your dashboard. 

The engine/coolant temperature light will appear as a red or amber thermometer above waves. Its presence could be as simple as having low coolant levels, but it may also indicate a more serious issue. In any case, pull over immediately to avoid permanent engine damage. 

Wait for your engine to cool down before lifting the bonnet and topping up your coolant levels. Look to see if you can spot any leaks, and if you can’t – restart your car. If the light goes off, continue your journey; if not, take your car to a garage as soon as possible. 

Remember, an overheated engine can fail. If in doubt, call roadside assistance to avoid breaking down.

Oil pressure light

Oil pressure light As touched on earlier, driving in hot weather can make oil in your engine less viscous and set off your oil engine light.

The oil pressure warning light looks like a red oil can with a singular drop coming out of it. If you see this light flash up on your dashboard, pull over and wait for your vehicle to cool down before investigating under your hood. 

Look to see if there is an oil leak under your vehicle, check your oil levels and, if needed, top up. 

If your light remains on, it is time to get your car checked by a professional. Do not continue with a long journey, as you run the risk of a full breakdown. 

Battery warning light

Battery warning light Summertime may feel like a nicer time to drive compared to the harsher winter months, but the hot weather brings on a host of new stressors for your vehicle. 

With your engine required to be kept even cooler and the air con on full blast, there is a greater electrical need, taking your alternator through the wringer. 

An issue with your alternator, electrical connection or battery will show up as a red battery light on your dashboard. This is not a quick fix, so, avoid setting off on your drive if the battery warning light is on. Instead, take your car to a garage to get checked before starting your holiday.

Low fuel light

Low fuel light One of the warning lights that every motorist is familiar with is the low fuel light. While it goes without saying that you should keep your vehicle topped up with fuel, a lack of petrol or diesel is a common cause of breakdown in the summer months. 

The low fuel light will appear as an amber fuel pump. If you see this light pop up, fill up immediately to avoid a panicked hunt for fuel or breakdown.

Tyre pressure

Tyre pressure light Tyres naturally lose pressure over time, so you should regularly check tyre pressure, especially before a long journey. 

The tyre pressure light will appear as an amber exclamation mark inside an upside-down horseshoe-esque shape. If you see your tyre pressure light pop up on your dashboard, pull over and check your tyres. If they are low, pump them up at the next service station. 

If you spot any tears or punctures and have a spare, you will need to change your tyre. If not, you may need to call for roadside assistance to come and change your tyre before resuming your journey. 

Brake pad warning light

Brake pad warning light Travelling at speed for prolonged periods and carrying excess weight in your vehicle puts added pressure onto your brake pads and can cause them to wear down. 

Your brake pad warning light is an amber circle with dashes around the outside. If you see this light appear, it is time to take your vehicle to a garage and get your brake pads replaced.

Your brakes are essential to the safety of you and other road users, so get this checked quickly, especially if you are planning on travelling far this summer.

 

New and obscure UK driving laws that may affect your staycation

So, you’ve made the essential checks and are ready to set off on your much-needed break. Before putting your out-of-office on and loading up your car, you’ll also want to refresh yourself with some of the new driving laws introduced in the UK that could affect your trip.

Laws are constantly introduced and evolving to move with our changing times. While this can improve many aspects of our lives, it can also catch us out and result in fines if we aren’t up to date with the latest changes. 

To ensure you’re on top of the latest additions to driving laws this summer, we have compiled a list of the rules and regulations that could impact your staycation this year. 

Pavement parking ban in Scotland

If you plan to travel to Scotland this summer, be aware of the new pavement parking ban, which could see you fined £100.

Enforced from December 2023, it is now illegal to park your car on the pavement in Scotland and doing so could see you fined. 

The ban came into force to make streets more accessible and safer for those in wheelchairs and those with pushchairs.

20mph speed limit on restricted Welsh roads

Holidaymakers heading to Wales this year will need to be aware of the new 20mph speed limit enforced on restricted roads across the country.

The change came into force last September and applies to residential and built-up areas known as restricted roads. These locations can usually be identified by the presence of street lights placed no more than 200 yards apart.  

Oxford 20mph scheme

Holidaymakers who are planning on driving through or around Oxfordshire need to be aware that the council are trialling 20mph restrictions across a number of towns and parishes. 

The trials are still in the early stages with areas still being introduced and removed from the list. Drivers can check what areas are currently affected by the 20mph limit project

New Scottish Low Emission Zones (LEZs)

Glasgow introduced its LEZ last year and in May and June of this year, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh followed suit rolling out their own LEZ. 

What is a LEZ?

Low Emission Zones prohibit the most polluting vehicles from entering an area to improve air quality for residents. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including bank holidays and public holidays.

A LEZ identifies which vehicles are not compliant by using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to check local and national vehicle licensing databases.

The Scottish LEZ is enforced by Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), and there is no option to prepay for a vehicle. Only vehicles that meet the set-out Euro Emissions Standards can drive in these zones, non-compliant models should not enter the area and will face a fine if they do.

The minimum criteria to access LEZ in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow are Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans, Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans and Euro VI for buses, coaches and HGVs.

Glasgow City Council outline that the vehicles allowed under LEZ are generally:

  • Diesel engine vehicles registered after September 2015
  • Petrol vehicles registered from 2006 onwards
  • Buses and HGVs registered from 2013

If you’re planning a staycation in Scotland this year you can check if your vehicle is compliant before you set off.

What charges will non-compliant vehicles pay?

Non-compliant vehicles driving through Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres will receive a penalty charge notice (PCN).

Initial charges are set at £60 per vehicle, reduced by 50% if paid within 14 days. Penalties will double with each following breach, with charges capped at £480 for cars and LGVs and £960 for minibuses, buses, coaches and HGVs.

Driving in flip-flops, sliders or barefoot

As the weather heats up, many of us will opt for more breathable footwear, but driving in flip-flops or sliders could see drivers slapped with a heavy fine. That’s because, rule 97 of the highway code states you should wear clothing and footwear that ‘do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner’. As a result, wearing your summer kicks could be classed as driving without due care and attention. This offence carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and three penalty points on your licence.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) guidelines on footwear include guidance on shoes providing enough grip to stop feet sliding off pedals and being narrow enough to prevent accidentally pressing two pedals at once. Drivers are also warned not to drive barefoot in a bid to avoid driving in summer footwear.

Wearing sunglasses that are too dark 

While drivers are encouraged to use sunglasses to prevent sun glare, wearing glasses that are too dark can hinder a motorist’s vision – leaving them at risk of a driving fine and penalty points. Drivers who wear sunglasses which negatively impact their vision will be in breach of two rules within the highway code. Rule 97 as outlined above, as well as Rule 237 which states drivers should slow down or pull over if ‘dazzled by bright sunlight’. 

While the majority of sunglasses will protect a drivers’ eyes from the sun, there are shades on the market which don’t. Motorists who wear unsuitable sunglasses put themselves at risk of a £100 on-the-spot fine and three points on their driving licence.

Khuram Sarwar, Dispensing Optician at Feel Good Contacts, provides further insight, sharing: 

“Glare while driving can be dangerous. It can cause discomfort, hindering your vision and preventing you from focusing on the road. While drivers are encouraged to wear sunglasses to prevent sun glare, not all sunglasses are suitable for driving. 

“Special attention should be paid to the tint numbers (ranked from one to four), ‘category four’ being the darkest category of sunglasses. This category is not suitable for driving as dark tinted lenses can reduce visibility. Similarly, polarised lenses can make it difficult to read LED screens whilst driving.

“Gradient sunglasses are an excellent choice as the darker part helps with the glare, while the lighter part allows you to navigate the dashboard. It is also important to consider sunglasses that do not impair your peripheral vision; avoid broad-armed or oversized sunglasses for a clear and safe drive.”

The most popular activities and ways to entertain children on car journeys:

So, you’ve checked your vehicle and updated yourself on the latest driving laws, now it’s time to set off. Parents and carers of children know all too well that long car journeys can be difficult for all involved and entertainment can be key to a smooth trip. 

Not sure where to start? Our latest* research has revealed the top five most popular car activities for kids to keep them entertained on long car journeys, as well as the most popular games to play:

The most popular ways to entertain children on long car journeys

1) Listening to music

Nearly half (49.8%), of respondents, reported that they used listening to music in the car as a way to entertain children. Music can be calming for kids, particularly if they get anxious on long journeys – a sing-a-long is also good for keeping spirits high and passing the time. With that in mind it’s unsurprising to find listening to music is the most popular way parents keep their children entertained on long journeys.

2) Packing snacks and treats

As the old adage goes, we aren’t ourselves when we are hungry and 48.7% of respondents agree. Bringing snacks and treats for the journey was a popular vote coming in second. 

Having plenty of food on board can help soothe little ones and stop them from becoming agitated should you get stuck in traffic.  

3) Playing games 

More than one in three (39.2%) of respondents reported that playing games in the car was one of their chosen forms of entertainment. Nowadays there are a variety of consoles and games available on devices to keep kids entertained. That being said there remain plenty of old-school classics to play in the car that are fun for all the family. The topmost rated from our research were:

  • I spy
  • Spot the licence plate
  • The word association game 
  • Name that tune
  • Tic Tac Toe 

4) Watching films and TV

33.5% of respondents said that having films and TV shows for children to watch was how they kept them entertained. 

If you have a portable device it is well worth downloading some of your child’s favourite movies or TV series. As well as keeping them entertained this can bring a sense of normality to keep young children settled when venturing somewhere new.  

5) Conversation

It is a classic, and just under a third (31.4%) of parents in our research revealed they used good old-fashioned conversation to keep their children entertained. You can start by asking them what they’re most excited about for the holiday, using your upcoming plans and activities as a stimulus.

How to park like a professional 

While keeping children entertained is often the biggest challenge faced by parents during a car journey, finding a suitable parking space when you arrive at your destination is often an unwanted difficulty too. So whether you’re pulling up to a packed seaside resort during the height of the summer holidays or visiting a popular attraction, we’ve pulled together a handful of our top tips to ensure you complete your journey without any mishaps. 

Take your time

Whether it’s from other vehicles on the road or restless passengers, you may feel an urgency to park, but you must take your time and go slowly. Approaching parking at a measured pace will allow you to make fewer mistakes and correct yourself without starting over again. 

Stay aware of your surroundings

While parking, your main focus may be fitting into a space, but stay aware of your surroundings. Other cars may not be parked perfectly, and there may be lots of pedestrians in busy holiday locations. Ensure to keep checking your mirrors and windows as you park, taking notice of neighbouring cars and any passers-by.

Think ahead with your parking

Parking spots can be scarce, especially in busy tourist hotspots, but always take a second to assess where you are parking. Is it near an area that could flood or where the tide could come in? Are you blocking anyone in? Is it a controlled parking zone?

Use some foresight and make sure your parking location will be safe and easy to get out of when you return to your car.

Make a note of your parking location

It can be easy to lose track of where you parked your car, whether that’s because you’ve parked in a new location or a massive car park. Either way, once you’ve safely parked your vehicle, take note of the exact area. A lot of smartphones allow you to drop pins on virtual maps, but it may be worth making a physical note should your device die.

Use a reference point

When it comes to parking, you may need to perform a number of manoeuvres to get into a parking space and as we all know, some are more daunting than others. No matter the approach though, picking a reference point will make parking easier and more accurate. 

Select an area of your car or mirror you can look to as a guide when parking your vehicle. This point should line up with a curb or bay line to help you perfect your parking every time.

What to do if your car breaks down this summer

Parking in a new place can be stressful, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the anguish of breaking down. A breakdown is never ideal, and if it happens in the middle of a holiday or worse en route to your summer break, it can be a nightmare. 

Unfortunately, sometimes breakdowns just happen, and they can strike anytime, anywhere, including on the motorway. 

To help you and your passengers remain as safe as possible while you wait for breakdown assistance we have provided a list of steps to follow if you break down this summer. 

Spot the warning signs

It is important to keep an eye and an ear out for anything wrong with your vehicle, as the quicker you spot something, the quicker you can get it fixed. Knocks and rattles from under the car or loss of power from the engine are telltale signs that something is wrong.

As mentioned in the sections above, make yourself familiar with your dashboard lights so you can address problems as soon as they arise. Older cars may have a temperature gauge rather than dashboard lights, if it rises to red stop as soon as is safe and check your vehicle.

Prepare for the worst before it happens

Before setting off on your trip, ensure that you have packed essential items to make your time more comfortable in the event of a breakdown. These include:

Suncream

You don’t want to add sunburn to your list of complaints while waiting for a breakdown vehicle. Pack sun cream somewhere you can easily grab it from should you need to exit the vehicle quickly. 

Water

When driving, particularly in hot weather, make sure you have plenty of water to keep yourself and any passengers or pets hydrated during the additional time added to your journey should you break down.

Snacks 

If you break down in a place where there aren’t shops, you will need food to tide you over for what could be hours. Pack additional non-perishable snacks like nuts, crackers, crisps, cereal and chocolate bars in your car for emergencies.

Waterproofs

If you break down on the motorway or down a country road, you will need to exit your vehicle. Packing waterproofs will ensure you stay dry if there are any summer showers.

Blanket

A blanket will come in handy should you need to sit down and wait for breakdown cover beside the road. Keep one in your boot to keep you and your passengers comfortable. 

Power bank 

Depending on why and where your car breaks down, you may find that you can’t use its electrics to charge your phone, or you may be required to exit the vehicle entirely. In these events, a fully charged power bank will keep your phone battery full and enable you to make calls to break down and emergency services.

Warning triangle

A warning triangle is a great way to alert other road users that you have broken down, especially on trickier country roads that have lots of bends. Keep a warning triangle in your boot, and if you break down, place it 50 metres from your vehicle. 

It’s important to note you should only use your warning triangle if it is safe to do so, and never use one on the motorway.

What to do if you break down on the motorway?

If you’re on the motorway and get into difficulty with your vehicle, come off as quickly as possible. Try and make it to the next service station or, if this is not possible, the next junction as fast-flowing traffic on the motorway makes it a dangerous place to break down. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to come off:

  1. Pull over onto the hard shoulder and move as far left as possible
  2. Exit the vehicle on the left-hand side and move behind the barriers
  3. Once you and all of your passengers are safely out of the vehicle, call your breakdown cover using the markers by the edge of the motorway to pinpoint your position

What to do if you break down on a smart motorway?

If you break down on the smart motorway, follow the same steps as before and attempt to pull off at a service station or the next junction. If this is not possible, move over as far left as possible and try to get to a refuge area where there are emergency telephones.

What if you break down in the middle of the motorway?

If you breakdown in the middle of the motorway:

  1. Put your hazards on
  2. Stay in the vehicle and keep your seatbelt on
  3. Call 999 immediately and let them know of your exact location 

What to do if you break down on a country road?

Like motorways, country roads can be dangerous. Their multiple bends, blindspots, thin roads and remote locations can make them difficult places to break down.

If you find yourself getting into trouble on a country road:

  1. Pull over as far left as possible
  2. Put your hazard lights on
  3. Exit the vehicle, keeping as far left as possible
  4. If you have a warning triangle, and it is safe to do so, place it 50 metres behind your vehicle to warn oncoming drivers of your presence
  5. Once you are safely out of the vehicle, call your breakdown cover

No matter where you break down it is important that you keep all pets inside the car, even if you are exiting it. For more detail on what to do if your car breaks down you can watch our YouTube video.

How to protect your car while you’re away on holiday

While preparing for your summer holiday, a host of items and actions will need checking off – Suncream? Check. Passport? Check. But what about the security of your car while it’s at home? Our research uncovered that a troubling one in five (20%) drivers take no additional security measures for their vehicles – beyond keeping it locked – when they go on holiday. 

The most common security measures taken by car owners when they go on holiday

For those that do err on the side of caution, removing items from a car was found to be the most common way people protect their vehicles. In contrast, informing their insurer that they are going away came in as the least common form of protection with less than one in 10 (9.1%) doing so. 

While vehicles already have built-in security features, failing to take additional measures to secure your car before jetting off for a much-deserved break could result in you returning to an empty driveway. To help protect your vehicle while away, we have provided six essential tips to follow before you go on holiday.

1) Clear your car out

Cars can accumulate a lot of belongings, from random pairs of gloves to more high-value items like work laptops and phones. 

If your items are on visible display, this will likely catch the attention of thieves who may return to break in once they’ve worked out you’re away from home for an extended period of time. Before going on holiday, clear out all visible areas. Remove everything, regardless of value, from your seats, foot wells and dashboard and remember to check your cup holders for jewellery. 

Once you have cleared out visible areas, go through hidden sections like your glove compartment and boot to remove anything of value. When you have finished, glance into your car from the outside. At this point, you should not be able to see any items, and neither should any potential thieves.

2) Apply a steering wheel lock or clamp

A steering wheel lock or clamp is a great deterrent as it prevents the steering wheel from turning. Many thieves will be put off entirely by the effort it takes to try and force off locks and clamps or remove the wheel. As a physical measure, steering wheel locks and clamps are a great additional layer of security for your vehicles at a time when thieves’ digital capabilities to get into cars are becoming more advanced.   

When buying a steering lock, make sure it is Sold Secure tested or Secured by Design (SBD) approved for tried and tested security.

3) Avoid inadvertently giving thieves access to your car keys

While you would never intentionally allow thieves access to your keys, there are several steps you can take to make sure you don’t give them unintentional access to your vehicle. These include:

Giving someone else your keys to look after 

The best line of defence is to securely lock your home and vehicle before going away. But, this might not be enough as thieves get more sophisticated in their methods. Giving your car keys to a trusted friend or family member before going away will ensure that even if your home is burgled, your car will not suffer the same fate.

Investing in a key signal blocker 

Keyless car theft is one of the most common ways thieves break into cars. In fact, keyless vehicle owners are twice as likely to make a theft claim as those with non-keyless cars, according to the most recent research by insurance company Aviva

By using devices that relay your car’s wireless key signals, thieves can trick your vehicle into believing the keys inside your home are much closer to your car, gaining access and driving off without the physical set of keys. To prevent this form of theft, invest in a key signal blocker. These pouches are lined with a special material that blocks the frequency of your car keys and stops them from being replicated by thieves outside of your home.

It’s important to check that the pouch you buy is specifically for car keys as some will only be suitable for bank and credit cards.

4) Park at a relative’s house

Having a car parked outside a house that has had no movement for days can be a telltale sign to criminals that you are away and make your vehicle a target.

If you don’t have access to private, secure parking (like a garage), leaving your car outside a relative or friend’s house who is staying at home could be a good idea. 

Not only will they be able to spot if anyone attempts to steal your vehicle, but having your car parked outside a house with obvious inhabitants is likely to deter thieves from even attempting to steal your car in the first place.

5) Avoid announcing your holiday on social media 

It can be difficult in our age of social media but if you are going on holiday, avoid advertising it online. This includes countdowns to your holiday and live posting from abroad. 

Thieves go on social media and may see you’re away, especially if your account is public. Save sharing the holiday snaps for when you’re back home and reunited with your vehicle!

6) Inform your neighbourhood watch 

If you have a neighbourhood watch it is well worth notifying them that you’re away. They’ll be able to keep an eye on your vehicle and update you should they notice anything suspicious. 

It may also be worth asking a neighbour if you can park your car outside of their home if there is space.

Making the most of neighbourhood watches is a particularly effective tactic for those who don’t have friends or family living nearby.

As we head into summer millions of Brits will be setting off on holiday, making it imperative that vehicle owners take extra precautions to keep themselves and their motors safe. For those taking their car on holiday with them, ensure you carry out all of the essential checks listed in our guide before starting your trip. 

Should you be leaving your car at home while you jet-off for sunnier climates, you should think carefully about how you’ll maximise the security of your motor. That way you’ll be able to enjoy your well-earned holiday in the safe knowledge your pride and joy will be ready and waiting upon your return to the country.

*As part of our Consumer Insight Panel we surveyed 2,008 Brits to discover their habits in relation to car usage and experiences on holiday.