As the weather starts to warm up and the days grow longer, many of us start to think about ending our winter hibernation and venturing out on a trip or two. For those of us who love driving, there are few things more enjoyable than starting the engine, getting out on the open road and leaving our worries at home – no matter where we are headed.
If you are thinking about spending a long time behind the wheel this summer, though, whether you will be travelling the length of the UK to reach your holiday destination or just taking a day trip into the countryside, there are several things you ought to consider before turning the key.
It’s important to remember that things don’t always go 100% to plan on our travels, even for the most experienced of drivers, and that there are a number of steps you should always take before leaving home. Read our tips below to ensure you don’t get caught out on your next long journey.
Check your levels
This is the kind of thing that we all know we should keep on top of but often let slip, whether due to time pressures or simple complacency. However, even if you don’t get around to checking the levels of fluids such as oil, engine coolant, windscreen washer fluid and antifreeze in your car every week, it is important that you do so before setting off on any long journeys.
Any problems which become apparent once you’re on the road will obviously be harder – and usually more expensive – to deal with at a motorway service station, so do the sensible thing and make all the necessary checks before you head off.
As well as the fluid levels, there are a couple of other checks you should make if you know you will soon be setting off on a trip which will take hours and cover hundreds of miles. Neglecting the below could get you into trouble with the authorities and, more importantly, present a danger to you and your passengers:
- Tyres – It goes without saying that the tyres are among your car’s most important components, and not maintaining them can be highly dangerous. Check that the tread depth and pressure are both at the required levels, and that you have the equipment needed to change a tyre if anything untoward should occur en route.
- Lights – Checking that all of your headlights and brake lights are working can be done in seconds, so there is no excuse not to! Again, this is something we can easily forget to check when we’re used to hopping in and out of the car every day, but imagine, for example, what the potential consequences of not having working brake lights could be if you needed to slow down suddenly on the motorway.
Prepare for emergencies
It is not something any of us like to think about, but the fact that accidents can happen on the road cannot be avoided. If the worst came to pass and you were involved in a collision, would you be fully prepared for dealing with the situation?
Vehicle first aid kits – such as this one from St John Ambulance Supplies – are now widely available online and certainly worth the modest expense, considering that they could make all the difference in an emergency. Items such as bandages, plasters and heat-retaining blankets are all generally included in such kits, and could prove vital if you find yourself in difficulty away from home.
Whilst not strictly speaking a necessity for emergencies, it would also be wise to ensure you have adequate vehicle breakdown cover before setting off on any lengthy journey. The last thing you and your family will want after the traumatic experience of breaking down or being involved in an accident is to be stranded miles from home and not know how you’re going to get back. It is worth noting that we offer Comprehensive Roadside Assistance, free of charge, for three years with the purchase of any new Mercedes-Benz, or for one year with all approved used cars.
Know where you’re going
Fortunately, thanks to the advent of GPS, the days of having to pore over a map and plan a route meticulously before you depart on your journey are well and truly over. In recent years, sat nav systems – such as those developed by TomTom and Garmin – have made finding our way around the roads of the UK (and beyond) so much simpler than before, especially for those of us not blessed with a natural sense of direction!
However, even if you do now hand over the responsibility for all map-reading to your digital companion, there are still one or two bits of admin you should take care of before heading out on the road:
- Update your sat nav – The layout of the UK’s roads change at an incredibly fast pace. It is easy to get complacent and assume that our sat nav will always work out what to do to get us back on track eventually, but – even if this is the case – it can still be extremely stressful finding yourself on a busy flyover or roundabout which your device only recognises as a field! Most sat nav systems now offer online updates to ensure all road developments are accounted for, so don’t forget to keep yours up to date.
- Research the roads – If you are travelling somewhere for the first time, it may be worth doing a quick online search for well-known traffic blackspots, parking restrictions and other local talking points concerning the roads around the area you will be visiting. Although many sat navs now feature live congestion alerts, it is still a good idea to get a rudimentary knowledge of where you are going beforehand, just in case there are any notoriously busy town centres or poorly laid-out roads to avoid.
- Look at a map – This may sound completely unnecessary, but taking five minutes to look at an overview of the route you will be taking on a good old-fashioned map (or at least an online version) will often give you a useful basic knowledge of the direction in which you will be travelling. This will prove particularly handy if you end up getting unexpectedly diverted due to unforeseen road closures, for instance, whilst you may also discover that you will be passing close by some towns or beauty spots which you have either visited before or always intended to. A bit of prior research will allow you to squeeze even more into your trip than you had envisaged.
Get your paperwork organised
Last but not least, it is of critical importance that you make sure you have all the paperwork that may be needed in the event of an accident or breakdown. There is an exhaustive list of documents that you may want to consider carrying with you on any car journey, but here are a few of the more important ones which will prove invaluable should anything go amiss on the roads:
- Motor insurance certificate
- Valid MOT certificate
- Driving license
Whilst carrying the above paperwork is not a legal obligation in the UK (although having your license, insurance document, passport and registration document is legally required in France, for example), having them with you will save an awful lot of time and hassle in the unfortunate event of an accident. Not only is exchanging insurance details with any other party involved in a collision much simpler to do at the scene, but police can also instruct you to present your documents at a station within seven days if you do not have them with you at the time.
As the above demonstrates, there is plenty to be aware of before setting off on any long car journey and, whilst getting all of your admin in order can be a bit of a headache, you’ll find that doing so is certainly worth it for the peace of mind it will bring, allowing you to truly enjoy your upcoming road trip.
Whether you are based in Exeter, or if our Mercedes dealership in Plymouth, Taunton or Truro is your closest location, we can guarantee that your journey will be much more enjoyable when it is made in a brand new A-Class, AMG GT Coupé, or any of the other fantastic models available from our local showrooms!