How to prepare your car before going on holiday?

Good technical condition means road safety
The long-awaited vacation time has finally arrived after the period of quarantine. For security reasons, many Poles this year will decide to travel domestic to see local tourist attractions – and most will do it by car. Even before the pandemic, as many as 76% of Poles chose the car as a means of transport during domestic trips[1]. What to do to avoid frustration behind the wheel and problems when traveling to your destination? How to equip a car? First of all, check your tyres. They are the only point of contact between the car and the road, and whether the car will brake in time in an emergency situation depends on their condition and quality.

Experts advise on how to prepare for summer trips:

1.    Before you hit the road, be sure to check the tyre pressure – this is one of the most important parameters for ensuring road safety. This will save you fuel, while improving the car's grip and steering, as well as shortening the braking distance and reducing the noise of tyres in the cabin. There is not one correct pressure for all cars - the right value for this parameter is set by the manufacturer of the car - information on this subject can be found in the vehicle's manual or on a sticker on the central pillar. The pressure measurement must be carried out on cold tyres or after driving no more than 2 km.

„When the pressure is 30-40% too low, the tyre can warm up to such a temperature that internal damage and tear will occur. Proper inflation level cannot be assessed by eye glance – in modern tyres, a noticeable drop in tyre pressure can only be noticed when it is 30 percent too low, which is much too late.” – points out Piotr Sarnecki, general director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA).

2.    Check the condition of the tyres and rims – inspect each wheel carefully or drive to a professional tyre service. If the tyre shows cracks, cuts or bulges, it means that it is damaged and exposes the driver and passengers to the risk of a serious accident. Remember that when driving at a speed of 140 km/h, the tyre rotates more than 1000 times per minute. Any damage in this situation is a threat to you and your family.

3.    Overview of the condition of the car components in a reputable car workshop will calm your nerves before leaving – the condition of the brakes, steering and suspension has a direct impact on driving safety. Thanks to a solid overview of the most important parts, we will avoid unexpected failures.

4.    Measure tread depth – it should be at least 1.6 mm deep in the absence of so-called tyre wear indicators. Check the tyre manufacturer's recommendations for which tread depth they deem safe to use. This is an important parameter – when driving in the rain aquaplaning may occur – i.e. loss of grip after entering the water. Adequately deep tread will ensure good traction of the car, also during summer storms.

5.    Don't forget about the spare or temporary tyre – such tyre must also be fully functional. Check it for damage and ensure adequate pressure. If you do not have a compressor in the trunk, it will be difficult to inflate them on the route – spare tyres will shorten the stopping time and you will reach your destination faster.

6.    Choose summer tyres – driving on winter tyres at summer temperatures is neither safe nor economical. Too soft rubber compound of winter tyres at high temperatures significantly extends the braking distance and deteriorates grip when cornering. Winter tyres wear out much faster in the summer and have much higher rolling resistance, which determines the combustion of our car. All-year tyres are good for driving around the city on short routes, but not on hot highway roads – they will not provide such grip in summer as summer tyres. Take this into account and adjust your speed. The braking distance of a car on winter tyres in summer from 100 km/h to a complete stop can be up to 16 m longer than on summer tyres[2]. In addition, it is worth remembering that insurers can reduce the payment of compensation if the driver caused an accident on tyres that aren’t adequate for a given season.

7.    Remember not to overload your car – we can't take an infinite number of heavy suitcases with us – the car and tyres have their limits, including maximum load. The vehicle manufacturer's recommendations for loads can be found in the car's manual. In cars other than the sedan, it is not recommended to place luggage above the line of the rear seats, because in the event of emergency braking even a small bag can’t turn into a destructive ram – unless we have a net or a grill separating the trunk from the cabin. The rule is that we pack the heaviest suitcases as deep as possible in the trunk.

8.    Don't drive tired – a perfectly prepared car may be useless if a tired driver reacts behind the wheel with such a delay as after drinking alcohol. When driving the car at a speed of 100 km/h, we cannot afford the slightest moment of inattention. You never know when you will need to brake. Keep a proper distance from the car in front of you while driving – a good rule is to keep a distance of 3 seconds from the car in front of us.

9.    Prepare appropriate emergency equipment – a first aid kit, blanket, flashlight and warning triangle can be very useful during your trip. Take the basic set of tools and the tow rope with you. Better safe than sorry – you never know what can happen while driving. It often happens that there is a small malfunction that can be resolved with a screwdriver, but we do not have it on hand. Having liability insurance will help you avoid a lot of unpleasantness in the event of an accident. Remember to check before leaving whether your insurance will be valid during your planned travel period. Let's also remember a few bottles of drinks and something to eat. When there is a traffic jam for several hours on the highway, sitting in a car without water or food is hard to bear.

10.  Avoid contact with other people – to prevent and limit the spread of coronavirus, try not to stop at several stores on the way to your destination. When stopping at a gas station, always put on plastic gloves on both hands before refuelling. Remember to take a supply of hand sanitizing gel. Thanks to this, you will maintain sanitary safety during the epidemic.

This year, holidays for many Poles will look different than usual. A large part of us will go by car to the Polish sea, lakes or mountains. The coronavirus pandemic situation is already stressful enough – we should not add to the list of problems the issues related to the uncertainty of our car's condition. For our own safety, let's check the tyres and basic car systems – braking, steering and lighting – before leaving. Tyres are the only element connecting the vehicle with the road and at the same time its second – and in cars with turbo third – fastest rotating mechanical element. Safety systems and sensors derive information from the wheel, which is why the quality and very good condition of the tyres is extremely important. The application of these few basic rules will really affect the level of safety of drivers and their families during summer expeditions – emphasises Piotr Sarnecki.

[1] Statistics Poland, Tourism in 2017, Warsaw, 2018

[2] Data compiled by ADAC

Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association