These 12 top hints will help prepare you and your learner driver for the road ahead.Great driving adventures don’t include breaking down or being stranded, after all, summers’s here and right about now we’re all starting to think about getting away to the beach for a week or two, but high temperatures and busy summer roads can fast become a nightmare. Poorly prepared cars can end up steaming piles of junk by the side of the road, there’s a greater risk of tyre failure, and little things like glare from the sun can make it tricky to see where you’re going. So, before you get behind the wheel these summer holidays, check out our summer driving tips.
1. Tyres. We recommend you keep a good close eye on the condition of your tyres, because they’re the only contact you’ve got with the road and if they’re worn, even slightly, or under-inflated your car could become an accident waiting to happen. Now, during summer, and the high temperatures that most parts of Australia experience, under-inflation can become a real problem. See, if you don’t inflate your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended level, you’re going to create stress inside the tyre from the side walls flexing excessively.
This under-inflation can weaken the side wall and can lead to them blowing out while you’re driving ( think of continuously bending a piece of wire until it breaks) Bear in mind, though, if you check your tyre pressures after you’ve been driving for awhile the
will be higher, due to the air inside the tyres expanding when hot. Don’t add more air.
- Check them when cold.
- Use your own tyre gauge, don’t rely on the service stations.
- Read your manual, or look for the tyre tag, either in the glove box, or on one of the front doors or door jams.
- For road trips, always keep pressure at the high end of the scale, (me, on a large car, I always run at least 40 psi) it reduces fuel consumption, reduces tyre wear and prevents punctures and flats.
- Running low pressures for comfort, will cause sidewall fatigue and failure.
2. Cooling. It’s worth giving your cooling system a good once-over before heading off on a road trip during the summer holidays. Make sure you check your coolant levels and that your fans are working; there are mechanical fans and electric fans your temperature gauge shouldn’t move far past halfway either on a hill, in traffic or on the open road. If it does, or it starts to rise suddenly when you’re driving pull over immediately and check out what might be the problem.
Do not, EVER, open a radiator cap when the coolant is hot, the system is like a pressure cooker, the cap applies up to 20 psi of pressure, to raise the boiling point of the coolant, improving engine efficiency. When you release the cap, 20 psi (enough to make your tyres look fully inflated whilst they are supporting 2000 kg of car) forces up to 20 litres of coolants, at above 100 deg C out the opening, all over you. Third degree burns are not cool, ever.
3. Packing. Okay, it can be tempting, when heading off on holidays, to pack everything including the kitchen sink, but overloading your car can reduce its ride and handling ability and increase your fuel consumption. So, make sure you know what your car’s maximum payload is and don’t exceed it. More than that, don’t load up your car so much that you can’t see out of the windows.
4. Maintenance. E does not stand for enough, start looking for fuel when you are at or just below half a tank. Use your trip computer for distance to empty and manage that with the signs including distance to the next town.
Don’t ever completely trust a fuel gauge, you don’t realise how fast we travel in cars, until you have to walk to the next town and return, just to get fuel.
Under the bonnet. Make sure all the fluids are clean, to capacity and there are no leaks. If it is Yellow, it needs to be checked. Read your owners manual for all the information of how to and what to put where, do not, ever, ever, ever, ever, mix fluids. Be 100% sure before you put anything in anywhere. IF IN DOUBT, get your mechanic to check it out.
LEARN MORE on how to check your engine oil
5. Glare and Heat. Make sure your windscreen is in good condition and clean, that your windscreen washer bottle is full and that your wipers are in good condition. Clean the inside of the windscreen, you get a residue from the car cleaning chemicals, also the chemicals that make up your dash. This causes a haze over the glass, that makes it difficult, if not impossible to see when you are driving into the sun.
Also make sure you’ve got a decent set of sunglasses and, no, the set you picked up at the service station won’t do. And nor will polarized sunglasses which are great for fishing but can mess with your ability to judge perspective while driving. But you absolutely must have a pair of sunnies, because nothing tires you out like squinting behind the wheel, and if the glare gets too bad you could momentarily lose site of the cars in front. And make sure you’ve got plenty of water in the car when you’re driving, the air conditioning dehydrates you while driving and increases fatigue.
6. Eyes, vision and planning. Always scan the road ahead, to the side and the rear for other cars and particularly motorcycles, and never just rely on your mirrors; always perform a shoulder check. Oh, and don’t ever, ever use your phone when you’re driving.
We have three fields of vision,
- close, it is how we read,
- Tunnel, it is how we see into the distance
- Peripheral, it is the big picture.
Do a driving course, learn how to use your eyes to buy time, slowing down this accelerated intake of information, so you can see, see what you are looking at, where the challenges are coming from and always have a plan A and an plan B for the unexpected.
7. Towing. If you’re hauling the family caravan or camper trailer on your holidays this summer, make sure you’ve thoroughly checked over your rig before hitting the road. Just as it’s important to check the tyres on your car, it’s also vitally important you check your RVs tyres. Why? Well, they’re often sitting around in one spot for months on end… this can weaken the tyres and increase the chance of a blow out. You’ll also want to make sure the bearings and brakes are up to scratch, that your water tank is clean and that there’s no mould on the vinyl of the pop-top, if you’ve got a pop-top caravan. It’s worth it, if you haven’t had your caravan or camper trailer out in awhile, to maybe take it to a caravan mechanic to get it given a thorough once-over.
hints: If it starts to sway, don’t do the following
- Try and accelerate out of it. Most times it is caused by crosswinds. Sooner or later you are going to have to slow down. So if the problem is caused by dynamics, a tyre letting go, wind and a host of other factors, you are know complicating it dis proportionally.
- Brake: Well the trailer will just try and over take the car.
- Ease of the accelerator, very gently, try and settle the trailer down by reducing the forces on it.
- Trailer brakes. Any decent trailer worth its salt, will have trailer brakes. If they are electric, apply them manually and use this to pull the car and trailer setup back straight, whilst you are also slowing down.
- When you do get it under control, get out and physically inspect. Find a cause, fix the cause, then resume your trip
8. Check your spare. It’s one thing to give your tyres a regular visual inspection but don’t neglect your spare tyre. Some new cars don’t even have a spare tyre, they have an inflation kit. If your car does have a spare tyre get it out and take a good look at it, check the pressure and inflate it to the right amount if need be. Check your tool kit while you’re here, too. It doesn’t hurt to carry a few extra bits and bobs like spare fuses; check what fuses your car takes and get a handful for just in case.
9. Take a break. You’ve all seen the road side signs about fatigue and most of you have probably ignored them. Don’t. Plan longer journeys so that you can take regular breaks (about every three hours) of around 20 minutes or so. Stop at a park and go for a walk or a jog, anything to get the blood flowing again. Even have a short nap, but make sure your car is parked somewhere safe when you do that.
Now the reason this is necessary is that the oxygen in the blood depletes from the lack of activity. So a bit of a stretch, some exercise with a stroll. It is such a great country, enjoy what you can of it, before our governments sell it all off.
10. Postural stability- Did you know that just how you sit and hold the steering wheel can increase your fatigue by over 30%. That is a massive impact on your ability to concentrate and stay awake.
To make yourself part of the car and reduce you fatigue, this diagram has the key points.
You adjust your seat position to give you comfort, support and control over the pedals and steering wheel.
In the ‘outstretched’ position, your arms should rest with the base of the wrist on top of the steering wheel.
Your shoulders should not leave the back rest part of the seat with your arms outstretched onto the steering wheel.
Adjust the base of the seat (squab) so that, with legs bent, your right heel is under the brake pedal.
Your left leg should reach and be able to rest on the side of the centre console.
Your arms will now rest beside your body, which means you are not trying to support their weight as you drive, reducing fatigue, opening up the chest and making it easier to breathe.
11. Kids. Don’t just rely on DVD players or tablets (the technological kind) to keep kids quiet. I mean, we never had those things as kids… anyone ever remember counting windmills? Make sure you’ve got plenty of books, snacks, cold drinks and maybe a favourite toy or two. And while adults can go for three hours without a break, kids might need to stop more frequently. You’ll have heard it before, but don’t ever leave your kids in the car unattended, nor your pets either for that matter. Vehicles can heat up extremely quickly, especially in summer. And don’t think cracking the window a bit will make it okay to leave the kids behind. It won’t.
12. Distractions. If you use your phone for music and mapping apps, Download an app called Automate from the playstore. Amongst its features is reading out your text messages and voice to text response. So you don’t have to look at or touch your phone as you drive. Also, it advises of the speed limit both visually and auditory, so you cannot miss a change in speed zone
Another great app I use is WAZE, it uses googlemaps as its base and forms an online community with other drivers, warning of speed traps, road works, hazards etc. Another great feature of the app is the GPS speed function, that is overlayed with the speed limit. This alerts you to the speed limit on the road and your actual speed, giving you the information you require so you don’t break the speed laws.
Just remember to have your phone in an approved cradle.
Bluetooth it to your car. For less than $6.00 you can buy a receiver of Ebay ( http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Wireless-Bluetooth-3-5mm-Audio-USB-Receiver-Adapter-Music-Dongle-AUX-A2DP-Car-/401097002987?hash=item5d633e8feb:g:nbcAAOSwzvlW-i2Q ) and connect it via your AUX cable, so your phone automatically blue tooths to your cars sound system. Very cool, convenient and practical