Now the lockdown rules are easing and hopefully before too much longer, removed completely, we’re all heading back out and about in our cars. Some will not have driving a car for quite some time, so what should we be considering before getting back on the road?
You’ve done your mechanical checks. The fluids have all been topped up. Tyres have been checked for tread wear and pressures. So what else should you routinely carry in your car now we’re getting back to travelling in the UK?
Whenever I see an empty car boot (trunk to our friends across the pond) I can’t but help think about how unprepared the driver, and by extension all their passengers are, for the trips they are planning to make.
I have two sets of equipment that live in my car’s boot; one for summer and one for winter. Some of the items of equipment fall into both camps, but they are useful all year round to have.
For The Summer
High Visibity Jacket / Vest
For years I had had never bothered with this, that is, until I broke down in the middle of a night.
Normally I wear dark coloured clothing. I have no idea why, it was just a habit I got into over a number of years. Whilst a dark suit may look good in an office environment, on the side of the road, in the rain, in the middle of the night, it is probably one of the worst fashion choices I could have made.
With horror, it dawned on me that if my hazard warning lights on the car failed, drivers approaching at quite high speeds would not be able to see my car, or me standing by the side of the road and a very small grass verge. It was a recipe for disaster. So now I have a high visibility jacket in the boot for me and as I can carry four passengers in my car (which is rarer than rocking horse droppings), I also have four high visibility vests, one for each passenger. Just in case the events of that night should repeat themselves.
First Aid Kit
You don’t need a huge first aid kit but I’ve found keeping a medium sized kit in the boot to be handy on a number of occasions. It let me deal with scrapes, abrasions and cleaning small wounds. I’ve only ever once used one of the bandages to keep someone’s arm immobile until professional help arrived on scene. The tough-cut scissors in my kit have also been used on a number of non-first aid occasions.
Like the saying goes, better to have it and not need, than need it and not have it.
Bottled water comes in handy for a number of things; washing dirt out of an eye to topping up your car engine coolant so I have it as one of my year-round items.
The big question of course is how much water do you carry in your car everyday. At 1kg per litre it is not the lightest items you will be carrying.
I tend work on the basis of 500ml per person in the car if I’m on a short distance, routine run in the car. If I’m heading further afield or out into the wilds I’d definitely double, perhaps even treble that amount. It is one of those items where you have to consider who is with you, whether they have any particular hydration needs and the environment you are going to be driving through.
At first sound, this may seem ridiculous to someone from the UK. However, consider travelling at the height of summer and you breakdown. It could take several hours for your recovery operator to arrive on scene to take you and your car home.
All the while that July / August sun is beating down on you. Your partner and the kids are playing up because they’re so hot and cannot go anywhere to get into the shade.
Getting a cream with a high SPF factor will reduce the amount of cream that you will need to apply to get a protective layer.
They’re going to need that little tube of sun cream to provide an extra layer of protection to their arms, legs and faces. So perhaps it is not as daft as it would first sound.
When something unexpected happens on a car journey, it could mean a delay of 10 minutes or 10 hours. OK, a ten minute delay isn’t going to cause you too much inconvenience, other than being late for an appointment perhaps. However, if that delay starts heading into hours, then food intake is going to start to become an issue, particularly if you have someone on board with special dietary needs like a diabetic.
Having high energy food bars in your kit provide a solution to the nutritional issues that could present, but more importantly, they’re also good for morale. If people are starting to moan about being stuck in traffic due to an accident ahead, or if they’re tired of waiting for a recovery mechanic to turn up, breaking out the energy bars provides a distraction and a boost in well-being.
Can you change a car wheel?
I am always amazed at the number of drivers on the road who cannot change a car wheel.
Getting a puncture is problem one of the most common problems that a driver could face on the road. However, if you ask them if they can change a tyre, many just look at you blankly or say they would call a recovery operator to do it for them. In the age of expensive alloy wheels, it is also important to remember you will need that little key socket to unlock at least one of the studs that hold your tyre to the car. Also, knowing how to operate the jack of your car’s toolkit is important. It is something you want to make sure you know how to use, and where in the car it is stored, before you head out on the road. Finally, you need to consider the condition of the spare wheel (if you car has one). Is it inflated to the correct pressure? Is the condition of the tread road legal for you jurisdiction? Are there any speed restrictions you need to abide by while you are using that spare on the car?
I’m sure you will be able to come up with a list of many more things you need to be aware of relating to your car.
The above is the minimum I would regard for driving in the warmer summer months and is by no means a complete list. If we start to consider winter driving, then that’s a whole different ballgame and something we’ll talk about later in the year.