Pre-Holiday Driving Checklist

Despite ever-increasing petrol costs, taking to the roads of Britain and Europe remains a popular choice for getting to holiday destinations near and far. But there’s a good reason why the UK’s breakdown and recovery services are busiest during peak holiday periods as drivers who usually motor a few miles a day take on journeys of hundreds or even thousands of miles with no extra preparation.

Using your car for these longer journeys requires a bit of extra care and attention in order to try and make the drive as safe and comfortable as possible – and to try and minimise the chances of a breakdown spoiling your holiday. You may choose to get your local garage or dealership to carry out a pre-holiday check but equally you may want to try this yourself. To help, here is the guide to giving your motor the once over before heading for the coast, the hills, the lakes, the city, the in-laws...


Check tyre pressures using the guide in your car manual – remember that if your car is more heavily laden or faster than usual you may need to further inflate your tyres in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Check the tread depth for each tyre, including the spare. This needs to be at least 1.6mm to meet UK law but 3mm is a better guide for anyone heading off on a long journey. Also look for cuts and any other damage, bulges or embedded stones or nails. If necessary take expert advice and change any tyres that are unsafe.

2.Fluid Levels

With a cold engine and with your car parked on level ground, check all of your fluid levels, including:

  • Engine oil and coolant
  • Brake, clutch and power steering reservoirs
  • Windscreen washer fluid
  • Automatic transmission fluid (if appropriate)

Top up where necessary in accordance with the car manufacturer’s instructions.


Make sure all your lights are working, including fog and brake lights. Check that all lights are clean and, if driving in Europe (except Ireland) get yourself some headlight adjusters.

4.Windscreen Wipers

Check that your windscreen wipers are not smearing and actually clean the windscreen. If necessary wipe the blades clean with screen wash (or vinegar) or replace the blades if they are worn.

5.Air Conditioning

Check that your air conditioning is working properly – especially if you will be driving in warmer climes. Make sure that it actually cools the car and doesn’t smell. If in doubt, get the air conditioning serviced.


If you have had problems with your battery, consider changing it before going away. Batteries do have a limited lifespan and you don’t want to waste your precious holiday time looking for a battery that fits your car!

7.Breakdown Cover

If you have breakdown cover, make sure you have the paperwork to hand in case you need it and that you will be covered if you are travelling abroad. If you haven’t got cover, consider getting a great deal via’s comparison service.


Remember to take your insurance certificate, your car registration document and your driving licence . Most European countries require you to carry these and some countries outside of the EU may require you to get an International Driving Permit (check at


If driving abroad check your car insurance policy to make sure you are covered. Some policies may not cover you at all; others may only cover you for the legal minimum level of cover in the country that you are visiting. If in doubt, always phone your insurer to check.

10.Know Where You Are Going

This sounds obvious but do make sure you plan your route, take maps and/or a satnav to guide you, and leave yourself enough time to get to your destination.

11.Something For The Kids

Long journeys can be boring for children (and adults!). Make sure you plan some entertainment. Talking books, books, card games, DVDs, word games, music – they all help the miles to slip by. For younger children check out the downloadable games pack on Remember too to take soft drinks and food to keep everyone happy!

12.Extra Items For Driving Abroad

You need to carry extra items such as first aid kits, high-visibility jackets and warning triangles in most European countries. You will also usually need to carry a GB sticker on your car and to use headlight adjusters for driving on the right-hand side of the road. For winter driving you may need snow chains or winter tyres. Check out to make sure you know exactly what you need to stay within the law.

13.First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit on board is a good idea wherever you are going – for warm weather driving make sure you add some sun and sunburn cream and some antihistamine tablets could be useful too. Finally, don’t forget that travel sickness can easily spoil a trip so pack whatever remedy works for you or your family.

We hope that you find this checklist useful. Do contact us with your own holiday driving tips and we will consider adding them to our next list.

13/06/2011 15:01:03 Jo

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