Driving in hot, sunny conditions can cause drowsiness and difficulty concentrating, especially on longer journeys, so be prepared given the unpredictability of British weather! Whatever the weather conditions, it is always a good idea to make sure that your car and equipment are in tip top condition with a regular check and service. This is particularly important before you begin a long journey.
Tyre pressures can only be checked and adjusted accurately when cold, so do this before you set off, as well as checking your coolant levels! Tyres tend to be the first victim to fall foul of weather conditions, so check their pressure, and look for overheating every 100 miles or so if the weather goes above 90 degrees (F). Check engine oil levels too, which will lubricate and help keep the engine cool. Remember – high speeds overheat tyres and cause engine blow out!
Your windscreen plays a key role in dealing with sunshine and glare, and keeping it clean is a priority in the summer months. Check that the washer reservoir levels are topped up regularly, and consider putting an additive in to help keep the screen and wiper blades clean. Greasy wiper blades can smear rather than clear, so replace them as soon as they become inefficient.
In warmer months there will be an increase in insects and bugs attaching themselves to your windscreen, so keeping it free of little bodies will be a priority. Reducing water and grease marks will help cut down on problems caused by glare.
Glare from the sun will obviously increase during the warmer months, and it can cause real problems, especially on longer journeys. The strain of dealing with glare can affect your concentration, as well as your ability to see clearly. Correct sunglasses can really help in these situations, improving the situation considerably.
This is particularly true if you are driving abroad in warmer and sunnier climates, but also in this country when the road is wet. Wet roads will reflect more glare, reducing your ability to see. Reduce your speed and take extra care.
You will experience some of the worst problems with glare during the winter months, when the sun is low in the sky, and can be almost blinding! Use of your visor to cut out as much glare as possible is essential, and sunglasses help. Never look directly into the sun.
The British summer months should bring an increase in temperature. Inside a car, this heat can quickly build up, so ventilation becomes very important. If you have air conditioning this helps, or open the air vents and windows to allow the interior to remain comfortable. Do not leave animals or children without adult supervision inside a vehicle when it is warm for this reason.
Inadequate ventilation when travelling can make you feel drowsy and less alert. Sticking to speed limits becomes even more important if there is a small chance of a momentary slip in concentration, as you may find it difficult or impossible to slow down in time to avoid an accident if you are travelling above the recommended speed limit.
Never pull up on the hard shoulder of motorways if you feel tired. Schedule in regular breaks and plenty of refreshments, especially on longer journeys when driving in the summer, to help you stay cool, relax, and de-stressed. Make use of service areas, or get off the motorway at least, before you stop.
Heat can also effect the road surface itself, making tarmac quite soft during long periods of hot weather. A hot road surface can become very slippery when oil and water build up on it, particularly if there is a sudden shower after a dry spell. Drivers need to appreciate the effect that sunshine has on the road surface. Briefly, the road surface works at its best when the stones enclosed in the bitumen stick out above the surface allowing the tyres to get a grip. In hot weather the bitumen warms up and the stones sink down leaving a slick sticky surface which effects grip whilst warm, but as the evening cools down the surface solidify and become as smooth as glass, which can make driving treacherous. Vehicles can then experience an effect known as bitu-planing, which it is similar to aqua-planing, but occurs in warm dry weather. Be careful when braking and cornering in these situations, read the road ahead and watch your speed and distance!
Highway authorities tend to increase their resurfacing programme during the warmer months, dotting the nation with warning signs setting speed limits and giving advice. Always observe these signs, and keep your distance from fellow travellers, as flying stone chips can cause expensive damage to your car and serious injury to other road users, particularly if on foot.
Finally, if you wish to avoid the biggest cause of vehicle breakdown in Britain during the summer months, then avoid overheated engines! Listen out for traffic updates before and during your journey, and do not go anywhere near known traffic hold-ups. If you are caught in a traffic queue that hasn’t moved for some time, then it would probably be wise to turn off your engine. Indeed, in some parts of Europe if you have to stop your vehicle for more than a couple of minutes, then you are required to turn your engine off……worth thinking about if you wish to avoid clouds of steam escaping from beneath the bonnet as temperatures rise!
We’ve put together several blogs covering driving in adverse weather conditions so please check out our blog menu above or click here for top tips on driving in fog and driving in strong winds. Always happy to receive comments and suggestions especially with any driving related blog ideas you may want to see covered, and feel free to share.