summertime holiday driving blues - cures

ten cures for the summertime blues

Follow These Tips And Your Summer Driving Holiday Just Can't Go Wrong.. Holiday car trips that start out as the great escape from everyday hassles could turn into another big headache for unwary drivers. So here's some advice and solutions for 10 of the most common summertime blues.

1 Life's a beach - security-conscious drivers take their electronic key fobs for a swim, drown them in salty sea water and can't get back into their cars. Solutions: If possible, take turns when swimming and leave the key fob safe and secure on dry land. Read the car manual and memorise the alternative method for entering the car, usually a specific series of turns of the key. Never put the master key on your key ring. If it is lost or damaged, it means replacing the car's security system, which could cost up to £1500.

2 Fast-lane blow-outs - cars loaded with people and luggage doing big mileages on fast roads are at most risk from catastrophic tyre failure.

Solutions: Check all tyres, on caravans and trailers as well as cars, as high summer temperatures heat up tyres and may aggravate any damage, such as cracks, splits, worn tread and bulges. Check tyre pressures regularly. The need to top up one tyre more often than others could indicate a slow puncture. Consider what you might do if you have a puncture while driving and keep both hands on the steering wheel in case a blow-out occurs.

3 Car rental regrets - hidden charges, unroadworthy cars and unexpected damage costs can leave a lingering and unpleasant holiday memory.

Solutions: Take time to choose your car hirer, checking out the total package of hire costs, insurances (collision damage waiver, theft protection and third party liability) and hire conditions. Internet sites are ideal for research. Check over the car's bodywork, fluid levels, tyres and general condition when you pick it up and when you return it; if you have a camcorder, film the outside before leaving it. Remember that big car hire companies change their stock during the season whereas low-cost hirers use the same cars throughout, meaning a higher likelihood of problems later on. Hiring from a British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association-registered firm can help in a dispute over charges or damage.

4 Cooked engines - failure to keep coolant levels topped up, leaking coolant hoses and broken electric cooling fans are three ways to overheat an engine.

Solutions: Check the condition and level of the engine coolant and look for any signs of leakage from the coolant hoses, such as white staining.

Run the car to the optimum temperature and leave the engine idling for five to 10 minutes; if the cooling fan doesn't cut in, it is time to visit the garage, but check the fuse first. Details will be in the handbook.

If the temperature gauge starts to climb into the red while driving, pull over as soon as is safe and call for roadside assistance.

5 No charge on recharge - the car starts normally and cruises happily along the road until the electrics warning light comes on inexplicably. The engine continues to run and it's tempting to carry on.

Solutions: There is a strong chance that the alternator is not charging, either because of a broken drive belt or a faulty diode. Either way you'll need breakdown assistance. A slipping drive belt will produce a screech from the engine compartment when the car starts up. It's a warning sign of worse to come if you put up with it for too long. Most alternator repairs can be done at the roadside but the cost can be £200 or more. The AA offers its members a Parts and Labour breakdown repair insurance that covers against this type of emergency repair cost.

6 Weight on your mind - legislation introduced in 1997 means many new drivers may not be allowed to tow caravans, horse boxes and heavy trailers.

Solutions: Check your limits. If you passed your driving (category B) test before January 1997, then you can drive/tow a car up to a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes. Those who passed after January 1997 can tow a weight not exceeding 750kg, equivalent to a laden small unbraked trailer, with the combined total of the vehicle and trailer no bigger than 4.25 tonnes. They can also tow a trailer over 750kgs Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) provided the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, and the combination does not exceed 3.5 tonnes. Drivers holding a provisional licence are not permitted to tow a trailer. If in doubt, contact the DVLA. Drivers who are restricted by the legislation need to take another test to ensure they are able to pull a heavier load.

7 Deadly dozing - getting caught in holiday traffic or waiting to avoid the jams can increase the chances of fatigue as drivers stay behind the wheel longer than they should, or travel when they would normally be asleep.

Solutions: Learn to recognise the early symptoms of fatigue: irritation with delays and other road users, or being unable to remember the previous few miles of road. Stop at the nearest motorway service station or layby, take a nap for at least 15 minutes followed by caffeinated drink.

Never drive more than eight hours a day and never longer than two and a half hours in any one period of driving.

8 Glaring mistakes - sun glare is responsible for many accidents and is most likely to happen to motorists who fail to anticipate the effect at dawn or dusk when the sun is low in the sky.

Solutions: By keeping a clean and unscratched pair of sunglasses to hand, drivers can lessen the discomfort and danger from being blinded. A clean windscreen with sufficient screenwash to remove road dirt will also help a driver's vision. Drivers who wear photochromic lenses, which darken in strong sunlight, should be aware that ultraviolet rays which trigger the change are filtered by the windscreen. This may affect the rate of change when entering and leaving tunnels. If blinded by sun glare, drivers should slow down and use the car's sun visors. Looking to the inside of the road will help to gauge direction and to spot pedestrians and cyclists.

9 Cook an egg, boil a dog - few people realise that a car interior on a sunny day in high summer can reach a temperature capable of cooking an egg. A dog, unable to cool itself even with a window open, can overheat and die within half an hour. Children will also suffer from heat exhaustion.

Solutions: Never leave a dog in the car or over-exercise it in warm weather.

Make sure it drinks plenty of water throughout the journey and stop regularly to allow it fresh air. If the dog gets heatstroke, remove it from the car, place a wet towel over its body, offer it as much water as it wants with a pinch of salt, and seek veterinary attention.

10 Are they sitting comfortably? - Children that become bored and restless while on a long journey can quickly add to the stress and exhaustion of driving.

Solutions: Parents should ensure that there are plenty of games and activities to keep children amused. They should be able to see out of the window.

Regular stops for the toilet and exercise should be planned into the journey and anti-nausea medication from the chemist should be considered. Child seats should be checked thoroughly and adjusted correctly before the start of any long jo