Tips for easy summer driving

The one thing you don't need this summer is a vehicle that breaks down, or worse still, has a mechanical failure that puts you, your passengers and other road users in danger.

Your vehicle is like any piece of equipment or machinery; look after it properly and it will generally repay the favour. And, like any mechanical device, it's most likely to fail when conditions are the hardest. The Motor Trade Association (MTA) says there is plenty you can do though to reduce the chances of problems occurring with your vehicle.

There are two common scenarios that generally lead to problems - extremes of heat and frequent stop-start driving in a queue.

Often, these two conditions overlap - lots of people all trying to get to their favourite spot at roughly the same time, leading to long, frustrating and, in the case of your vehicle, mechanically stressful periods. If there is a small fault in your vehicle, chances are that it will come to the fore when things are hotting up.

A car engine usually operates at around 95°C, depending on the make and model. Place that same vehicle in a long line of stop-start traffic inching its way uphill to the beach or the camping ground in 30°C-plus heat and if things are going to fail, it will be at times like this.

So, when you head out on your great Kiwi road trip this summer, make sure that your car is ready for warmer temperatures. Some simple steps can help save you time, money and headaches:

Consider a pre-trip inspection by an MTA technician; repairs can be more costly on the road.

Ask them to check things like the air conditioning, cooling system, drive belts, hoses and clamps, brakes, along with fundamentals like fluids, oil and water.

Check the condition and air pressure in all tyres, including the spare, to make sure they are roadworthy. Remember, heat is a tyre's biggest enemy.

Replace ragged wiper blades, and make sure the wash reservoir tank is full and you've added proper cleaning agents - not dishwashing liquid.

Make sure your sun visors are doing the job; glare from the sun either directly or from other vehicles can blind you temporarily.

Summer is often the time people choose to try the road less travelled. Enjoy the journey and take time to appreciate New Zealand's scenery.

Keep in mind, that if you are trying to avoid those queues of fellow holiday makers, the scenic route may not be the quickest, so plan your trip accordingly.

Over the summer months everyone wants to take advantage of the great weather. This means the roads are busier than ever and so drivers need to be even more aware of the risks.

By driving to the conditions, planning your journey and having patience with other road users, everyone can stay safe on the roads this summer.


- Take breaks every 2 hours and if you feel tired, have difficulty focusing or just want to stretch your legs - pull over and have a walk around.

- Share the driving with someone. Passengers can help look out for early warning signs of fatigue.

- Take a 15 to 20-minute nap. More than this can make you groggy for at least 5 minutes after awakening.

- Consume the equivalent of two cups of coffee (eg, soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea) but remember that caffeine takes about 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream and will not greatly affect those who regularly consume it.

- Don't drive if you're sleep deprived, less than 6 hours sleep can triple your risk of driver fatigue.

- Don't drive when you would normally be asleep, avoid driving through the night.

- Hamilton News

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