According to the top two breakdown services in the UK, 1 in 5 of us will call them out this year – that’s 6 million stranded drivers just from these two membership services alone, so the actual number of breakdownees in need of a vehicle recovery service will be much higher. If you want to reduce your risk of joining them at the roadside then, we have a few hints and tips that you’ll be well advised to follow. So here is our non-technical guide to saving you from being stranded this wintertime (and throughout the rest of the year too).
Recognise the need for maintenance and pre-journey checks
As our vehicles become ever more advanced, we tend to rely on on-board technology to tell us if there’s something wrong. The art of actual physical checks seems to have been lost along the way. However, if someone you know is learning to drive or has recently passed their test, you will be aware that vehicle checks are now part of the driving test in the UK. So if you want to save yourself hours of cold and frustration waiting by the roadside for someone to pick you up, fix your vehicle, or take it to the closest garage, then it makes sense to take just 15 minutes a week or before a long journey to review a few things.
Check your tyres
How many of us check our tyres as often as we should? Since the car’s tyres are the things that actually make contact with the road, it’s obviously in our best interests to keep an eye on their pressure and roadworthiness. Each car has a specific tyre pressure that must be maintained for safe driving (always clearly marked in the car manual). Low pressure not only increases the risk of a puncture, but can also result in uneven wear and increased fuel consumption. And, it should go without saying, that tyres that are worn down or have sharp objects embedded in them are dangerous to drive on. To give you a more impactful view of this, approximately half a million of us this year will break down due to a puncture.
Check your fluids
Everyone knows that they need petrol for their cars to work… right? Well, a ridiculous number of people still like to play fuel Russian roulette, either not checking their gauge and ignoring low tank lights, or trying to go as far as possible before filling up. Equally, other fluids such as oil, brake fluid and anti-freeze (in the wintertime), need to be regularly checked against required levels. The fluids to be used, and levels required in their respective reservoirs, can be reviewed in your vehicle manual. Please make sure that you use the right fluids – far too many vehicle breakdown callouts are due to the wrong fuel or oil being used (which could damage your engine or be costly to drain out if you are not careful).
Check your lights
Making sure that all your vehicle’s external lights are working properly is a legal requirement, so these should be checked regularly. Not only is it dangerous for you not to have all your external lights working, because it reduces your night-time visibility, but it also affects whether other drivers can see you and how they judge the width of your vehicle. Of course, it’s also useful to check your internal lights. Modern cars have lots of these, but if you find yourself on a dark road at night needing to look at an A to Z map (yes, I know this is an example for the older members of this audience, but update it to something else you might need an internal light for if you like), then you’ll wish you’d checked whether your interior lights were working properly before you set off.
Check your warning lights
A surprising number of motorists have no clue what all of the lights on their instrument panel do, or are indicating. If a new light appears, do not ignore it. Look it up in your manual, or online, and if that still does not tell you what’s up, then call your dealership or the vehicle manufacturer. But whatever you do, do not ignore it, these lights come on for a reason, and some of them could be serious.
Ensure that you have a breakdown backup plan
No matter how vigilant you are about your pre-journey vehicle checks, you cannot prevent all breakdowns. That’s why it’s essential that you have a backup plan in place. You don’t want to be calling a mother/father/son/daughter/family friend at midnight on a Wednesday to pick you up 100 miles from where they live! Many choose to go for breakdown services such as the AA, RAC and Green Flag that charge you annual subscriptions whether you need them or not. But there is an alternative. If you keep the contact details of a reliable and friendly vehicle recovery service such as AA Vehicle Recovery with you, then you only need to pay for this service when you need it – far more reasonable to our mind. AA Vehicle Recovery is a local service dedicated to the East Anglia region, but of course there are many others that cover the rest of the UK if you find yourself stranded elsewhere. It costs nothing to keep their cards in your vehicle and it could offer great peace of mind to you and those who care about you, if one day you find yourself as one of the 1 in 5 people in need of help.