Whilst Christmas may bring a period of festive spirit, it also brings additional stress and hazards for motorists driving home in reduced light and low sun.
Despite 99% of Brits planning ahead for a journey (mapping out their route, packing their breakdown kit), new research from LeasePlan UK has revealed that only one quarter (25%) of drivers prioritise vehicle maintenance checks (oil, tyre pressure, washer fluid etc.) before setting out. This is particularly troubling as the average family is expected to travel over 300 miles during the Christmas period including traveling home and finishing their Christmas shopping.
With 18% of breakdowns caused by mechanical problems and a further 19% caused by issues with tyres, checks are critical ahead of long drives in hazardous conditions. Daily vehicle checks, which only take minutes to complete, can often reduce the likelihood of an accident.
This Christmas, more than 20 million vehicles are expected to hit the roads, with the busiest days set to be between the 20th and 22nd December. Shorter days increase the risk of motorists driving in poor conditions and this year’s shortest day falls on the 21st, during one of the busiest driving weeks of the year. A combination of poor light, icy and wet roads can present some of the most challenging driving conditions, so ensuring vehicles are road fit is absolutely essential.
Lesley Slater, Operations and Business Development Director, LeasePlan UK said: “It’s hugely important to maintain the upkeep of a vehicle, particularly during the winter months, not only to conserve its value and improve fuel economy, but also because inadequate maintenance can be dangerous and potentially cause an accident.
“It is a concern to us that only one in four (25%) drivers are actually prioritising basic vehicle maintenance checks. Driver safety is one of our primary concerns, so we would always advise drivers to take the time to give their vehicles a quick once over. These checks not only help maintain the health of the vehicle, but can also cut down the likelihood of having an incident.”
LeasePlan’s researched revealed that one in ten drivers (11%) of lease vehicles in particular, find comfort in knowing that they are covered for every eventuality – including service, tyres, maintenance and breakdown cover. Although, no matter how prepared drivers are, long journeys always pose the threat of unplanned and unforeseen problems– especially at this time of year.
To help drivers be prepared this winter, LeasePlan UK has created an easy-to-follow vehicle checklist –
- Screen wash
Top up washer fluid regularly and give yourself extra time to de-mist your vehicle’s windows and wing mirrors; a rushed job could leave smears on your windscreen, making vision difficult in the low evening sun.
- Check exterior lights
Clean headlamps daily to ensure you can see and be seen. Salt and dirt can quickly build up, reducing visibility at night and in poor weather conditions. Wipe off excess dirt from your registration plate to make sure your vehicle is easily identifiable.
- Car battery
Cold and damp weather is a car battery’s enemy. If you have the correct equipment you can test a vehicle battery yourself, but it’s easier and recommended that you seek advice from a specialist. After tyres, batteries represent 16% of the AA’s typical breakdown workload.
- Winter tyres
It’s important to regularly check the tread depth and pressure of your tyres, which can improve braking and control in winter conditions. The legal tread depth limit is 1.6mm. For frequent winter drivers winter tyres offer extra grip when temperatures drop below seven-degrees and on snow and ice.
Ensure your anti-freeze is topped up regularly. Making sure you have the correct concentration is critical for the health of your engine. It is recommended to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. The concentrate is diluted with water prior to use and to ensure adequate cooling system protection a concentration of between 40% and 50% (by volume) is recommended.
- Oil level
Use your dipstick to check your vehicle’s oil levels weekly and top up if needed. Low oil levels could cause your engine to seize; leading to a break down.
- Winter car kit
It may seem a little extreme to carry an emergency kit with you, but winter weather can be unpredictable. Pack for every eventuality and ensure you have the following:
• Phone charger
• Warning triangle
• Winter boots
• Warm clothing
• Hi-visibility vest
• De-icer and a scraper
• A shovel
• A tow rope
• A torch
• Food and drink