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Give your car a clean bill of health with a Haynes 'pre-holiday' check

Breaking down is always a nuisance, but on holiday it can be a nightmare. Think about it: you miss the ferry and arrive late at your destination, tired and hungry. Your children get fed up and fractious, and paying for the repairs uses up all your holiday money. Worse still, you may miss your holiday altogether and see nothing more exciting than the back of a breakdown truck.

Let's face it, if you usually cover 100 miles a week dawdling around town,then expecting your car to cope with a mammoth 2,000-mile drive could be just asking for trouble.

At peak holiday periods, the UK's major breakdown organisations deal with more than 50,000 calls a day. Yet most faults are simple things - low engine oil or coolant levels, faulty jacks, snapped drivebelts and so on - all of which could easily be avoided by carrying out a vital pre-holiday check.

Don't let your car spoil your holiday: give it a clean bill of health with the assistance of Haynes - a name that is both instantly recognisable and trusted.

Haynes, the world-leading publisher of automotive repair manuals, is renowned for teaching millions of car owners how to carry out routine maintenance and repairs. The manuals provide authoritative and accurate step-by-step information for carrying out all kinds of jobs on the car, including simple tasks such as the 'pre-holiday check' below. For more advice on model-specific procedures, please refer to the appropriate Haynes Service and Repair Manual.

Haynes Manuals are available from this website and all good car accessory retailers and bookshops including: Halfords, Motor World and WH Smith. Please use our comprehensive Stockist Locator in the left margin of this page.

Pre-holiday car check-list

At least a week before taking your car on holiday, you should carry out a number of simple checks - some of which should be repeated just before you leave.

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Step 1

First, check that your car won't be due for an MOT test or a service whilst you are away. If necessary, get these done before you leave (or save some money and do the service yourself - it's easier than you think!).

Step 2

Now, with the vehicle on level ground and a cold engine, check all the fluid levels - engine oil and coolant; brake, clutch and power steering reservoirs, plus the screen washer bottle (and automatic transmission fluid if appropriate).

Step 3

Top up if necessary with the oil or fluid detailed in the car's handbook or the Haynes manual. If you check the fluid levels regularly and notice a significant drop in any of them, there may be a leak - get a garage to investigate.

Step 4

Inspect the engine auxiliary drivebelt ('fanbelt') for cracks and separation of the belt plies. Get a new belt fitted (or do it yourself!) if necessary. Carrying a spare belt is a good idea.

Step 5

Check the condition of the tyres carefully, including the one on the spare wheel. This could be a good opportunity to use the jack and ensure that it works properly (it may be missing altogether!).

Step 6

Removing each of the wheels in turn will make it easier to inspect the tyres for cuts, abrasions, bulges or embedded nails or stones. Check the tread depth with an indicator gauge. The UK legal limit of 1.6mm is an absolute minimum and ideally you should replace any tyre with less than 3mm of tread before embarking on a lengthy holiday journey.

Step 7

Check the wheels to see if they have been damaged by 'kerbing'. A particularly clean patch around the rim could indicate a missing wheel balancing weight. Using a tyre pressure gauge, check the inflation pressure of each tyre. A low reading could indicate a slow puncture, which you should get checked.

Step 8

If you will be driving abroad at sustained high speeds, or loading the car to its maximum, the tyre pressures may need to be raised above normal - the Haynes manual gives details

Step 9

Now check the condition of the wiper blades. Clean them with a tissue dipped in screen wash concentrate. If they are cracked or show any signs of deterioration, or if they smear a perfectly clean screen, renew them.

Step 10

Make sure all the external lights are functioning - including rear fog lights. You can check brake lights unaided by seeing if they illuminate a wall or garage door. Try the horn too. Finally, clean the windows, inside and out, and wipe the lamp lenses and door mirrors.

Step 11

If you are going on holiday abroad, the Haynes Driving Abroad' book details the essential equipment - such as a warning triangle, spare bulbs and First Aid kit - that you must carry for particular countries. Put these in an easily accessible place in your vehicle - together with your Haynes manual.

Step 12

Just before you leave, check the tyre pressures and fluid levels again.

Your pre-holiday health check is complete. Bon voyage!