Driving home this Christmas? Steer clear of a winter breakdown

Make sure there aren’t any issues with your car, and that you’re protected in the event of a breakdown.

Published: December 3, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Government plans to relax lockdown restrictions over the festive period mean that many of us will be taking to the road to visit family and loved ones.
Some drivers may be making their first long car journey for months, so it’s vital to make sure there aren’t any issues with your car, and that you’re protected in the event of a breakdown.


Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “For anyone hitting the road for a festive reunion, pre-journey planning will be crucial. Taking the time to plot your route and carry out essential car checks will help ensure a trouble-free trip.”

Checks that motorists should carry out include inspecting the tread on tyres. It should ideally be at least 3mm and you should also make sure all four tyres are correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification. You can find this in your vehicle’s handbook.

If you haven’t used your car for a while, it’s also important to check that the brakes haven’t seized up. Test this by moving your car backwards and forwards several times and applying the brakes. It’s a good idea to look at fluid levels too as low brake fluid could result in your brakes failing and make sure check that you have enough anti-freeze to, and that your battery is in good working order.

Be prepared
Even if you’ve carried out all the necessary checks on your car, unfortunately there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t suffer a breakdown. If you don’t want to end up stranded at the roadside, breakdown cover can provide peace of mind that help should arrive relatively quickly should you need it.

Jason King, customer director at Sainsbury’s Bank, said: “Car breakdowns are no fun when it’s cold, dark and wet so in order to stay safe and not dampen your festive season, we’re urging drivers to be prepared this year. Make sure you always carry a few essentials in your vehicle, including a well charged mobile phone, and have a car insurance policy that provides breakdown cover.”

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If your insurance doesn’t include breakdown cover, you can take out standalone cover. You can usually compare different policies through sites such as MoneySuperMarket.com or Comparethemarket.com, but before buying check you don’t have cover already provided through your bank account. Many accounts which charge a monthly fee provide breakdown cover as part of the package, so you don’t want to end up paying for the same cover twice. Read the small print carefully before buying too, so that you know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for. For example, you might want your policy to include ‘Home Start’ cover which means someone will come out to fix your car if it won’t start when you’re at home, or you may prefer basic cover, which means your car will only be fixed if you breakdown when you’re away from home.

If you have an older vehicle and are worried about potentially steep repair costs if something does go wrong, it might be worth also considering an extended warranty. Most new cars come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which means if there’s a problem with your car, they must put it right, but these typically expire after three or five years. If yours has ended you can take out extended cover, but make sure you compare a range of policies before buying and ideally go for a policy which provides cover up to the replacement cost of your car.



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