Infos pratiques > Off on holiday soon? Here are a useful few tips

Off on holiday soon? Here are a useful few tips

 - 10/12/2015

How best to pack the car?

Start by putting the heaviest and most rigid suitcases at the back of the boot, so they are closest to the centre of gravity and less likely to disturb the vehicle’s road holding. Then, wedge soft objects into the corners (bathing towels, duvet, sleeping bag, sheets, etc.). Finish with flat and/or long objects that you will place on top or in front, along the edge of the boot (pushchair, parasol, etc.).

Tyre pressure

When talking about tyre pressure, you often hear the expression “motorway” pressure (0.2 to 0.3 bars over the recommended vehicle manufacturer’s value) – what does it mean?
This extra tyre pressure serves partly to rigidify the tyre walls when the vehicle is heavily loaded. It also prevents the tyre from overheating (by better heat dispersion) and thus any risk of burst tyres. Alternatively, you should be aware that the vehicle’s steering becomes lighter and the vehicle will thus feel “racier” and the suspension may be a bit harder.

Children in cars

What does the Highway Code say about child car seats?
It is illegal to transport a child under 12 years of age (or 135 cm in height) in the front seat unless the child is installed in a rear-facing child car seat or if it is impossible to do otherwise (two-seater cars). Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK and most other European countries. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle. To find out more, consult the Road Safety site

Mechanical health

While topping up the oil level, I went over the maximum limit – is it important?
In a petrol-driven car, there is little risk and the excess will gradually be consumed by the engine. However an over-generous measure of oil can be catastrophic for a diesel-driven car: the engine sucks up the excess and goes into a self-combustion phase (“races”) until total destruction. Therefore, have it emptied urgently.


It is estimated that it takes a driver one second to react in the case of a hazard or obstacle on the road. So, it is only after a second that he or she really starts to brake.
Failure to respect safety distances can result in a £100 fine and the loss of 3 points on your driving license. How can you avoid such consequences?
Locate a fixed point (bridge, road sign) and once the vehicle in front of you goes past this mark, count two seconds in your head. Another trick on the motorway is to allow a two-line gap (roughly 90 metres) of the hard shoulder markings between you and the vehicle in front.

A tidy car!

Can I really put nothing on the rear parcel shelf?

Unless you have a fixed protection rail or three headrests (very rare) to prevent things from falling off (or worse), it is definitely not recommended to do anything on the parcel shelf. In the event of a shock, the smallest object (book, toy) can be transformed into a lethal weapon…

Maximum weight?

Is there a maximum load of baggage that can be transported?
Yes, each car has a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)/Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW). The figure for your vehicle is indicated on the “VIN plate” under the bonnet or in the vehicle handbook.


What is the least costly way, in terms of fuel consumption, to transport bicycles?
Bicycles can be transported in three ways: on a roof rack, on a boot mounted carrier or on a tow bar mounted rack. The latter two will add the least amount to your petrol bill. Allow around 5% extra compared to 30-40% for a roof mounted system. It is also much easier to keep an eye on your bicycles in the rear mirror when they are mounted on the boot or the tow bar.

Preventive maintenance

Should I have my car serviced before going on holiday?
It all depends on your vehicle’s service programme. Most modern vehicles only require servicing every 20,000 to 30,000 km (12,000-18,000 miles). So, although there is probably no urgency, a mini check-up (engine levels, tyre pressure, lights) is always a good idea.


You are thinking of taking your dog or cat on holiday?
It is preferable to transport pets in a cage. It might seem cruel but it is the only way to prevent unforeseeable reactions and a possible accident. If your pet seems “stressed” by the trip, you can consult a vet who will prescribe a sedative for the journey. If possible, let the animal out during the journey and provide water regularly.

A little tip

Are some toll lanes faster than others?
More and more toll booths are equipped with automatic barriers for frequent travellers and paying by bank card is generally faster than by cash. Finally, statistically, the lanes on the far left (in the UK or far right on the continent) are traditionally less busy than those in the middle.

Don’t panic!

What happens if I lose my toll ticket?
Two possibilities: either the person in the booth asks you where you entered the motorway and calculates the price accordingly (it does happen!) or you will be billed for the maximum amount on that motorway section.

A short lesson in car mechanics

What should you do if your car starts overheating?
Start by slowing down. Open the windows and turn the heating on full. If the engine temperature continues to rise, pull over onto the hard shoulder. Beware: the main cause of overheating is a leak (radiator hose, radiator, water pump) and the engine can rise to temperatures of 100°C. You can top up with tap water, providing you purge the circuit soon afterwards (risk of freezing in winter).

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