Holidays, travel. Lots of people use their own car to get to their holiday destination in Europe: being able to drive door to door is simply the most practical option. However, just packing your luggage into the boot and heading off without thinking twice is not recommended – because there are a few things to think about to ensure a stress-free holiday on the road. Take a look at the overview below for more details.
It is a nightmare scenario: you are in a traffic jam in Italy, it is 40 degrees in the shade, and your car suddenly gives up the ghost – a breakdown due to overheating. Yet this is a totally realistic scenario – if you forget to check the coolant level before setting off and it runs out on the autostrada. ‘To avoid this or similar issues, before you set off on holiday, it is well worth getting a thorough check of all key functional areas at a garage’, advises Shkelzen Jetullahu, VW, SEAT, Škoda and CUPRA service consultant at AMAG Basel. ‘This means you can rely on your car working properly when travelling abroad.’
There is nothing more annoying than dealing with an unnecessary breakdown that could easily have been avoided, the expert explains. However, in the excitement of booking and packing, lots of people forget to think about also preparing their car. ‘That's why we offer our check when changing tyres, for example, and also actively advertise it elsewhere – most people are very happy to take advantage of it.’ The following five areas are rigorously checked as part of the holiday check:
The check starts inside the vehicle. Are the indicator lights working properly and are the heating, blowers and air conditioning operational? ‘If the latter isn’t working, it can be fatal in hot summer months', Jetullahu notes. An air conditioning service can also be carried out, which includes draining all fluids and topping the relevant containers back up – including function checks and looking for any potential leaks. The expert recommends having an air conditioning service every two years. ‘This check can also help extend the system’s service life. An A/C compressor will last for longer if it is serviced regularly.’
In the engine compartment, specialists use their trained eye to check that all of the hoses are properly connected and not loose, whether there has been any damage caused by martens, and if all fluids are sufficiently topped up – from engine oil, coolant and brake fluid to power steering fluid and windscreen wash. Another important check is a close look at your battery, which can also cause issues for holidays if it is too old. ‘In batteries that are more than five years old, there is every chance that one cell will develop a defect and prevent the car from starting’, Jetullahu notes. ‘We therefore perform a load test and check the charge level.’
The underside of the vehicle is checked for leaks, e.g. if there is oil leaking or other loss of fluid. The gearbox, steering and exhaust system are also checked for damage. It is very important to check the brake discs and brake pads, including the associated cables and hoses, with a focus on any potential leaks.
Next you should check the general condition of your tyres, including their profile. ‘In the summer, this should be at least three millimetres, and four millimetres in the winter’, the AMAG specialist explains. One set of tyres will generally last for 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres. ‘If the profile has been worn down too far, the tyres need to be replaced before a long holiday drive.’ As well as tyre quality, we also check tyre pressure: this should be just right, i.e. neither too high nor too low. Incorrect tyre pressure can adversely affect braking distance and cornering, and in the worst case even cause the tyre to burst. It also increases fuel consumption. Important: the tyre check also includes the vehicle’s spare tyre.
The outside of the car is checked for potential damage, such as rust, dents or chips, concentrating in particular on any chips in the windscreen. This cannot have any hairline cracks, which, in the worst-case scenario, could result in a broken window. Any windscreen damage or bodywork defects may need to be repaired straight away, as sharp edges or parts jutting out could injure someone, for example. The exterior check also covers the lighting system, including dipped beams, headlights and indicators. And last but not least, the wiper blades are checked. These should not be brittle or damaged. This includes a check of the associated fluids and hoses.
You can book an appointment with your AMAG garage at the click of a button! And the check may sound long-winded, but it will take a professional just 30 to 45 minutes, meaning you can get your vehicle ready for the holidays during a coffee break.
If you are properly equipped for your holiday, you can enjoy a much more relaxed time. ‘Particularly popular accessories include roof boxes for additional storage space and bike carriers’, Jetullahu explains. Important: When it comes to mounts for bicycles and e-bikes, there are legal requirements to note alongside the practical aspects. These relate to the roof load, which cannot exceed a certain weight specific to the vehicle type, and the maximum height. As the car professional explains, it is easy to reach these very quickly, even in SUVs. ‘Given this, a bicycle rack for the tailgate often makes more sense.' In fact, many people would choose a rear rack anyway as it is easier to load and unload. This requires the addition of a tow bar, if one is not already installed. ‘We can install this at the same time.’ Other holiday accessories are also available, such as floor carpets, safety nets for car passengers if the boot is heavily laden, special summer windscreen wash, or fragrance dispensers. We also offer a full range of accessories for campervans.
Like in Switzerland, drivers are required to carry various items in their vehicle while in other European countries. Here these are your driving licence and vehicle registration, exhaust emissions document, and warning triangle. A first aid kit and a high visibility vest are not compulsory but will always be useful. Regulations vary somewhat across Europe – for example, our neighbours are stricter regarding these required items. In Italy and France, you must carry a high visibility vest as well as the warning triangle, and Germany and Austria require a first aid kit on top of this. Our eastern neighbours are particularly specific about this, as the first aid kit must be in a dustproof box. In addition, all countries require a CH sticker. Take careful note: some countries have their own particular traffic rules. The box has an overview of all the key details!
However much you prepare, no-one is immune to accidents and there is no such thing as 100 percent certainty. If you know what to do (see box), you will be able to keep a cool head. And of course, being properly protected for such eventualities helps: AMAG customers benefit from Totalmobil insurance, which is extended for free following a service. This is valid across almost the whole of Europe and includes roadside assistance, rescue, towing, transport, a replacement vehicle if yours has to be towed, delivery costs for spare parts, vehicle relocation, travel assistance in the event of theft, and additional accommodation and food costs. ‘Our emergency service centre on +41 848 024 365 will take care of everything you need’, Shkelzen Jetullahu explains.
What to Pay Attention to When Traveling by Car in European Vacation Countries:
What should you do if your car breaks down?
● If it happens: move your car out of the danger area. On the motorway, this means getting it to the hard shoulder.
● Turn on the hazard warning lights
● If it is dark: turn on the sidelights
● Switch off the engine
● Put on a high visibility vest
● Then set up the warning triangle. The rule of thumb is that it should be set up at least 50 metres behind the stationary vehicle in a populated area, at least 100 metres on cross-country roads and motorways.
● Then get yourself somewhere safe by getting all passengers to exit the vehicle on the passenger side, and ideally move behind the crash barrier.