Holiday loading tips
With the summer vacation period in full swing, many motorists are taking to the road with their cars jam-packed with holiday paraphernalia. Yet, a heavily-loaded journey can be made safer for you and easier on the car with a little forward planning.
1. Check capacity
Although overloading the suspension of a typical family car is unlikely, unless you are towing, note the weight capacity of your vehicle and consider weighing your luggage. The maximum mass figure is provided on the Vehicle Identification Number plate (or the chassis number plate, which tends to be situated within the engine bay). Alternatively, check the handbook, or consult a main dealer. While your passengers are likely to object revealing their personal weight, you can make estimates. If using a top-box (or rack), most cars possess an additional weight limit for the roof. With all the weights added together (including your own), it must not exceed the maximum safe figure that the vehicle can carry.
2. Tyre pressures
While delving in your handbook, many cars specify increased tyre pressures for the rear pair, when extra passengers and luggage are carried. This reduces the chance of the tyres overheating and failing. Adjust the pressures again, on your return. Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems will not make these judgements for you.
When loading, position the heaviest items (such as suitcases) on the boot floor – do not pile them on top of other luggage, or strap them to the roof. Aim to place the heaviest items as far forward within the boot as possible, as close to the rear wheels as you can. Try to pack the lightest items within the roof-box (or on the rack) and be wary that any roof-mounted items must be secured correctly and nothing must protrude dangerously. These tips will help reduce the detrimental impacts that heavy loads have on the car’s handling.
4. Safe luggage
Many motorists pile unrestrained luggage so high that it can fly forward and cause an injury in either a frontal impact, or under emergency braking. If securing the load is not possible, consider investing in a dog-guard that will reduce the chance of luggage entering the passenger compartment.
5. Consider visibility
Although taking steps to ensure that your own visibility within the car is not impacted, the extra weight could raise the headlight aim, unless your model is fitted with either self-levelling suspension, or factory-fitted HID (‘Xenon’) lamp units. While many motorists will not drive in darkness at this time of year (unless entering a tunnel, for example) consider that maladjusted dipped beams risk dazzling oncoming traffic in poor weather conditions. Some cars possess a rotary control that will allow you to compensate the beam aim, according to the weight at the rear.