There are a few simple checks you can do yourself to prepare your vehicle for the trip. Your tyres are likely to make the most difference to your experience with driving on snow. If your resort is at a high altitude, and the road is likely to be snow covered, then you should consider investing in a set of snow (winter) tyres. They make a huge difference to the vehicles traction and your overall control. Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth. For winter motoring, at least 3mm of tread is recommended and certainly no less than 2mm.
Remember to also check:
Battery: A battery rarely last longer than 5 years and winter driving, often in the dark with lights, heaters and windscreen wipers going, puts a lot of additional strain on it. Consider replacing it before you go if it is approaching the end of it’s life
Fluids: Check the oil and water levels and ensure they are topped up correctly. Pay particular attention to the anti-freeze and windscreen wash – use a proper additive at the right concentration so that it doesn’t freeze up on you in the cold
Lights: Check that all lights are working, clean and correctly aimed. For driving on the continent you must fit headlight converters to adjust your beams so that you don’t dazzle on-coming vehicles when driving on the right. Converter kits are widely available but don’t leave it until the last minute as certain makes of vehicle may require a dealer to make the adjustment
Windscreen wipers: Check front and rear wiper blades for wear or splitting and replace if necessar
Number Plates: Your number plates should be clean and legible as it is possible to be fined if they cannot be read. Motorists from the UK should also have a GB sticker on their car although since March 2001, plates with a GB Euro badge have replaced the need for a conventional sticker when travelling within the EU.
Vehicle Registration Documents & Paperwork
An important difference when driving you car abroad is that you are expected to have all your vehicle registration documents ready for inspection on demand. If you don’t, you could face a fine or even confiscation of your vehicle. In order to avoid a sticky situations with the law, always have the following documentation in your car with you:
- Full valid driving licence (not provisional) with the paper counterpart if you have a photo card licence.
- Original vehicle registration document - your log book.
- Motor insurance certificate
- Your passport
At least a month before taking your vehicle overseas, you should contact your car insurance company to ensure that you are adequately covered and are in possession of the necessary documentation. Many insurance companies will only insure a vehicle overseas for a maximum of 90 days at a time, so if you are planning on an extended stay, you may have to make additional cover arrangements. It is no longer essential to carry a Green Card when driving within the EU, however, it is instantly recognisable proof of (at least) 3rd party insurance cover – the minimum cover requirement – and is obtainable from your insurance company.
Also ask your insurance company to provide you with a “constat amiable” - this is the form you must complete in the event of an accident involving another vehicle. It is a duplicate document upon which both drivers agree the events that led up to the incident, sign and then keep a copy each.
Whilst checking out your insurance policy you should also ensure that you have European Breakdown Cover just in case of accident or mechanical failure. Check out AA.com or the RAC.co.uk for quick on-line quotes and member discounts.
Will my car make it to Alpe d'Huez?
Basic Perpetration of your car in the UK could save time & money in France
Before embarking on a journey of several hundred kilometres, you want to be sure that your vehicle is mechanically up to the job. Breakdowns and repairs in Europe are costly affairs so reduce your chances of conking out on the autoroute by servicing your car well in advance of your trip. If you’re planning a ski trip, then ask your garage to perform a winter service on your car, and they will adjust the engine fluids accordingly to cope with the colder temperatures in the Alps.