Loading your car at Christmas can be a challenge.
Whether you’re filling up the boot with Christmas presents, carting the tree home, or visiting relatives with all the family in tow. Here’s some advice on loading your car at christmas correctly to ensure safety for you and other road users on the drive home.
Outside the Car
- You will probably need to adjust tyre pressures to suit the heavier load. Check the handbook, and remember to adjust them back again after the trip.
- Bear in mind that heavy loads are likely to affect the car’s handling and performance. Stopping distances will be increased.
- It’s important that you don’t exceed the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)/Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW) for the car. This is the maximum allowed based on the capability of the chassis, tyres and suspension. It includes everything in and on the car (the payload), the driver and passengers.
Inside the Car
- Make sure everything is secure
- Stuff sliding around or tipping over whenever you brake or turn will be irritating at best and dangerously distracting at worst. A box or bag may be better wedged into a rear foot-well rather than left sliding around in an otherwise empty boot.
- Empty boxes or plastic crates can be useful in the boot to stop smaller loads sliding around – or shopping bags spilling at the first corner.
- Keep the parcel shelf clear. Loose items like a first-aid kit or golf umbrella will fly forwards in a crash and could seriously injure someone in the car. In fact, any loose object in the car can become a dangerous projectile in a crash.
- Keep the front foot-wells clear. Loose items rolling about on the floor are distracting and very dangerous if under the driver’s feet or pedals.
- Keep larger/heavier stuff low down
- It makes packing easier if you put bigger stuff in first and then pack smaller items around. This also helps to keep the centre of gravity low and reduces the effect of weight on handling.
- If you’re loading heavy items like cases of wine/beer, push them tight up against the back of the rear seat. This will reduce the risk of them bursting through in a crash and gives better weight distribution and handling.
- Can you still see? Try to keep a clear view to the rear by not packing above the line of the seat backs. Anything packed higher than this is at risk of flying forwards in a crash anyway.
- If space is limited then think about using a roof-rack or roof-box. These are very useful for carrying lighter but bulky items like bedding and will leave more room inside the car.
- Passengers come first. If you have to fold seats to get a large or awkward load in the car then leave passengers and collect them later rather than risk carrying them unrestrained.
- Fit child restraints first as this might be harder to do after you’ve packed everything else. But try to leave plenty of room around children as stuff packed in tight around them is likely to make for an unhappy journey.
- It’s a good idea to keep a bag handy for things you might need during the journey.
- Plan for a puncture. Think about how you will get to the spare in an emergency. Using several soft bags rather than throwing things in loose will make it much easier to get to the spare wheel if you or an AA Patrol needs to do so in an emergency.
On the Roof
- Before you buy your tree, measure it. If you drive a small car, it’s probably not the best idea to fixate on the biggest tree they have. Instead, pick a tree that will feasibly fit on your roof without much overhang.
- Ensure that the tree is enclosed in netting before fixing it to your car. Much easier to grapple with!
- Determine whether your car insurance provider will cover you in the unfortunate event of an accident.
- Bring some tarp or a sheet for the top of your roof before laying the tree on it – some Firs can scratch the paint off your car.
- Fix the stump end of the tree toward the front of your car to ensure that if there is some overhang, it won’t obstruct your view.
- Strap down the tree with some durable rope or bungee cords. The latter work better and also minimise the risk of damaging your tree. Wrap the cords around the tree and the inside of your roof securely, using several rather than just one long one. Give the tree a good tug to ensure it is fixed correctly before taking off.
- Take extra care when driving as you will be carrying extra weight, as well as enduring worsening winter conditions.