Safety Advice on Loading Your Car Properly | theAA
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Loading your car safely

Driving safely and utilising vehicle space

Whether you're moving house, picking up materials from the hardware store or heading off on a long weekend it’s good practice to take your time and organize yourself properly when loading up the car.

You should, adjust your tyre pressures if needed to suit the heavier load.  But remember to adjust them back again after the trip.

Drive more cautiously as handling and performance will be affected by the load plus stopping distances will be increased.

Don't exceed your vehicle’s Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW).  This is the maximum permissible weight the vehicle is permitted to carry based on the capability of tyres, suspension, etc.  It includes everything in (including its passengers) and on the car.

Inside the car

  • Make sure everything's secure:
  • Stuff sliding around or tipping over whenever you brake/turn will be both irritating and very distracting.
  • Empty boxes or plastic crates can be useful in the boot to stop things sliding around your boot.
  • Keep the dash or shelf beneath the CD player and front floor space empty.  Items will fall off and roll around could even get lodged under the brake pedal.

Keep larger/heavier stuff low down

  • Put the bigger stuff in first and then pack the smaller items around the larger items as this will help keep your centre of gravity lower to minimize the effect on handling.
  • Heavy items in the boot (cases of wine/beer, DIY materials) should be packed tightly against the back of the rear seat to reduce the risk of them bursting through in a crash. This affords better weight distribution and handling too.

Can you still see?

  • Avoid packing items above the back seat line so that you see clearly out of the back window.
  • Consider using a roof rack or roof box for lighter / bulkier stuff to leave more room inside.

Passengers come first

  • If you have to fold seats to get a large or awkward load in the car, simply come back for your passengers later on.  This is especially important if the load prevents them from putting their seat belt on.
  • Leave plenty of room for children – stuff packed in tight around them is sure to make for an unhappy journey.
  • 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 tyre in an emergency when packing up your car.

On the roof

Roof racks are a great way of carrying very large or awkward items but take care:

  • Check your car's manual to make sure that the load, including the weight of the roof rack itself, doesn't exceed the maximum.  This limit tends to be quite low.
  • Ensure that your load is securely attached and that it doesn’t stick out creating a hazard.
  • Once you're underway, the airflow will be trying to lift the front of any long load so a secure fixing, holding the front of the load down is important.
  • Under heavy breaking the load will tend to slide forwards – secure fixings to the rear will help prevent this.
  • Fixings will work loose – stop, check and re-secure regularly. 
  • Don't forget the extra height.
  • Take care, for example, when entering covered car parks.
  • Distribute weight safely.
  • If you can, try to put bulky but lighter items on the roof and heavier items low down in the car.  This will help keep the centre of gravity down and improve stability.

Booze cruises

AA Patrols are called out regularly, especially around Christmas, as overloaded cars break down on their return from the Continent. Overloading can cause breakdowns through the following problems:

  • Damage suspension
  • Burn out the clutch
  • Cause punctures or uneven wear on tyres

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