FIGURES released by the RAC have revealed the high toll that the hot summer season has taken on UK motorists, with nearly half a million engine failures, more than 100,000 frazzled air-con units and a 20% increase on convertible roof faults since the beginning of May.

The figures also show a more than 15% increase in the number of ‘puncture no spares’ breakdowns on the nation’s roads in the same time frame.

And, as 11m cars are expected on the roads for the last long – and potentially hot – weekend of the summer, the RAC is anticipating this trend will continue. The firm is increasing the number of its patrols around popular destinations by 25% and across the country as whole by 15%.

However, some of the most common causes of breakdown can be avoided with a few simple precautions.

RAC Head of Technical, Phil Ryan, said: “This really has been a summer of weather-related car problems and with another weekend where more than 11m extra cars will be on the roads this looks likely to continue.

“To make sure the last bank holiday isn’t blighted by an unexpected visit to the hard shoulder we always recommend motorists check the condition of their tyres as well as oil, water and coolant levels before taking to the road.”

The company runs its own live en-route traffic and weather updates via its website, designed to help motorists plan journeys. There is also a free RAC Traffic app which gives the most up-to-date road information available including fresh incidents and ongoing roadworks.

Drivers looking to prevent their vehicles getting hot under the bonnet this weekend should carry out the following checks before setting out:

:: Check your car’s oil and coolant levels following the instructions in its owner’s handbook
:: Have the cooling system checked – a leaking cooling system or inoperative cooling fan could cause the vehicle to overheat and cause extensive damage to the engine. If you have air conditioning, have that checked at the same time to make sure it’s working correctly. It’s worth noting that owners of vehicles with air conditioning will often see a small amount of water on the ground under the engine area– this is perfectly normal and is simply condensation generated by the air conditioning system
:: The electric cooling fan is designed to run only when needed, so it’s worth getting this checked to ensure it hasn’t failed through lack of use
:: Check the operation of the convertible roof, especially if it hasn’t been used for some time. Make sure you know how to open or close it manually if needed
:: Check all wiper blades for wear or splitting, check the windscreen washer fluid level (screen wash additive is also recommended) and check that the washer jets are adjusted correctly
:: Check the operation of all exterior lights to ensure they comply with the law, especially if you’re travelling to Europe
:: Check the condition of the tyres (including the spare) for correct pressures and legal tread depth. The current minimum legal tread depth for cars is 1.6mm, but changing at 3mm is proven to be much safer
:: Inspect your car’s jack and wheel brace making sure they are in correct working order. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, ensure the locking key is safely stowed away in the vehicle. It’s definitely useful to practice removing and installing the spare wheel, following instructions from your owner’s handbook, so that you can do it when it really matters. If no spare is supplied with your vehicle make sure you are familiar with the tyre repair kit in case you need it
:: Make sure you have a spare set of keys for your vehicle in a safe place
:: If you are towing a caravan, check its tyres – they can deteriorate quickly when not used for some time, so check for any cracking in the sidewalls. Also check the braking system, the indicators, brake lights and coupling gear. In addition, make sure that the caravan is properly balanced with the load distributed as advised by the manufacturer.
:: Never overload your vehicle or caravan beyond their designed carrying capacity. Doing so could be dangerous, and it also increases the chances of your car breaking down