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Loading up your car safely

It may sound like common sense but there is a right way and a wrong way to load up your car safely. We have all seen people trying to move wardrobes on minis and other crazy things on the roofs of their cars. This kind of thing can actually be quite dangerous, and you may even be stopped by the police if they consider that your load is unsafe.

Loading and vehicle handling

All vehicles are designed to handle loads up to a certain set limit called the Maximum Permitted Weight or Maximum Authorised Mass. If this weight is exceeded you not only run the risk of suspension or other components failing, but the handling of the vehicle could be seriously affected. The maximum weight for all cars is normally shown on the Vehicle Identity Number plate (usually under the bonnet) or in the vehicles handbook.

Even if your vehicle is fully laden but within the allowed limits, it will still affect the handling. You will need a greater distance to stop and also corners will need to be taken more slowly. Always drive more cautiously in a heavily laden vehicle and keep a greater distance between yourself and the vehicle in front.

Loading the inside of your car

Is everything secure?
  • Ensure everything is carefully packed so that it does not move around. An unsecured large object could slide around and make the vehicle unstable when going around corners.

  • Avoid stacking objects higher than the back of the front seats. They can block the view of your rear view mirror and may also fly forward if you have to brake suddenly
  • If you do have objects stacked higher than the front seats, make sure they are held securely in place, particularly if your vehicle does not have headrests

  • Smaller objects can be used to help wedge larger objects in place and stop them from moving around

  • Avoid putting heavy objects on the parcel shelf. If you brake suddenly or have a collision these objects may fly forward at high speed and injure the vehicles occupants

  • Don't have loose objects in the front foot wells. If something rolls underneath the brake pedal and wedges itself, it could stop you from braking

Packing heavy items

  • Put large or heavy items in first and make sure they are secure. The heavier the object, the more damage it could do if it slides forward in a collision

  • Always put heavy objects at the bottom of your stack. If your vehicle becomes top heavy it can make it unstable when cornering

Passenger safety
  • If you have passengers in the back with your load, ensure that they are not cramped and that there are no loose objects behind their heads

  • When carrying small children in the back with a large loads, make sure that the child seat is correctly fitted and once again make sure all loose objects are secured

Access to your spare wheel

If your load covers the storage area for your spare wheel, ensure that your load is packed so that it is still relatively easy to get to it in an emergency

Roof racks

Roof racks can provide extra storage space on any vehicle, but they also need to be packed securely and sensibly to avoid posing a danger to yourself and other road users. Anything that goes on the roof will be exposed to high air speeds and so it should be as secure and as 'aerodynamic' as you can make it. If you use a roof rack a lot it may be worth investing in a streamlined roof top box, which will minimise any wind resistance. Below are a few tips on how to safely use a roof rack.

  • Check your cars handbook to make sure that you do not exceed the maximum load that your roof can handle

  • Ensure that all items on your roof rack are held securely. If an object falls off when you are driving you could cause an accident
  • Avoid putting any tall flat fronted objects on a roof rack. They will not only slow you down, but the resulting high air pressure could be sufficient to make it come loose. Your load should always be made as low profile as possible
  • Avoid braking abruptly, otherwise your load may break free
  • Your vehicle will now have added height so you may not be able to use multi-storey or underground car parks

  • Putting very heavy objects on a roof rack could seriously affect the stability of the vehicle. Try to put them either inside your vehicle or perhaps hire a small van instead

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