Munich. Packing the heaviest items at the bottom and securing them well are the basics of loading your vehicle correctly, according to the professionals. Motorists should heed this advice before packing and making their car ready for the holidays. Even the smallest items should be secured. TÜV SÜD gives practical tips on loading cars correctly.
Boxes, bags, baby buggies: when holiday time comes around, cars are often forced into the role of heavy-duty transporters. In those situations, loading the car correctly is of paramount importance as unsecured items may turn into missiles in the event of emergency braking, or dangerously impact on the stability of the car when cornering. Before setting off, holidaymakers should therefore consider exactly where to best stow the various items they want to take along, not forgetting the equipment they will need to secure their belongings. “Bungee cords, partitions, transport boxes and similar items are important aids in packing for holiday travel”, says Eberhard Lang, TÜV SÜD. If space is at a premium inside the car, roof boxes are a safer option that can fit plenty of luggage.
Weighing it up: When packing the car, ensure that you do not exceed the permitted total weight and don't forget to add in the weight of your passengers as well as the luggage itself. Only the driver's weight – as a standard allowance of 75 kilograms – is automatically included in the permitted total weight. All drivers planning to transport heavy loads should be aware of their vehicle's exact payload. This is easy to confirm by checking the car's documents: simply subtract the “unladen mass” from the “technically permissible maximum laden mass” to get the payload in kilograms.
Distributing the load: When too much luggage is stowed in the wrong places, a heavily laden vehicle can become a major safety risk. A car that is overloaded or unevenly loaded is bound to be unstable in driving manoeuvres. Often the vehicle may not even need to be in a ticklish situation to get out of control; simply braking suddenly or taking a corner a little too fast may be enough to cause a problem.
As a rule of thumb, when packing a car always place the heaviest items in the boot. This is the safest place for weighty luggage, and vehicle control can also be improved by positioning most of the weight over the rear axle. When packing, be sure not to leave any gaps between items which could cause the luggage to slide around. The heaviest objects should be positioned closer to the rear axle, while small items should be packed in boxes or other containers. In addition, heavy items should be packed lower down and lighter ones on top, secured with nets or tension belts. This keeps the vehicle's centre of gravity low and prevents light objects from flying through the car interior – a vital safety aspect for the journey! Another thing to watch when loading up the car is to ensure the driver has adequate visibility. If visibility through the rear window is completely blocked, make sure the wing mirrors are correctly adjusted.
Making the most of an estate car: Often disparaged as “dog nets”, mesh guards and barriers are essential accessories for anyone intending to make the most of the space in an estate car, say TÜV SÜD’s experts. However, ensure they are firmly attached. Extender guards which are designed to be simply braced between the floor and roof may keep a dog in its place, but will not restrain heavy luggage in an emergency. The best type of barriers are supplied ready-installed with the car or are the car manufacturer's own brand. Drivers travelling without guards or nets should never stack luggage higher than the top edge of the back seat - especially if children are travelling in the back.
Safe steering: When the car is heavily loaded, braking and accelerating are affected. Remember when loading up the car that braking and overtaking distances will be significantly longer. Lang recommends, “Drive around the block a few times in familiar territory before starting off on a long trip with a fully laden car. A little practice can give confidence and increase safety.” If the roof is also loaded, particular care is needed because the car's centre of gravity is higher, making the vehicle as a whole more unstable. Adjust your driving style appropriately.