What to Check Before a Long Car Trip
Are you planning a long car trip soon? The holiday season is upon us, you might be planning to drive the car up to the Highlands, or down to Devon or Cornwall. Who knows, you might be going over to France and down to the Alps. For most people, these journeys have one thing in common which is that they are all long drives on which the car can suffer if not in optimal condition.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at key things to check on before you take any long car trip. Do these checks and you can drive with a much greater sense of security and safety.
Essential Checks to Make Before a Long Car Trip
1. Tyre Pressure
Proper tyre pressure is essential for getting the right traction on the roads. Tyres that are either underinflated or overinflated can present serious problems to drivers and their passengers; serious safety concerns. Both can risk premature damage, blowouts, and a general loss of steering control and traction on the road’s surface. Ensure that your tyres are inflated to the OEM-recommended level for the outside temperature, and monitor the pressure using a pressure gauge. It’s a great idea to start keeping such a gauge in your car in future.
2. Oil Condition
When was the last time you checked your oil? Older cars need oil changing every 3,000-5,000 miles. Newer cars last longer, but if you’re planning on a long trip, then you could be adding from 500 to 1000 miles to your car during the entire round trip. Will your scheduled oil change fall within that window? If you’re not sure, it’s best to check on the condition of the oil and have it at its best before you set off. Change the oil if necessary, if it’s not looking new or close to new, then it would be best to change it.
3. Coolant Levels
Anytime that your engine is cool, you could take a moment to pop the lid off the radiator and take a look at your current coolant levels. If they appear low, then take a moment to top up the coolant levels. If you don’t have coolant at home, then take a quick trip to the mechanic and ask them to do it. It will just take a few minutes and won’t cost much. You don’t want your engine overheating while you’re just halfway to your destination, do you?
4. Windscreen Wipers and Washer Fluid
This is one thing that people always seem to forget about. It’s critical that your windscreen wipers are in good condition and that you have sufficient washer fluid. If it has been over a year since you changed them, then change them right before your trip. If you’re not sure about their condition; that they seem alright but they might fail on you suddenly, keep a spare set in the boot so you can change them on the road if you need to. You don’t need a mechanic to swap over windscreen wipers. Be sure to keep an extra bottle of washer fluid in the boot, too.
5. Emergency Supplies in the Car
Always keep a good stock of supplies in the car in case things go wrong: first-aid kit, blankets, additional warm clothing in winter, a torch, a phone charger, bottled water, non-perishable food, a small shovel to dig out of snow if needed, and a tyre repair kit (your OEM might well have supplied you already with that last one).
Your lights would appreciate a good clean before your journey, and you should perhaps have a mechanic check their electrics, fuses and other components to make sure they are all working properly and have no signs of damage or disorder. Even just properly cleaning the light casings will help to improve visibility when driving, not to mention how well others can see you on the road. In the winter, this is especially important.
Failing brakes on a road trip of any length is a nightmare scenario. Regardless of the presence of any signs of brake trouble like squeaking/grinding, pulling to one side, or vibrations from the brake pedal, have your brakes checked, especially the pads and rotors. Knowing they’re in good health will help better ensure safety for all of you on the road. You should also clean off any brake dust that has accumulated around your wheels. A long trip will bring more dust, so clean off what’s there now.
8. Transmission Fluid
If your car has a transmission fluid dipstick, then you can take a look at the fluid and see its condition. When new, transmission fluid is a rich red colour, but it starts to turn grainy and orange when it wears out. If you have no way to check the fluid yourself, and you haven’t had your transmission serviced in some time, then a pre-journey service would be a good idea since the transmission — automatic or manual — is going to be working hard on your upcoming long journey.
9. Driving Mode
If you drive a newer car, it may well have various driving modes to choose from. We recommend that you check that it’s set to “Eco” or an equivalent setting before your journey commences. When you’re going the distance, Eco mode will help save on fuel and keep the car running at a nice optimal rate without causing any unnecessary wear and tear.
And, finally, do be sure to check you’ve filled up the tank before you go. You might have less than a quarter of a tank left and just think you’ll fill up somewhere on the way, but it’s always best to start your journey on a full tank. It’s better for the fuel system as it prevents the sediments and other contaminants that accumulate at the bottom of your fuel tank from getting into your fuel injectors.
Final Check: Service History
One last thing you should consider before your long journey is when your car was last serviced. If your annual service is set for not long after your trip, then bring it forward and have the car serviced before the strain of the longer trip. If it was very recently, then you’re good to go. You should never underestimate the impact that a long car journey can have on a vehicle.