Whether you’re driving the length of Route 66 or from Brighton to Edinburgh your car needs to be prepared.Here’s some pre-road trip advice to make sure you can enjoy every mile by getting your car ready before you leave.
Whether your car is due for a check-up or not, you need to make sure the fluid levels are right before you set off.
Car fluids that need checking before a road trip or long journey include:
- Engine oil - Check min/max level with dipstick
- Transmission fluid - Use dipstick to check fluid level is up to full line
- Antifreeze – Open up the cap on the radiator to check to see whether liquid reaches the ‘full’ line, top up if not.
- Brake fluid – Check fluid level lies within half an inch or so of the cap.
- Windscreen washer – If you can’t see water/fluid near the top of the bottle, it’s best to top it up to be safe.
It’s also important to make sure your fuel tank is filled up to save you having to stop too often on your journey.
You never know what might happen on a road trip, which is half the fun of it. But make sure a flat tyre or a worn tread isn’t something you need to deal with.
- Check tyre pressure with a gauge and make sure it matches the level, recommended in your car’s manufacturer handbook.
- Check the tread of your tyre in a minimum of 1.6mm. If you don’t have a gauge you could try the 20p test. Put a 20p coin into the tread depth of your tyres. If you can’t see the outer rim around the edge of the coin, then your tyre has a minimum of 3mm tread depth and is safe.
- Take a careful look to see if there’s any existing damage to your type such as scratches, cracks or tears as these could lead to a puncture.
- Make sure you have a spare tyre and that it’s in good condition. Or a tyre repair kit if your car doesn’t carry a spare.
You need your braking system to be in perfect working order – here are a few things to look out for before you set off:
- If brakes feel soft when you use them, your brakes pads may be too thin and need to be changed
- A harsh grinding sounds indicates your brake pads are worn out and need changing before the car is driven. Go to your local Halfords, Kwik Fit or mechanics for professional brake testing
Check that all your lights are working properly, especially as it’s likely you’ll be driving in range of different visibilities and times of day.
- Headlights are a priority but also take a look at interior lights.
- Check your brake lights and tail lights.
- If you’re driving on the other side of the road in a foreign country then you might need headlight converters.
- In some countries it’s the law that you need to have your headlights on at all times night and day –check the local laws and suggest carry spare bulbs just in case.
Having an emergency kit in your car might help you out of a tight spot. It’s a good idea to keep one fully stocked in your car, just in case.
This should include:
- Bottles of water
- Dry food such as cereal bars
- Jump leads
- Pen Knife
- Duct tape
- Mobile phone charger
- Extra fuses and headlight bulbs
- Additional engine oil
Insurance and breakdown cover
You may have done everything to prepare your car for a long journey but accidents and breakdowns can still happen. You don’t want to be wasting precious travel time by the side of the road, so make sure you have breakdown cover. If you’re driving abroad, make sure your insurance extends to all the countries you’re driving through.
Last minute checks
When you’ve ticked all the practical things off your list its time to set off. Take a minute to have a quick run through these last minute checks and you’re good to go.
- Check you haven’t overloaded your car - this will make it less fuel efficient and more susceptible to tyre puncture. Check your manual for information on increasing tyre pressure when the car is fully loaded.
- Programme your Sat Nav, and have a map as a backup
- Plan your stops - it’s important to take regular stops if you’re travelling a long way
- Make sure all your paperwork is accessible including: your license, insurance documents and, if you’re going abroad, any tickets, travel documents and passports
- Make sure you know the rules for driving if you are in a foreign country
Unforeseen situations can arise. But if you’ve checked everything off this list you’ll avoid a lot of potential problems. All you need to do now is load up on snacks and good music and enjoy your trip!