Are you planning a road trip this summer? Will you be taking your own car? If your car is used mostly for short trips, you need to pay extra attention to a few certain things. Before you hit the road, read the following tips on how to prepare your car for a long journey. It covers some of the basics you can check yourself. For more major items such as the brakes and suspension, you’ll need to have them inspected by a trustworthy mechanic in a garage. Give yourself plenty of time for all the checks, because you may need to have some things done. Ask in your local garage whether they offer a maintenance package that includes oil change, tire rotation, and mechanical inspection. That way you’ve got everything covered. Long journeys in the car can be very tedious, especially if you’re traveling with young children. However, breaking down or having problems with your car will make the journey even more tiresome. Make sure you do your pre-flight checks, and you’ll be able to drive away feeling secure in the knowledge that your vehicle is safe.
Make Sure You’ve Got the Car Owner’s Manual
Do you carry your car owner’s manual with you wherever you go, or is it something you keep filed safely at home? It’s a good idea to keep it in the glove box, in case you need to refer to it on your journey. In it will be useful information such as how to change a flat tire, where the jack is, how to top up the engine oil and any other fluids. There will also be specifications that may come in handy should you break down. If you haven’t got one, it’s easy to download one online.
Checks to Make Under the Hood
There are a number of different checks you can make at home, without having to pay at the garage. The first thing to do is check the engine oil. This should be something you check on a regular basis anyway. However, there’s nothing wrong with double checking before you make a long journey. Park your car where it is level and allow the engine to warm up a little. Stop the engine and then wait a few minutes for the oil to drain. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean before inserting it fully and then pulling it out again. The ideal level will be close to the full mark on the dipstick. While you’re checking the level, you can also look at the color of the oil. If it’s looking rather black, you need to consider changing it.
Your transmission fluid can also be checked in the same way. If the color of the fluid is rather dark, rather than the red or pinkish color, it is when it’s fresh, you should change it.
Check the car’s battery for any leaks, cracks or damage. If you see any, it should be replaced. The terminals should be clean and not corroded. They should also be done up tight.
The air filter in your car is something that gets replaced regularly, but it’s a good idea to check it before a road trip. If your air filter is dirty, it will result in a lack of power. There will be instructions in your owner’s manual on how to change it, or you can take it to a garage.
Other items to check under the hood include:
- Brake fluid levels
- Power steering fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
- Loose clamps
- Kinked hoses
Check the Lights and Other Electrical Equipment
You might not be planning to drive at night, but you do need to make sure all the drive lights are working, as well as the stop and turn lights. Check the horn, wipers, heater and air conditioner.
There are other checks to make, too. Got squeaky brakes? Maybe it’s time to have your brake pads replaced, or even the discs. This is something you need to look into before you go.
If you haven’t had your air conditioning cleaned for a while, you might need to change the cabin air filter. These can get clogged over time and will restrict the air flow to the cabin of the car.
If your windshield wipers aren’t cleaning the windshield properly, replace the rubbers. They don’t cost very much and can be found at any local parts department.
In your owner’s manual will be the recommended tire pressures for your car. Make sure yours are correct because driving on underinflated tires will affect the fuel consumption of your car.
Checks to Make on the Morning of Your Road Trip
One important thing to do before you set off on the highway is to clean your windscreen. You do it like this. You may have already checked things such as the lights, fluid levels, tires, and wipers, but spending just a few minutes before you hit the road will be worth it. It’s important your stop lights, and drive lights are working, and your windshield wipers are in working order. You never know when you’ll need them. Walk around the outside of your car and check the tires, including the tread. Look for bald spots and whether any canvas has worn through.
Don’t Forget About Insurance Cover
This may seem like a silly thing to check, but are you certain you’re covered for a long road trip? Is there still enough time left on the cover for your return trip? Driving on the highway without the correct level of cover is not the most sensible thing to do. What if you have an accident? What if you’re pulled over by a law officer? If you’re going to be driving for days on end, you might want to think about travel insurance to cover any valuable possessions you’re taking with you. Good travel insurance cover will also include trip cancellation, interruption, travel delays and travel accident. Returning your vehicle to your home if you’re hospitalized or injured can also be included.
Taking the above precautions will reduce the chance of something going wrong and ruining your journey. There’s no way you can be 100% certain nothing will happen. However, taking a few simple steps and making sure your car is in good working order will mean your road trip will be one that creates good memories rather than bad.