Did someone say road trip? Things you should check before hitting the open road

words Al Woods

At some point in our lives, we all dream of taking a road trip to somewhere exotic or even just the other end of the country. The thought of travelling to far flung places to visit family, see the sights or simply go with the flow is a huge temptation for many, and can fill you with understandable excitement. However, if you want your trip to go without a hitch, then there are one or two things you should be checking before you go.

road trip checks

The most essential element of your road trip is, of course, your car. It will be your number one companion and you will need it to be in tip top condition before you set of on a long journey, whether it is on the M1 or Route 66. We have put together a list of things that you will need to look out for before you set off and whilst on the road, to make sure that the only thing you need to worry about is where to head off to next.

Check your Tyres

Your tyres need to be in good condition if they are going to keep you safe on the road. It is therefore important that you make sure that the tyre pressures are topped up to the recommended levels before you get going. You can usually find this information in the car manual or in the inside of your door. Remember to make extra allowances if you are going to have a car full of people or lots of heavy luggage.

You will also need to check your tyres for wear as this can affect how it handles and how it brakes. Your car tread should be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central three quarters to be legal, but if it is below 3mm you should consider changing the tyre before you start a long journey.

road trip checks

Top up your windscreen wipers

You probably don’t pay too much attention to your windscreen wipers until it rains, and by then it might be too late. You need to check your windscreen wipers for wear and replace them if necessary if they are going to be any use to you once the heavens open. You will also need to make sure that your screen wash is topped up correctly. As the salt, sand and debris from the road covers your screen, it can become difficult to see and you need to make sure that you have an adequate amount of water and solution in the screen wash reservoir to allow you to clean it and keep going safely.

Your windscreen will also need to be checked for cracks and chips. These might seem unimportant, but they can obscure your vision, and they risk becoming worse when you hit an unexpected bump in the road.

Check your Oil levels

If we use the word dipstick, please do not take offence. It is important to check your oil levels before a long journey and some cars still have dipsticks to help you do this. More modern models monitor this through the car’s computer, but it is always worth checking how much is in there before you get going to prevent any emergency trips to the garage halfway through your journey.

Got enough fuel?

It might seem obvious, but making sure you have enough diesel, petrol or battery for the journey is important. Running out can leave you desperately hunting for a filling station or stranded in a dangerous spot by the side of the road. Running out of fuel is not only and inconvenience, but it can also be extremely harmful to your engine, making it a very costly mistake to make.

See clearly on your journey

Checking your lights before you start is important both for yourself and other road users. You can check all of your headlights and get a friend to check that your brake and reversing lights are working properly too. Do not forget to check your fog lights during this as they can often be forgotten but can be extremely important. If any lights are not working, you should be able to change the bulbs yourself.

How’s the condition of your car interior?

There are lots of checks to do on the outside of your vehicle, but there are a few that need to be checked on the inside too. Checking your car mats for wear can be important as they will stop your shoes from catching on holes and lose bits of carpet when you move from one pedal to another. They should have a non-slip backing or fixings to hold them in place and may need replacing if you notice them starting to move about beneath your feet.

Your car mats can make your car look and feel a lot more comfortable and luxurious, but they should also make sure that your car is free of dirt, mould, and rot, so check for any signs of this and replace them if necessary.

Time for a service?

The best way to make sure your car is fit for the journey ahead, is to make sure that it has been serviced regularly. A trained mechanic will have made sure that many of the things we have talked about in this article are taken care of and will also be able to check other factors to make sure that your vehicle is both efficient and safe.

In case of emergency

Should something happen, you will need to make sure that you are ready for an emergency. That is why your boot should not just contain your suitcases, but also a first aid kit, blankets, a spade, water and snacks, and emergency triangle and anything that might help you with important repairs. If your car carries a spare tyre, check this, and make sure it is also in good condition.

With the right checks, your road trip can be safe and enjoyable one for everyone. So, take a little time to do the boring stuff and make sure that everything is right, and the only thing you will have to worry about is having fun.


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