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How to prepare your car for a road trip

Updated on: 15 June 2021

the open road

Cat sitter arranged, plugs turned off, swimming trunks packed and passengers loaded. Now all you have to do is set off on your road trip, right?

Well not quite. If you don’t check your car before you leave, you might not make it to your destination.

We frequently only use our cars for short journeys around town or low-speed commutes. Long trips cruising at motorway speeds can prompt problems if you’ve been neglectful of basic maintenance.

Here are five tips to help make sure you arrive at your destination stress and trouble-free…

1. Consider breakdown cover

Breaking down, whether in the UK or abroad, can be a major hassle. So wherever you’re going on holiday, it’s worthwhile having a think about breakdown cover before setting off.

If you do have cover, then make sure you have easy access to your policy and contact numbers. Some breakdown covers also have apps, which you can download and activate prior to your trip.

2. Inspect your car’s tyres before a road trip

Filling up car tyres

As your only contact with the road, it’s important that your tyres are in tip-top shape.

First, make sure they’re at the right pressure. Tyres without the right amount of air in them will at best cause your car to drink more fuel, at worst overheat and explode at speed.

Check the depth of the tread, too. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but you may want to change them before this for improved road performance.

Finally, inspect each tyre for lumps and cuts. Either can be a weakness and may cause an unexpected blow out.

3. Check under the bonnet

Like people, cars need to stay topped up with fluids.

Consult your car’s handbook to find out where the oil dipstick is (some vehicles have electronic oil measurement systems) and the location of the brake and coolant reservoirs. Oil is the engine’s lifeblood. So pull the dipstick out, wipe it, and put it back in… when you pull it out again, the oil should be between the minimum and maximum lines.

Both the brakes and coolant levels should also be between the minimum and maximum markers. If they’re not, top them up yourself or get them topped up at a garage.

Checking the engine oil level

4. Fill the washer bottle

The more miles you do, the dirtier your windscreen will get. And that’s where your windscreen washers come in.

While you’re under the bonnet checking the oil, fill the windscreen washer bottle using a dedicated mixing fluid. If you’re going somewhere cold, make sure you increase the proportion of screen wash to water to prevent it from freezing.

5. Look up the local laws when driving abroad

If you’re driving abroad, it’s worth reading up on the laws you’re required to comply with. Legislation changes depending on the country you’re in, so read up on the rules for driving in different countries.

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