Preparing Your Car for a Long Journey: 5 Essential Things to Check Before Driving

16 October 2020
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  • Aside from the obvious things like filling up the gas tank and checking the air in the tyres, there are some routine things that should be done before any long trip.
  • Remember to check your oil and antifreeze levels and ensure other fluids such as brake and transmission fluids are filled to the appropriate level. Check your battery to make sure it's not running low.
  • Check if roadside assistance or towing plan is built into your auto insurance policy and always bring an emergency kit in case anything goes wrong.
  Road trips can be a lot of fun, but if your car isn’t ready, they can quickly become a nightmare. Make sure that you don’t find yourself stranded on the side of the road by giving your car a good pre-trip treatment to make sure it can handle whatever the open road throws its way. Aside from the obvious things like filling up the gas tank and checking the air in the tyres, there are some routine things that should be done before any long trip. Some of them you may have heard of, while others might not have crossed your mind. Regardless, before you hit the motorway, you have to cover all the bases. Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know.  Check the Oil You should wait until the engine is cool and check the oil. Of course, you’re not just looking at the fill level. In addition to making sure you don’t need to add oil, you’ll want to check the colour and consistency. If it’s dark or almost black, you should get an oil change before your trip. If the oil looks milky or has a different consistency, there might be another issue that needs to be checked out. Call a mechanic if anything seems out of the ordinary. An inspection isn’t that expensive, and it’s worth every penny for the peace of mind.  Antifreeze Your car needs a cool engine to be able to operate efficiently. If your antifreeze levels are low, there may not be enough to circulate through the entire system. Even further, it could point to a small leak or other issues with your coolant or HVAC system that needs to be addressed before you take off on a lengthy trip. At the very least, low antifreeze could cause your engine to overheat. At the worst, you could damage the entire engine beyond repair by driving with low or no antifreeze in the car.  Other Fluids You should also check to ensure that your transmission fluid is filled to the appropriate level, as well as your brake fluid. Replace any missing fluid and make sure that the loss isn’t the result of some kind of leak or malfunction. While you’re at it, check your windshield washer fluid levels. While this isn’t a critical safety element, it’s helpful to be able to see the road and can make it easier to deal with various weather elements in your travels.  Emergency Kit Check the emergency kit in your vehicle to ensure that nothing is missing. If you don’t yet have one, get one. This kit should include first aid items, along with the tools you may need like a flashlight, extra fuses, screwdrivers, fix-a-flat or a tyre plug kit, and other items that could help in an emergency situation. Jumper cables and/or a portable charging kit should also be included, along with blankets and road flares.  Battery Check Almost every auto parts store has a battery tester that will allow you to check the level of your car’s battery. You can also have your battery tested by a local mechanic or purchase a testing kit of your own if you’re mechanically inclined. You should check to make sure that the battery isn’t running low on life because the one time it will fail is when you take it on a long trip. If your battery checks out fine, you’ll be good to go. If it tests low and it is more than a few years old, it might be worth replacing.  Roadside Assistance and Other Considerations Many drivers have roadside assistance or towing plan built into their auto insurance policy. If you don’t, it should be on your to-do list before you travel. You can compare the services offered by your insurer to private plans that are available for purchase but make sure that you at least choose a basic assistance package. The nominal fee will be worth the investment, even if you only use the service once in the entire time that you have it. The last thing you want is to be stranded in a strange place and spend your entire vacation budget on towing and repairs.  For a little extra peace of mind, you can also check things like:
  • Lights, turn signals, wipers, horn, and other electrical elements
  • Your spare tyre and jack, to ensure they are present and in working order
  • A/C or heating system check, depending on the season 
  • Brakes, including their state of wear and whether there may be additional brake issues
Routine Maintenance Goes a Long Way When it comes to car ownership, routine maintenance is part of the job. If you take care of routine maintenance tasks like oil changes, transmission and radiator flushes, and other milestone-related and regular maintenance, you will have less work to do when preparing for a road trip. You’ll also have more peace of mind that your car is always in the best shape possible.  Whenever you are performing maintenance or replacing parts, you should make sure that you use all manufacturer-recommended fluids and genuine OEM parts. Generic and aftermarket brands might be cheaper, but they aren’t designed to offer your car the best operation and they may fail sooner or result in decreased performance over time. If you aren’t sure what your car needs, check the owner’s manual or contact a qualified mechanic.  Ready to Roll If you’ve taken the time to give your car a good once-over and covered all the items discussed here, it’s probably safe to hit the road. Just remember to secure your luggage properly and drive safely. If you’re travelling to another region or country where traffic laws may be different, keep that in mind, as well. A road trip can be a great way to see the country, but it will be best enjoyed when you are prepared. Skip the stress and enjoy every getaway by keeping these tips in mind when planning your next long journey.  To learn more about car care and find the best OEM parts and accessories, visit Autofixa. We are a trusted source for all of your car part needs and can help you make sure your car is road-trip ready with ease. 

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