Going for a road trip? Things to keep in mind

Preparation is the key to a safe holiday drive!

Road trips can be memorable – but you want to remember them because they were absolutely awesome and not because the car broke down or you forgot to pack something important. Whether you’re camping over Easter, enjoying a Christmas excursion or doing some long-weekend exploring, the right preparation will ensure you get where you’re going (and back) with a smile on your face.

With so much to see and do around Australia, the last thing you want is to miss out because your car has broken down. And that’s why you should have Budget Direct Roadside Assistance.

Is your car road-trip-ready?

 

Cars need care and attention to perform at their best. Have your local mechanic give your vehicle a complete check at least three weeks before departure so there’s time to fix any problems that show up. Checks should include things like:

  • Condition/age of oil filter and air filter
  • Level of wear on the brake pads
  • State of springs, struts and shock absorbers
  • Vehicle’s spark plugs, hose connections and timing belt
  • All lights working properly
  • Battery check for charge, fluid top-up, connections and any corrosion
  • Tyre check for wear, inflation and alignment
  • Replace windscreen wiper blades if needed
  • Check fluid levels and top up (engine oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, radiator coolant and windscreen washer fluid
  • Check that the spare tyre is in good shape and the tyre iron and jack are stored appropriately

It doesn’t hurt to give your car a good clean (internal and external) before you start packing it up for your trip as well.

Some items for your ‘do not forget’ list:

Don’t you hate it when you arrive at your destination and discover you’re missing something important? It could be your phone charger, your child’s favourite pillow, your comfy beach chair, vital medication or the contact details for your rental accommodation. Whatever it is, these lapses can sour a great trip.

The only way to make sure important stuff doesn’t get left behind is to make a list and check it off as you pack. Have just one person pack the car. This is usually much more efficient than having two or more people do it (plus you know exactly who to blame if something doesn’t make it in!).

Here are some extremely useful things to NOT forget:

  • A good torch with extra batteries
  • Your mobile phone and charger
  • The car manual
  • A basic first aid kit
  • Drinking water
  • A windscreen shade
  • A basic tool kit for minor repairs
  • A container specifically designed for storing petrol in case you run out
  • Work gloves for handling dirty jobs and car batteries
  • A tyre inflation gauge
  • A GPS, mobile mapping app and/or paper maps to help you navigate to your destination
  • Any medications you shouldn’t leave behind
  • A blanket you don’t mind getting dirty and a couple of spare rags or microfiber towels
  • A few small snacks (the kind that don’t melt or deteriorate too much in the heat): energy bars, nuts and dried fruit are durable choices
  • Pencil and paper, so you can exchange details with other drivers if you’re in an accident
  • Seat belt cutter and window breaker (store in your glove box, not the boot).

What about Roadside Assistance?

Roadside Assistance can be a big relief if you ever have a mechanical breakdown, need help changing a tyre, find yourself with a dead car battery or desperately need a tow. Roadside Assistance is well worth the money – it can save you a ton of time and reduce the hassle if you have a problem out on the road. Your car insurer or state auto association can provide more information about the kinds of Roadside Assistance packages available. It’s probably a lot cheaper than you think.

Some final tips

Don’t over-pack or let any items obstruct the back window or block a good view of your blind spots. If feasible, bring a spare set of car keys along for the trip – just in case. Always lock your car if you leave it – even just for a few seconds. That’s all the time a thief needs.

Obviously, you’ll want to fill up before you leave, as running out of fuel isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

It’s wise to re-fuel when you get the chance — even if you think you have enough fuel for the next phase of your journey. Even better, eliminate the guesswork by finding out in advance where the petrol stations are located on your route.

If you’re planning to drive vast distances and in remote areas, carrying spare fuel is often necessary. What’s more, headwinds, terrain and fuel quality can increase fuel consumption.

A common practice — endorsed by Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council — is the use of colour-coded metal or plastic containers for carrying extra fuel: red (unleaded fuel); yellow or black (diesel); blue (water — food-grade plastic if it’s for consumption); orange (ethanol). For added assurance, it’s recommended you label each container.

Sometimes the excitement of wanting to get somewhere can cause us to push too hard. Make sure you plan for plenty of rest stops. It’s a road trip, so give yourself permission to relax!

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