The essential road trip checklist for 2020

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 consider Budget Direct Roadside Assistance.

Getting 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:

Basic safety items

Seatbelts – check tension and belt buckle operation
External Lights – replace bulbs if necessary
Handbrake – ensure that it can hold the vehicle on a slope
Windscreens & mirrors – check windscreens and mirrors for cracks
Windscreen wipers – check wear on wiper blades, replace if necessary
Horn – ensure this works
Fluids – check engine oil and engine coolant levels
Tyres – ensure tyres are at the correct pressures, check treadwear
Spare tyre & jack – ensure they are operational, check toolkit

Fluids checklist

Engine oil
Radiator coolant
Brake fluid
Power steering fluid
Windscreen washer fluid
Clutch fluid (manual cars)
Gearbox oil
Differential fluid

Lights checklist

Headlights
Indicators/hazard lights
Brake lights
Reverse lights
Park & Fog lights

Other general things to check:

Radiator hoses – check for leaks and cracking
Engine air filter – check that it is clean
Battery – look for corrosion around terminals
Fan belts – ensure none are loose or squeaking on start-up
Unusual engine noises – hard to start, ticking, hissing or clunking
Ensure that child seats are fitted correctly

Related: Car maintenance and servicing basics

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.

Items to pack into your emergency breakdown kit

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:

Car owners manual
Torch with spare batteries
Power bank / mobile phone charger
A first aid kit – St. Johns sell a personal motoring kit
Drinking water
Non-perishable snacks
Hi-vis safety vest
Warning/hazard triangle sign
A basic tool kit
Toilet paper
Work gloves – for dirty jobs
Jumper leads
Google Maps installed on your phone
A blanket and towels
Spare rags or microfiber towels
Notepad and pen
Money – just in case eftpos isn’t available
Fire extinguisher
Umbrella or raincoat

Related: 15 Things to put in a car emergency kit

Should you consider 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 with our pitstop planner.

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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