How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip
There’s usually a lot of excitement built up around an approaching road trip. Driving long distances typically means you will be visiting someplace exciting and new. Plus, many people love the feeling of open roads, open skies, kilometres of rubber and road. Sure, there may be an occasional gripe from a kid in the backseat, but for many travellers road trips offer the experience of breaking free from the monotony of everyday life.
As much as people may love road trips, this type of holiday can be disastrous if not prepared for adequately. Few road trips end well that are planned and prepared for the night before departure. Road trips should be contemplated and prepared for weeks in advance. The following is a checklist of items to remember when preparing your vehicle specifically, starting weeks before you hit the road.
- Major repairs: This may sound obvious, but major car repairs often take longer than expected. These may include any heavy damage to the body of the vehicle, or problems with the engine, transmission, etc. Fixing these far in advance will allow you to notice any problems that could arise due to the repair process.
- Tyres: Finding problems early will allow you plenty of time to fix the tyres or find the best deal on new ones. Specifically look for tears or bulges. The tyres should have a lot of tread, especially if you will be travelling long distances or in bad weather conditions. Finally, check the tyre pressure and make sure it is consistent with what your vehicle’s owner’s manual suggests. Low pressure causes extra heat, which can lead to a blowout.
- Spare tyre: When you are checking the tyres, don’t forget about the spare. Ensure that it is in good condition, and that all the tools necessary to change a tyre, including the jack and spanner, are accounted for. There is a chance you will have to use them.
- Paperwork: There’s more than mechanics involved in a safe road trip. You also need to make sure you have proper documentation. Take care of this sooner rather than later to avoid frustration. You may also need to have new documents mailed to you. These documents include your license, insurance information, vehicle registration, and emergency information. This last one is often overlooked, but may prove invaluable should unexpected problems arise.
- Basic maintenance: Have your mechanic do a basic checkup to make sure everything is in good working order. Ask him or her to pay attention to oil and other fluids, including windscreen wiper, brake, power steering, and transmission fluids. One of the most important fluids to check is the coolant. Apart from fluids, make sure to question your mechanic on the following items: brake pads, belts, spark plugs, and the battery. All of these perform necessary functions, and a problem with any one could leave you stranded on the side of the road.
- Air filter: While these are typically inexpensive and easy to change, they can make a significant difference in terms of fuel economy. A general rule to follow is to replace your filter no less than every 10,000 to 15,000 kilometres.
- Clean the inside: You will likely be so busy the night before that you won't have time to clean the car, so take care of that in advance. Cleaning the inside not only increases safety, but it leads to less stress and can even have an impact on how much you pay in petrol. After all, the more the car weighs, the faster it burns fuel. Additionally, if you are travelling with others, especially children, a clean car will maximise space and lead to better moods all around.
- Map or GPS: Long trips can put heavy strain on even the most prepared vehicle, so reducing travel distance is important. One of the best ways to do this is to know exactly where you are going. Study the map of where you will be travelling so as to avoid on-the-road, last-minute decisions.
- Emergency materials: It’s important to dedicate a small space in your car for materials you might need in an emergency. Your emergency kit should include a torch, extra batteries, a blanket, a first-aid kit, water, extra snacks, jumper cables, and even toilet paper.
- Roadside assistance service: If you are not already signed up with some sort of roadside assistance program, do so. Regardless of how prepared you are, accidents may still happen. It might require an initial expense, but you’ll want the peace of mind that comes with knowing someone will be there to help you out of a bad situation.
- Wash the car: A clean car greatly increases safety on the road. Smears or dirty spots on the windows or windshield especially can cause glares or otherwise make it difficult to see.
- Pack and load: Take time to look through your suitcases and consider what you really need. If you aren’t sure about something, it is usually best to leave it behind. If everyone in the car over-packs even a little bit, it can significantly decrease your fuel economy. Try to place the heavier objects near the front of the boot and distribute the rest of the weight evenly on the sides. Every vehicle has a load capacity; know what yours is and don't exceed it. If you are using a rooftop cargo box, fill it with light but bulky items. Heavy items on the top of the car can make the vehicle hard to handle.
- Fill the fuel tank: It always helps to take care of this beforehand so you can simply turn the key and get on your way when it’s time to leave. Not to mention, petrol is typically more expensive along the highway. It may also be smart to have a plan for where you will stop for petrol along the way, based on cost and location.
- Relax: Preparation can be stressful, but it’s time to relax and enjoy the experience. Stress can lead to frustration and dangerous driving. So, be content in the knowledge that you have done everything necessary to prepare for a fun and memorable trip.