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Whether you’re off on a last-minute staycation, visiting family or travelling for a business meeting if you’re about to head out on a long journey then you’ll want to take a look at our 10 essential travel checks below.
We know that checking your vehicle isn’t always top of the list when you’re planning a trip but there are a few things that you definitely want to check to avoid problems further down the line.
10 Pre-Travel Checks
1. Do a Walk Around
The first thing you want to do is walk around the exterior of the vehicle and make sure there is no visible damage and it all looks in good condition.
The main points to check are:
- All windows but especially the front and rear windscreens – look for any cracks or chips that could become larger if not fixed promptly
- Side mirrors – make sure they are both clean and damage free, if they automatically open then you’ll
- The fuel cap – make sure it is fully closed
- Tyres – there are no visible cracks or bulges and the tread meets the 1.6mm minimum
You’ll also want to look for any existing scratches or marks to the paintwork so that you’re aware if you pick up any additional damage while travelling.
2. Check Your Tyres
We’ve already mentioned doing a visual check of the condition of the tyres, which includes the tyre tread. The tread should be 1.6 mm around the central three-quarters of the wheel the entire way around.
You should also be checking the tyre pressure and you will want to do this when you’ve not travelled very far (so at your local garage) so the tyres are not too hot as this will skew the reading. Some cars have different pressure for front and rear tyres so we advise checking the manufacturer’s website or the vehicle manual to get the correct pressure for all tyres including the one on the spare wheel if you have one.
3. Top Up Your Fluids
Under the hood there are three main fluids you want to check – oil, engine coolant and screen wash. Before you travel you’ll want to make sure that these are all within the recommended levels to avoid running out while on the move.
The coolant and screen wash will usually be stored in transparent containers and so you’ll be able to quickly check that these are within the recommended range and top up if needed. It’s important to be aware that different models will need different coolant and so you’ll want to make sure you use the correct one for your model.
To check the oil you need to remove the dipstick, clean it and then reinsert it to get an accurate reading of the current oil level. Just like the coolant different engines need different oils so if you do need to top up then check it’s the right kind for your car before you do.
4. Check All Your Lights
You might choose to do this as part of your visual inspection if you are able to have another in the car activating the different lights, or you can do it once in the vehicle yourself using a reflective surface such as a large window or garage door.
You should check your headlights, full beams, fog lights, reversing light, brake lights and indicators are all working correctly. If you’re travelling abroad you should also check to see if you need to carry spares as in France you’re legally required to have a spare bulb kit.
5. Test Your Brakes
You should test your brakes to make sure they are working correctly regularly but if you’re planning on driving a long distance then you also want to check these before you set off.
There are two checks to do. The first is pressing down on the brake pedal before you set off to see how it feels, it should be spongy and not feel slack. The second check you’ll need to be driving the vehicle in a safe location and do an emergency stop to check the car stops promptly and does not pull to one side.
If you’re at all concerned about your brakes then you should have your vehicle looked at by a professional.
6. Check Your Electronics
Before setting off you’ll also want to make sure the electronics are functioning properly. There are three main systems to check:
- The electronic windows
- The air conditioning / heating
- The power steering
To check the windows, you simply want to test they all open and close properly. If you have younger children or pets that will be travelling in the rear and your car has the option you may want to use a child lock to prevent them from opening and closing the window themselves.
The air conditioning system will also be easy to check as you can simply turn the engine on and check with your hand that all the vents are working and then turn the temperature dial to check the range.
For the power steering, you will need to start with the engine switched off and then apply gentle pressure to the wheel and turn on the engine. You should feel a slight but noticeable movement when you do so.
7. Fill / Charge Up
Before you set off on your journey you will need to check your fuel level, or if you’re in an electric vehicle (EV) your charge level.
We always recommend that when going on a long trip you make sure you have a full tank / battery so that you don’t find yourself caught short in an inconvenient location. If your trip is longer than your range then you’ll also want to plan a refuelling stop at a convenient location.
8. Make Sure You’ve Got an Emergency Kit
There are a few essentials that we advise you always keep in the car but if you don’t have the space for them to be there all the time then you should make sure they are in the vehicle for any long trips.
- A basic first aid kit
- A warning triangle
- A high-vis jacket
- Jumper cables
Depending on the time of year and your individual needs there may be additional products needed such as sunglasses in summer a de-icer in the winter or snacks if you need to eat regularly.
9. Clean It Out
Before you set out on a long trip, we recommend giving your car a quick clean to clear out the rubbish and forgotten items in the vehicle that don’t need to be there. This isn’t essential but will make it a little nicer for you and reduce the potential distraction of loose items moving around the vehicle.
10. Make Sure All Seatbelts are On
This check is a little later than the others but before you depart you should make sure that all of your passengers have their seatbelts on and are wearing them correctly. For passengers under 14 years old as the driver it is your legal responsibility to ensure they are all appropriately secured but if you’re checking them then we advise giving the rest of your passengers a quick look as well.
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