Road trips are the best holidays ever… unless you break down! When preparing for your road trip sometimes it’s easy to forget the most important thing, ensuring you actually get there.
The below checklist is graded on a scale from beginner to advanced. All are designed for the non-mechanic but “beginner” is easy, quick and means no lifting of the bonnet. “Intermediate” you’ll have to lift the bonnet, but it’s still easy for a non-car person to do. “Advanced” you’ll need some car knowledge or at least be willing to learn.
- DO YOU NEED A SERVICE?
If you’re due for a service or you’ll rack up the kilometers to be due for a service while you’re away, then make sure you get it done before you leave. Let your mechanic know that you’re off on a road trip as a good mechanic will complete all the checks I’ve listed below as part of your service anyway, meaning you won’t have to do them yourself. If you’re not due for a service, let the checklist begin…
- TYRES (Beginner)
The most overlooked part of the car, tyres are the key to smooth handling, road safety and fuel efficiency.
a. Check tyre pressures
Tyres should be inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations, although I recommend over-inflating them by 10psi each, as this will improve your car’s handling and fuel consumption.
b. Check tyre tread and wear
Make sure your tyres have plenty of tread and that they’re not showing any unusual wear patterns, which could indicate an alignment problem.
c. Check spare tyre (pressure/tread/wear)
And remember to check all the same things on your spare. If you don’t have a spare, get one!
- CHECK/ TOP UP OIL & WATER (Advanced)
If your car’s more than five years old and you haven’t had it serviced recently, then check your water and engine oil. Running low on either of these crucial fluids is bad news. Your owner’s manual will describe where to check the level of both your water and engine oil. Make sure your engine should be cool when checking and topping up fluids.
- LIGHTS (Beginner)
Check all your lights – front, rear, licence plate bulb, blinkers and brake lights.
- BATTERY (Beginner to intermediate)
Unless you’ve recently replaced your car’s battery, there are a few simple checks you can do to reduce your risk of it dying on you mid trip..
a. Age (Beginner)
If your battery is more than three years old you need to replace it.
b. Connections (Intermediate)
If your battery isn’t inside a sealed unit, simply check the terminal connections to ensure they’re tight and if they aren’t, tighten with a spanner.
c. Rust/corrosion (Intermediate)
Battery connections should not be showing any signs of rust or white corrosion marks. If they are, fix this with a simple clean using bi-carb soda, hot water and a wire brush.
d. Bad wiring (Intermediate)
Visually check any wires leading to your battery, if any spots on the covering have rubbed through or if there is any wear and tear on the wires, ask your mechanic to replace them.
- AIR-CONDITIONING (Beginner)
Did you know that after periods of no use (like during winter) bacteria and dust can build up in your car air-conditioner? Luckily clearing it is simple, just turn on your car and run the air con for a few minutes each day for three days before your trip.
- RUBBER STUFF: BELTS/HOSES/WIPERS (Beginner to advanced)
Even in new and well-maintained cars a blown hose or broken belt is one of the most common causes of a sudden breakdown. If you’re not confident about checking these, ask someone who is, or your mechanic.
a. Belts & Hoses (Advanced)
There are loads of rubber hoses and belts under your bonnet. You won’t necessarily know what or where they are, however you should be able to look under the bonnet and do a visual inspection of anything that looks like a rubber hose or rubber belt. If any appear old, worn or cracked, they need the attention of your mechanic.
b. Wipers (Beginner)
Visually check both the front and rear wipers, make sure they are not worn or cracked and that they are making proper contact with the windshield. You should also give them a quick clean.
- CLEAN YOUR CAR OUT (Beginner)
The more you haul, the more money you’re wasting. Excess stuff will weigh your car down, which decreases fuel efficiency, adds drag to your car and causes excess wear on your tyres and engine.
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