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Tips to Get Your Car Ready For a Road Trip

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Before leaving for a lengthy road trip, do you check that you have all you need? Of course you will need snacks and bottled water— all your day-to-day provisions. You should check that your in-car first aid and emergency kit is in tact and present and accounted for. That’s for you.

But what about your car? Do you check your vehicle’s roadworthiness before you head out of town? Is the spare tyre and jack in the boot? Do you check the oil and other car fluids are at optimum or safe levels? What about the tyre tread and wheel alignment? If you don’t do those things then you probably don’t check the engine and other car vital signs.

Do you like to gamble and leave life to chance? If your answer is no, here are some easy items to consider before you venture out on your next car trip.

Trip Plan

It’s a smart idea to create a road trip checklist with all the norms, such as mobile and electronic chargers, flashlights, neck pillows, igloo cooler, emergency kit includes things like extra batteries, jumper leads, tire sealant, etc. You’ve already packed your snacks, water and first aid kit. Don’t forget your ID in your wallet, maps and GPS, and anything else you want/need.

The Car

MANUAL. Consulting the car’s manual will provide a lot of quick, specific answers about your car. Things like the right tyre pressure, air filter type, petrol grade, what that pretty-looking snowflake light actually means, etc. It is also a great place to find out about maintenance schedules, what to maintain, how to maintain them. It is your car’s bible.

If you can’t locate the manual (should be kept in the glove box), there is a little virtual place called Google that can help you with almost any question you might have (like that place where you found this article). If your car didn’t come with a manual you should be able to find it online.

AUTO MECHANIC. If you don’t have the time or the know-how to DYI, book your car in for a quick check before you pile your family into the station wagon for your summer holiday. It is ‘easy as pie’ to have a professional check the brakes, the fluids and fill anything that needs topped up. Anything that requires changing can be done straight away. A mechanic can also check electrics—lights and battery, etc., flush the radiator, and inspect all the internals for peace of mind.

If you want to do some things yourself too, that’s not a problem. Some of the easy stuff to check yourself:


The good thing is you can check all of the following on your way out of town. Clearly, fuel is key. So when you are sitting on the forecourt, pop the bonnet and check the brake, power steering, transmission and radiator fluids, oil, windshield fluid, coolant/antifreeze, etc.

Once you have filled the car’s internal needs, check your tyres next.


A tyre’s pressure and tread is all-too-important to road safety.

PRESSURE. Getting the right pressure for your car tyres is oh so important for car-handling predictability. Over-inflated tyre pressure affects your tyre’s traction. It will not be able to grip as effectively because there will be less tyre surface on the road. Stopping distances will be limited and that is a danger easily avoided.

Low pressure can cause erratic reactions which you do not want to be experiencing at high speeds or at any time. There will be too much tyre surface on the road and excess friction will cause your tyres to heat up and can cause a terrible accident. You don’t want hot wheels like that.

The good news is you can gauge the pressure when you fill up at the petrol station. Not only will you be more comfortable on your ride, your car will be safer and your wallet happier on the journey. Proper pressure will maximise fuel efficiency, just one economical factor. Also, it will help your tyre tread last longer.

TREAD. To explain how much tread a tyre needs sounds complicated when you throw around terms like entire outer circumference then throw in numbers like three quarters and 1.6 millimetres. Take the 20p test before you start the car. Take your coin and place it straight up into the main tread. The outer band of the coin should be obscured. You might only see the top half of the number 20 showing.

If the number is showing in full, then your tread is too worn and you will need to change your tyres before your car is roadworthy. If you are unsure, swing by your local garage for a quick check. The concern is not just how your vehicle will stop on a dry road. You have to think about the road’s conditions.

Weather Forecast

Take a minute to check the weather forecast for the day and over the whole trip. The whole time that you will be out on the roads you will want to be prepared.

In New Zealand, there is an annoying jingle about driving to the conditions and reducing your car’s speed accordingly. The bloody thing comes to mind like a music ear worm (when a song gets stuck in your brain and plays over and over again).

Or, it’s like a nightmare that makes you shiver at just how bad the jingle is. Truth be told, either way you look at it, that reverberating cacophony is effective, annoyingly so. A job well done for any jingle – their aim is rememberability.

The moral to this story is to check the weather forecast so that you are prepared to drive to the conditions you might face. Being prepared will allow you to plan for any extra time delay if, say, it is bucketing down rain along the way.

Bonus tip: if you bought your car on finance or leasing is worth checking with your car finance company if you can take the car abroad before leaving if you are planning to visit a different country.

The bottom line

It is best not to be cavalier or be a risk taker when it comes to your safety and that of other road-users. Instead, be the nerd with the well-thought-out road-trip checklist (your fellow trip-takers love your, really).

It is easy to check your car’s roadworthiness before embarking upon your next on-road adventure. Be the guy/gal who takes a few extra minutes at the filling station to check the oil, tyres, coolant and wiper fluid. Your trip will have better memories for it.

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