Before taking your car on a long journey, you should check that the vehicle is in good order and that there are no issues. You should also carry certain items to help make the journey safe. Here’s a rundown of your pre-flight checks.
• Vehicle fluid levels
Fuel, oil, coolant, brake fluid and screen wash levels should all be checked and topped up, if necessary, before you set off. If unsure of any of these, your owner’s manual shows you where all these reservoirs are located and how to inspect them. Alternatively, ask your local garage to perform these crucial checks for you.
Make sure that the tread depth on your tyres is within legal limits. If not, you need to replace them straight away. This is particularly important for a long journey where tyres wear down more quickly. You might also have your tyres balanced and get the alignment checked.
Check the air pressure of your tyres, and don’t forget to check the spare tyre too. If you have a puncture and your spare tyre is flat, you’re not doing yourself any favours.
• Lights and indicators
With the help of a friend or your partner, check that all the car lights are working – headlights, rear lights, fog lights, brake lights, reverse lights, indicator lights. Replace any fault bulbs where necessary or ask your local garage to do it for you.
This may also be a good time to check your headlights are aligned properly. Poor headlight alignment reduces visibility at night, especially on dark or unlit roads. You can adjust the alignment on the back wall of your garage, or outside by shining your lights up against a white garage door.
If you’re travelling to a left-hand drive country, you should adjust the beam of your headlights so that other road users are not dazzled.
Once the car itself has been given the all-clear, turn your attention to emergency equipment you should be carrying in the car, just in case anything should go wrong.
• A serviceable spare tyre (check your car – not all makes and models carry spares), a wheel spanner and jack
• A car fire extinguisher
• Emergency tools including a torch, pliers, screwdrivers, and an adjustable spanner
• A selection of spare bulbs – one for the headlights, one for each of the indicators, and one for the tail and reverse lights
• A mobile phone
• A hardcopy map as a back-up to your SatNav
• A First Aid kit
• If you’re travelling to an EU country, you must also carry a reflective warning triangle and a breathalyser kit.
Finally, good old common sense dictates that you should always prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, especially when you’re a long way from home. With that in mind, here’s a checklist to protect for all eventualities:
• Take your driving licence and car registration papers
• Have your vehicle’s manual in the glove compartment – you never know when you might need it
• Paper maps – just in case there’s no mobile phone signal, no GPS signal and no SatNav
• Always have some spare cash in your wallet – not everywhere takes cards
• Carry a notebook, pen, and pencil in the glove compartment
• Carry some essential tools, and a snow shovel if travelling to Europe in winter
• Pack some energy bars and water bottles just in case you get stranded in the middle of nowhere
• Don’t leave without blankets and extra warm clothing – temperatures in a car with a dead battery in mid-winter can drop fast and be deadly
• Tea bags, cups, milk, sugar and matches – see below!
• Gas bottle and ring – if you do break down in the middle of nowhere, at least you can make a hot cuppa while you wait for roadside recovery or the emergency services.