When you’re better prepared, you can enjoy your time on the road with fewer worries
It’s that time of year again when most people have holidays on their minds. Road trips appeal not only to car enthusiasts, but also to those who want to make the most of a few days away from work. As you make all the necessary plans and reservations for your next summer road trip, here are the top 10 tips to make sure your car and yourself are ready for the job:
Check the air conditioning
If your car has recently been serviced and received a clean bill of health, this shouldn’t be a concern. If not, your best bet is to make sure your air conditioning system is working properly and cooling the cabin adequately. The summer heat would make life difficult for all occupants if there were unattended problems with the air conditioning, especially when traveling with children and/or pets.
Take care of the lights
Make sure all lights are working as they should. The headlamps, all direction indicators, fog lamps, brake lamps and the reversing lamps must be functional. Also remember to check that the various settings of your headlights, such as high beam, flicker and leveling, are working properly.
If you have free time, make sure to wash and polish your headlights. Older lamps often have cloudy lenses and therefore do not provide the desired light intensity.
Note: – Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the vehicle, otherwise you could end up with a dead battery.
Oils and Lubricants
Good car care means regular maintenance and refilling with all necessary oils and fluids. This would not be a problem for a recently serviced car. In other circumstances, check all gauges and tell-tales in the instrument panel for hints. If you hear any unusual noises while operating your vehicle, it is best to have it checked by a qualified technician before you travel.
There are liquids that you can check and top up yourself. The coolant tank is easy to check by lifting the hood and looking for the colorful fluid. Another common fluid that needs to be topped up regularly is the wiper fluid for your windshield wiper system.
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A quick check below
Once you’ve checked that the car has been topped up with relevant fluids, it’s good to go downstairs and check for any fluids that could be leaking from the vehicle. It also helps to check the underbody of your car for signs of wear or damage that could become a critical problem and to have it repaired to avoid getting stuck on your road trip.
Tire profile and tire pressure (even the reserve)
Just because your tire isn’t flat doesn’t mean it’s ready for a road trip. Be sure to check the tread levels of each of your tires to make sure they are not worn out. If one of your tires has a serious lack of tread depth, you should have it replaced as grip level is critical to your safety when turning and braking.
Second check up for the tires is the pressure. Ideally, have these checked and topped up at the nearest fuel pump that has a tire pressure service. You can check the ideal pressure for your particular car’s tires online to make sure what the target psi should be. Also remember to perform a tire pressure check for the spare wheel. It makes no sense to have a spare if it is in the same condition as the leaking one.
If your windshield wipers make weird noises when they’re in use, or they just don’t work properly when removing water, you’ll need to get new wiper blades. In the event that you encounter rain, or simply use the washer fluid to clean up dirt, having effective (and quiet) wipers is a huge relief. If there are any problems with your windshield wipers, it is mandatory to have the problem fixed before you travel.
Those were the tips to mechanically prepare your car for a summer road trip. The following are helpful tips on things to have IN your car:
first aid kit
All modern cars come with a basic first aid kit from the dealer. Make sure the items in the kit are usable when needed. It also helps to prepare your own first aid kit with items such as antiseptic ointments, bandages, some form of disinfectant, medical tape, cotton and small scissors.
While it would be ideal if you don’t need these items, it helps to have them in your car when you leave your familiar area for a long drive. Some basic tools to pack in your car, perhaps in the glove compartment, are a small but powerful flashlight (insert or charge new batteries), masking tape, and some sort of multi-purpose knife that houses tools such as a screwdriver and a short blade.
In-car entertainment (cables, download music/create playlist, something for kids)
To avoid a last minute purchase, it is best to prepare the in-car entertainment items before you travel. This includes stocking USB cables for different types of devices in your group of travelers, preparing a playlist of songs for the ride so there are fewer distractions (download them to your phone if possible in case you lose the network), and any adapters you may need. If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to pack some compact entertainment, such as card games or trivia games, so they stay engaged and don’t kick the driver’s back seat. Or just pack a tablet with a bunch of videos downloaded on it.
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Chances are you use some application on your smartphone to guide you through your road trip. While that’s well and good, there are chances that you may be out of network range and unable to access the GPS route you were following. To avoid such a scenario, go over your planned route in detail in advance and make physical notes of the major highways you’ll be taking and any prominent cities you might pass. These notes will make it easier for you to get help from locals to ask for directions, or reassure you that you’re on the right track when crossing road signs informing you of the next town or the name of the highway you’ again.
Here are our top tips to help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable summer road trip. Let us know in the comments if there are any other helpful tips and tricks you use while preparing for a long drive.