As the year-end approaches, which is usually the time for annual vacations and weddings, a lot of us plan to go for long trips during this time. A long drive trip, especially when it is planned with your family or friends, is something fascinating. Everybody looks forward to spending a good time, and a lot goes into the planning of such trips. Taking your car for such an outing is very convenient as you do not require any pre-booking. Would you want any last minute or midway disappointments caused by any kind of car breakdown? Obviously not! Just by ensuring and following some checks on your car before leaving, you can make your trip memorable, safe and stress-free.
Here are some of the essential checks you should do before heading for a long drive.
#1. Check the condition of the TyresTyres are to a car like legs are to a human body. Can you imagine walking or running smoothly without your legs in perfect condition? Similarly, you cannot even think of planning a long trip without having your car tyres in an appropriate state. In fact, tyres are those portion of your car that gets utilized and impacted the most during a long drive. Setting all the tyres (including the spare tyre) at the required pressure is just one task. Apart from this, you also need to monitor the tyre treads. It is highly unsafe to drive a car whose tyres have been run beyond their limit. Get the tyres inspected by an expert and if he suggests the change of tyres, then get it done. Get the wheel balancing and alignment checked if you feel car wobbling while driving at high speeds, or if you notice your car drifting to one side while running, or you see the steering wheel not being at the center at the time of driving straight, or you figure out a difference in the tread wear of the tyres. This is important for a smoother drive, and also it helps in enhancing the life of the tyres. It is also essential to keep the pressure as indicated on the driver’s door frame or the vehicle manual. Get the tyres and valve checked for any possible leakages or nail insertion if you notice low pressure in any of the tyres.
#2. Check the CoolantA long drive means you will be continuously driving for a longer duration without many stops. This would also mean that the engine temperature would remain on the higher side longer than usual. In such a scenario, you cannot let the engine coolant go below the required level as this would cause overheating of the engine. Check the engine coolant level in the coolant tank before you start for your drive. Refer to the car’s manual for directions. Ideally, the coolant level should be between “Low” and “Full” indicator. Also, check for any possible leakages in the coolant tank. Get the leaks fixed before starting your trip. It is wise to carry some spare coolant as well with you.
#3. Check the BatteryThe condition of your car battery needs to be appropriate at all times. Many people take this maintenance tip lightly, but it is essential. A car battery has an average life of 4-5 years. If you know that your car battery is already a few years old, it is always a good idea to get it tested periodically. Before a long journey, getting the battery tested is exceptionally crucial. Many repair shops would do this for you at no cost. Head Lights getting dim, acid leaks and slow cranking are signs of a weak battery. Ask the repair person to check all the battery terminals and get it tightened if necessary. Ensure these terminals are not corroded. A good way to ensure that the terminals are in good condition is by applying battery terminal coating. If required, get the battery replaced without thinking too much about the cost of a new battery.
#4. Check the LightsYou certainly cannot compromise on your safety while on a long drive. And the lights of your car ensure you have a safe trip. All the lights – Head Lights, Tail Lights, and the Brake Lights – should be in working condition. This is anyways, essential for your regular driving. However, for a long drive, it is utmost important that all these lights are working properly. Faulty lights need to be fixed before you start your journey. Especially for a night drive on a highway, you cannot afford to drive with defective lights. Even if all the lights are in working condition, make sure that lights are not dim. Driving with dim lights can again be fatal. Restoring dim lights is a DIY task, and you only need to take out around an hour. There are light restoration kits available in the market. Alternatively, you can take your car to a detailing studio and the experts there will take even lesser time to restore the brightness of the lights.
#5. An emergency kit should contain the following:Make Sure the Emergency Tool Kit is in Place
- The essential tyre changing tool kit (including an emergency stop sign)
- Tyre inflator
- Tyre pressure gauge
- Jumper (booster) cables
- Primary kit with screwdrivers, pliers, and set of the most common sockets.
- A pair of Work gloves and a couple of rags
#6. Check the BrakesThe last thing you want while on a long trip would be a brake problem. You can prevent this hassle by merely doing some checks. In case you hear some kind of noise very often while applying brakes, the brake pads may have worn out. If needed, replace it as quickly as possible. Else, it can damage the rotor. Just like the engine oil, you can also check the level of brake fluid/oil. If the fluid level is low, top it up to get it to the full mark. If the brake oil is getting low very frequently, then there are chances of possible leakage in the tank. Get the tank repaired or replace it altogether to stop the leakage. There is no harm in carrying extra brake oil along with you.
#7. Check Engine OilBefore you start, you must check the engine oil. If it has already been some time since the oil was changed, replace it at once. As you drive, the level of the oil can drop. Some car engines tend to consume more engine oil. You cannot afford to run your car with a low level of engine oil as that may lead to a lot of problems to the engine. To avoid this, it is advisable to keep 1-2 spare bottles of engine oil in your car. Ensure the spare engine oil is of the same variant as the one already filled in the vehicle. While on the drive, remember to check the level of engine oil periodically. If you find it below the required level, top it up immediately. Read More: 6 Effective Ways to Improve Fuel Efficiency
#8. Check Wipers and Wiper FluidLong drives mean you will be driving on highways. You cannot avoid large vehicles like trucks, trailers, etc. on the roads. Driving around a truck will more often than not result in a huge amount of mud and dust getting accumulated on the windshields (front as well as back). At such a time, you would need to wash the windshields quite frequently. So make sure that the tank that contains the wiper fluid is adequately filled. Add some wiper fluid to it so that the windshields can get a soapy wash and you get a more transparent glass for better vision. Ensure that the nosal sprays the wiper fluid evenly on the windshield. Also, inspect the wiper blades. The rubber strips on the wipers should be in good condition and should make proper contact with the windshields. Using an anti-freezing washer fluid be a good idea if you are travelling towards a region with a cold climate.
#9. Inspect Windshields, Windows, and MirrorsIt is vital to have a clear and unobstructed view as you will be driving for a long duration. Make sure the windshield does not have any cracks. It should have the appropriate film on it that allows you to have a clear vision and protects from direct sunlight and rains. Give the windshields a proper wash before starting your journey so that it is free of any minor scratches and contamination caused by bird droppings. Similarly, all the windows and rearview mirrors should be cleaned appropriately. It is advisable to keep a cleaning cloth like a microfiber cloth in the car so that you can wipe out any dust on the windows and mirrors as and when required.
#10. Check Air Conditioner/HeaterTesting the car’s heating/air conditioning system is also necessary. Air conditioning along with cooling the cabin also keeps away the humidity. You would obviously not want fog built upon the windshields because of rain or cold weather. Make sure all the vents are in good condition and not obstructing the cooling/heating from any sides. It is advisable to get the air conditioning vents also clean before you start the journey. If you notice that the air conditioning is not effective as it should be, consider getting it adequately serviced. Top up the air conditioning gas if required.
#Bonus Tip:Do carry your collection of favorite music tracks & funny audio clips as these can help you kill boredom while driving and prevent you from falling asleep.
ConclusionYou don’t need to be an auto expert to understand the importance of following the checklist, as mentioned above. Consulting your car detailing expert before starting your trip can be even more helpful.
Top 10 Checks To Do Before Heading For A Long Trip