Road Trips – Love them or loathe them they are something that in modern day life we are tackling more and more. What qualifies a road trip? A journey for business or pleasure? An adventure perhaps? I consider any journey over and beyond your usual commute to work, school run or shops is a road trip and I personally like to take them on as often as possible in order to discover new places, visit friends and family, for part of a holiday and sometimes … yes … to go to work!
There are many things to factor into a road trip and I don’t just mean how to keep the kids entertained or which route you will take, maintenance checks are crucial and with modern day electronics on our cars how many of us check oil, water and tyre pressures regularly? It has become so easy to rely on a light to flicker on on the dashboard display to warn us of a potential problem, but waiting for that light to shine could well lead you to unwanted problems, costs and delays.
So what should we be checking on our cars prior to long journeys? and what should we carry in our cars in order to be well prepared for any potential break down or problem? Here is my guide to a safe, well planned and prepared road trip.
CHECKING YOUR OIL LEVEL
This is a simple, mess free job that anyone can do. simply open your bonnet and check for the engine Oil logo (you may need to consult with your cars manual for the exact location). Normally anything you may need to touch under the bonnet is colored – for example a yellow cap with a logo and this should make it easy to find. To check the oil you are looking for the ‘dip stick’. Once you have located it, pull it out and wipe it clean with a rag or piece of kitchen towel. Then put the stick back into the pipe and pull it out again, this time you are checking where the oil film stops and that it is within the maximum and minimum markers. If you are satisfied that the film rests within the markers then simply wipe clean again and pop the dip stick back in the pipe and you are finished. If you have too little you will need to top up your engine oil. Check what you need with your cars manual.
As a guide your oil should be changed every 5,000 – 7,500 miles or so in order to ensure you are running clean and uncontaminated oil through your engine.
2. TYRE PRESSURES
Again the guide for pressure will vary per car and you should consult your cars manual for your optimum pressure. Tyre pressures relate directly to the efficiency of your car and your fuel efficiency on a road trip is of utmost importance. Pressure also effects the handling of your car, acceleration, breaking and grip in the wet, not to mention cornering efficiency and ensuring even wear for your tires. Remember that your tires are the sole thing that grip your car to the road, check the pressures using a home pressure gauge or at your local petrol station. Pressures should always be checked when the tires are cold ( travelled less than 5 miles ) and check all four and the spare if you have one.
It is a good idea to check the condition of the tires as you are doing this, ensure the tread is at the legal level and that you cannot see any irregular bulges, lumps or cuts.
3. WINDSCREEN WASHER FLUID
It is a legal requirement to have windscreen washer fluid and ensure that you choose one that contains an anti-freeze product for the winter months as well as one that will remove grease from your windows. Again this is located under the bonnet and will be clearly marked usually with a symbol that looks like a windscreen. Top this up regularly and especially before your long road trips.
Here, I am referring to the engine coolant, which is essential in order to cool your cars complicated radiator system so that you don’t suffer an over heat. Coolant is directed around the cylinder heads and valves to absorb their heat before returning to the radiator. In order to check the level, ensure that the engine is NOT hot. It is ideally done when the car is just a little warm. First, park your car on a level surface, the open the bonnet, locate the coolant and simply check that the line rests between the maximum and minimum levels.
Just take a couple of minutes to check that all your lights, including fog lights, brakes, indicators and side lights are working. Ask a friend or family member to give you a hand, my kids love doing this job with me!
6. SPARE TYRE
Not all cars have a spare tyre but if you do, ensure that it is in good condition and that you have the correct locking wheel nut device and jack in order to change a tyre should you need. If you don’t know how to change your tyre please consult our Cars4Girls guide and video tutorial.
7. TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES
It is not a legal requirement in the UK to carry a warning triangle or fluorescent jacket, however if your road trip takes you across the channel to Europe then it is, and for your safety why not carry these anyway in order to add to your safety in case of emergency. I also suggest carrying a small kit of spare bulbs for your car and the tools required to change them should you need to.
Finally give your car a once over body work check, just make sure nothing is loose or out of place and then you are ready to go … Load up a good playlist and enjoy the open road with piece of mind.