Preparing your car for a long journey or a vacation is critical to your safety and having a hassle-free trip. A car breaking down in the neighborhood or the driveway is bad enough. Think of the consequences if this happens hundreds of miles away from your home with the nearest garage or town miles away. Vacations are supposed to be happy outings but the line dividing fun and misery can often turn out to be whether you have prepared your car meticulously for the drive.
The tips given here for getting your car trip-ready are not complicated and you do not have to visit the service station to do so.
- Check Coolant Levels – Coolant or anti-freeze has two functions. One is to protect the engine from extremely cold temperatures and the next is to remove excess heat from the engine on a hot day or in idling traffic. The second is because coolant has a high boiling point. Before starting out, check the coolant level and ensure that it is between the min and the max marks. Select the right coolant as per manufacturer’s specifications if you have to top up.
- Check oil levels against dipstick – Oil provides lubrication for the moving parts of the engine, cleans the parts and ensures that the engine runs smoothly. Without adequate oil, the engine will heat quickly and seize up. Identify the dipstick by the ring at the end of it. Pull it out and make sure that the oil is between the max and the min levels. Top up if necessary with the brand and make of oil as given in the handbook.
- Car jack and locking wheel nut key – Do not leave the home without these two items. In case of a puncture on the journey, you can only fix the spare if you have both these with you. A recovery vehicle will also not be able to do anything without these two things. The best that they can do then is to tow your car to the nearest garage. A word of caution here – apart from vacation, if you ship car to Canada or anywhere else by transporter, keep these items in the car. You might need them at the destination to change tires after receiving the car.
- Top up screen wash bottle – Dirt, grime, and squashed insects on the windscreen are common in long journeys. You might have to clean the glass frequently as otherwise, you will have limited visibility. Top up the bottle before starting and include cleaning agents that cut through grime and grease so that the windscreen is cleaned thoroughly.
- Check tire pressure – Having the correct tire pressure is not only about increasing the life of the tires but also concerns the safety of your family. Underinflated tires often cause blowouts and can lead to a fatal accident at high speeds. Inflated ones that are slightly below the recommended mark can reduce the life of the tires and wear them out unevenly. And do not forget to check the spare as all tires lose air if not used for a long time.
- Check for tread wear – Worn out treads results in the tires losing grip on the road and braking softly will not give the desired outcome. In many countries of the world, there are regulatory specifications for tread depth. Check the requirements of the country of travel before setting out. For example, if you ship car to Canada, check that country’s tread limits as you will be driving away after taking possession of your car from the transporter.
- Ensure all lights are working – This is an area where you might require some professional assistance if one or more lights are not working. Headlamps, reverse light, brake lights, indicators, and cabin lights all have different specifications and have to be fitted in a specific way. It might be a puzzle to you initially, but at the garage, check how it is being done as you might have to do it yourself on the highway. Further, carry spare bulbs with you for each type of light.
- Check that the air con is working properly – Even if your air-con is not working as well as it used to, you will not face a breakdown. You can still carry on the journey but the trip will be unpleasant and uncomfortable. If you have not checked the air-con since last summer, have it serviced and checked at the service station before you leave for the trip.
- Test the windscreen wipers and check the blades – You cannot trust the weather on long trips. A good set of blades ensures that you can see the road clearly. Wiper blades get damaged and are not durable and hence it makes sense to change them at the earliest sign of wear and tear or splits. Turn on the wipers and make sure they are working well.
Follow these tips before setting off on your vacation. Not only will you have a pleasant and memorable trip, but your loved ones will also be safe in the car too.