You’re all set for that road trip. You’ve checked your route, programmed the Sat Nav and stocked up on snacks for the journey. But have you checked the essentials on your car before you set off? Many of these checks don’t need to take long at all but could be the difference between reaching your destination safely or risking a breakdown and getting stranded on the way. For young drivers, these habits need to become as natural to follow as the rules of the road you’ll learn as you take your theory test, for older drivers these are habits you should never get out of the hang of.
1) Tyres: Incorrectly inflated or damaged tyres could blow-out or lose grip on the road so it’s vital to check your tyres before a long journey. Michelin.co.uk says that tyres can be quite under-inflated without looking ‘flat.’ Ideally, tyre pressure should also be checked once a month using a tyre pressure gauge (available from vehicle parts stores such as Halfords). It’s best to check tyres when they are cold (have not been used in the last two hours or have covered less than 2mph at low speed). Recommended tyre inflation pressures for your vehicle are normally found in the vehicle handbook or inside the door frame or fuel filler cap. Use the correct pressure for your tyre sizes and vehicle load/speed conditions.
Tyres must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1.6mm. It is illegal to drive with a tread less than this. Tread depth gauges can be purchased from tyre specialists or if in doubt about your tread, take your car to a garage to get it checked.
2) Engine oil: Without oil your engine will overheat, weld itself together and break. Checking the oil level is quite easy check to do. Locate the dipstick (if in doubt where to find this then check your vehicle handbook). Check the oil comes up to the relevant line on the dipstick (again you might need to check your handbook). If it falls below then top it up with the correct oil for your car. Also ensure you get the oil and filter changed at recommended service levels.
3) Engine coolant: The engine coolant stops the engine from overheating so should also be checked frequently and definitely before a long journey. Your vehicle handbook will tell you how to do this, which coolant to use and how to top it up.
4) Lights: We’re talking all the lights here – both front and rear, brake lights, indicators and hazard lights. Get someone to help check that they’re all working.
5) Fuel: It’s common sense really but you do need to make sure you’ve got a full tank before setting off on your trip. Thousands of motorists a year are rescued by breakdown firms after running out of fuel. Confused.com reports that 30 per cent of us wait for the warning light to come on before taking a trip to the pumps – according to Admiral Insurance. How long will it be on your journey until you can refuel at the next petrol station?
With just a few simple checks on your car you’ll be on the road to happy motoring and hopefully a stress-free journey.