Whether you’re planning on a long drive home for Christmas with the mellow sound of Chris Rea in the background, or taking the kids on a trip to visit family, road trip season is in full swing!
As the weather worsens and the road conditions become more dangerous, many people worry about taking their cars on long journeys and the thought of getting stranded far from home is enough to cause a nightmare before Christmas.
Luckily, it’s easy enough to reduce your chances of getting into trouble by carrying out these 5 simple checks before you set off on your long journey.
When driving in winter, where the darkness sets in earlier or in an unknown area, you will be more dependent on your headlights. Turn your lights on and circle your car to make sure they are all working. This includes your brake and reverse lights – get a friend or family member to check these as you will have to be in the car.
Over time, dust can settle and reduce the intensity of your lights, so before a long trip, it is a good idea to remove and clean the headlights. If your lights are flickery or dim, consider replacing these before your long journey.
Your tyres should be at the top of your car checklist, given that they are the only part of the vehicle that has direct contact with the road. General checks of your tyre pressure, condition and tread depth should be carried out. The easiest way to check tread depth is with a 20p piece – if the outside rim of the coin is visible, your tread is below the legal minimum requirement and you should look at getting your tyres replaced. If you need to replace your tyres, check out this reliable winter tyre from Goodyear.
Not only will properly inflated tyres help you avoid a blowout during your long drive, but it will actually improve fuel-consumption.
Your brakes are a vital safety feature on your car and should be checked regularly, not just before a long journey. However, it is especially important to make sure they will be able to handle a long drive. If your brakes feel loose or soft when you apply them, it could be a sign of thin brake pads.
On the other hand, if they make a grinding sound and feel juddery under your foot, then you brake pads could be worn out fully. Either way, they will need looking at and most likely, replacing.
Make sure to check your engine oil, brake fluid, windscreen washer and antifreeze are topped up. Some common indications that your fluids need replacing are a darkening or thickening of the fluid itself, or residue in the fluids. If you are driving in winter, replacing your regular windscreen washer with antifreeze is a good way to keep your wipers from freezing to your windscreen.
The last thing you want during a long drive in winter is to find yourself stranded with a dead battery. If your current car battery is over 2-3 years old, you might want to double check for signs of corrosion or damage (this will look chalky and white) and that all the leads are tight.
Listen to the noise when you start your car – if it sounds sluggish, it could be a sign of a dying battery. We recommend getting this checked out by a mechanic as soon as you can to determine whether you need to replace your battery before your journey.
For more information and advice about preparing your car for winter and driving in bad weather, check out the rest of our blog.