Proper preparation prevents poor performance, something dads have been handing down to their kids for years - in Australia, at least. And while that saying could be applied to a huge number of life’s situations, one of the most important is the preparation of your car before heading off on a road trip.
Think about it for a moment; you’ve been looking forward to making your way to your favourite holiday spot for ages (even longer because of COVID). You’ve finally got a chance to head there over the school holidays and been approved for annual leave. You pack everything into the car, lock the house up, and wave goodbye to the home for your long-awaited holiday.
You get halfway there and your car craps out on you, forcing you to cancel the trip and pay out the bum for a tow truck all the way back to a mechanic close to that same house you just said goodbye to.
Not sure about you, but that doesn’t really sound like the best experience.
With the Christmas holidays around the corner and ‘rona finally looking to be on its way towards the afterthought pile, there’s a big potential of there being more people going on road trips this summer than there has been for years. Which is why we thought it’d be a top idea to offer a few tips that’ll give your set of wheels the best chance to make the return journey with as few issues as possible.
7 ways to ensure your car is road-ready for a long trip
In addition to some prep around the mechanics of your car, there’s also general safety and ride comfort to take into consideration - especially if the trip’s going to take a decent amount of time. So without further ado, let’s get into our tippy-top tips that’ll ensure your road trip’s as safe, comfortable and hassle-free as it can be from start to finish.
1. Check all the lighting (inside and out)
You’ll want to make sure all of your indicators, brake lights and headlights are functioning as they should be. If you’re towing, this is especially true for the van/trailer you’re lugging behind you. If possible, have someone be on the outside of the car and confirm with you as you run through each of the lights. Otherwise, you can set whichever light you’re testing and get out and check for yourself (the foot brake is going to need some weight on it, though).
It’s also important to know that your interior cabin lights are functioning properly if you’ll be driving when there’s little to no might outside and a passenger needs to find something.
2. Make sure the AC is working as it should
Summers in Australia are hot. Really, really bloody hot. So before you make tracks, you need to know that when the mercury makes its way into the 40s, you have a solution to the stifling heat.
Though if you’re looking to save on fuel costs, iit might be worth opening up the windows when you’re passing through country towns and the speed limit falls under 80k k’s for a bit of fresh air and reduced fuel consumption. Unless, ya know, the wind is blowing hotter than hell at high noon, as it so often does in Straya!
3. Do a PSI check of every tyre - including the spare
When your tyres don’t have enough air in them, every kilometre you’re driving in them will not only cost you more but also wear the tyre more. Be sure to hit up your local servo that offers a tyre inflation machine and fill every one of them up to the recommended PSI that’s detailed in the owner’s manual of your car.
Don’t forget about the spare, either. The last thing you want to happen is to blow a tyre somewhere and go to change it only to find the spare is as inflated as an echidna’s beach ball in a thistle storm.
4. Check fluid levels
Okay, so there are a few different fluids you’ll be wanting to check out prior to a road trip of pretty much any length:
We all know how integral an ingredient oil is to ensure a car’s engine is running smoothly, providing the lubrication needed for all the moving parts so there’s as little friction involved as possible. You can check your oil levels by opening up the bonnet and finding the oil dipstick (if you can't, the owner’s manual will help). Pull it out, wipe the end off, pop it in all the way and pull it out again.
There should be markings on the end of the dipstick that show you where the oil levels are and whether it needs any more. If it does, consult either the owner’s manual or your mechanic to find out what kind of oil you need and fill accordingly.
Your car needs coolant in the radiator to make sure it’s running at the right temperature and doesn’t overheat. Once again, pop the bonnet and find the coolant reservoir (refer to the owner’s manual if you can’t find it). On the outside of the reservoir you’ll find labels showing minimum and maximum fluid levels - if the level is under the minimum, fill it as necessary.
Your owner’s manual will tell you the type of coolant you need (Type A or Type B). If you’re a bit iffy about doing this, it might be time to take your car to a mechanic and ask them to do it.
Driving through lots of regional/country/rural areas of Australia means one thing; bugs. There are lots of bugs you're going to be driving through, especially at night. So it’s super-important that when (not if) your windscreen has sent the umpteenth little critter to the big fluorescent light in the sky, you have the wherewithal to spray all their guts with some soapy water and let your wipers do the rest in order to clear up your view of the road ahead.
The window cleaning fluid reservoir will be found under the bonnet, more often than not somewhere towards the cabin. If you’re unable to locate it, again check your owner’s manual. Your local car-centric store will stock the washing liquid, which will have on it the mixing ratio to water.
5. Consider a mechanic inspection
There are actually three other fluid checks you should undertake before road-tripping, but most people see them as falling into the ‘too hard’ basket and prefer a professional mechanic to get the job done. These are the brake, power steering and transmission fluids.
But further to these, if you’re short on time and/or have little to no experience with car-related stuff and would enjoy the peace of mind that everything’s been given the once-over by an expert, it might be best to just take it to your mechanic. Let them know you’re planning on taking a road trip and would like them to perform a pre-trip inspection.
They’ll be able to check everything from the AC to each of the tyre’s PSI levels, all the fluids as well as things like brake and suspension checks, wheel alignment and more.
6. Pack for the unexpected
If you find yourself up the creek without a paddle - where ‘the creek’ is the middle of nowhere and ‘the paddle’ is a car jack - you are, for lack of a better word, stuffed.
There are a few must-haves in your car when you’re going on a road trip, including:
- A car jack
- Jumper leads (or better still, a portable jump starter pack)
- Small tool kit
- First aid kit
- Extra bottles of water
- Extra radiator coolant
- Rags/paper towels
- Occy (tie-down) straps
And of course, all of the above will need to be checked in their own right before you take off to ensure they’re functioning and working exactly as they should to prevent any nasty surprises down the road (literally).
Something to remember, however, is to not overpack for your holiday. Weighing your car down with unnecessary things will mean you’re burning more fuel and negatively impacts how the car handles and feels on the road as well. When packing, ask yourself ‘Will we really need this?’ often, and be brutal about it.
7. Sort out entertainment beforehand
Kids and adults alike need some sort of entertainment to keep them going when trapped in a relatively small space for hours on end. Games can be fun for a while, but when it’s time to finally take a break from the hundredth eye-spy cloud, audio streaming services like Spotify can be exactly what you need. The Twelfth Man series can be a fun and hilarious way to pass the time, for example.
And sure, it’s important to minimise screen time for the kidlets. But again, you’re trapped in a small space for a while, so a bit of time on the tablet can’t hurt.
Whether it’s music, podcasts or video content you’d like to utilise, we strongly recommend downloading everything before you leave via WiFi. It won’t impact your data, and more importantly if and when you’re without any network it won’t affect anything except being able to send and receive phone calls or messages.
Upgrade your car in time for your next road trip
Know what’s easier than going through all of these steps before you head off on your next road trip adventure? Going for a total upgrade and getting your new car delivered that’s ready to rock and roll!
At Stratton Finance we have a massive network of lenders available to us, enabling us to match you with the perfect car financing package to suit your needs. Not only that, but we’ll also work with you throughout the entire financing process to ensure it’s as streamlined as possible so you’re behind the wheel of your gorgeous new ride sooner. Use our free car finance quote estimate tool to discover how affordable the monthly payments could look like!
If you’d like to learn more about our services, please feel free to get in touch with us on 1300 787 288 or use our online contact form to message us online.