How to prepare your car for a long-distance trip

By Harper Banks

With Youth Day ushering in another long weekend, you and your loved ones may have decided to take a long-distance road trip. But have you considered whether your vehicle can handle this journey?

We have a look at a user-friendly checklist that you can consult when planning, and we consider some additional preparations that should be undertaken. 

Tip: Do you have adequate car insurance? Get a competitive quote here.

A basic checklist

Robin Classen, journalist at Gumtree Motoring, says that, as much as going on holiday is a great time to relax and enjoy some of the finer things in life, unplanned events can substantially detract from your chance to unwind.

“Since you cannot plan for the unexpected, such as the weather or environment, the most important precaution you can take as a driver is to make sure your vehicle is in good working order,” he says.

The last thing you want, Classen notes, is to be stuck at the side of the road with your car bonnet open, trying to figure out what the problem is. To avoid this and other adverse situations, he recommends using the following precautionary checklist.

  1. Check service records

Check that your vehicle services are up to date. It's best to sort this out as soon as possible, especially if a major service is due.

A minor service typically includes changing the oil and oil filter, but it’s a good idea to also examine the condition of other components, such as the windscreen wipers. Look for chips in your windshield, and ensure that the lights and driving belts are still in good condition.

  1. Check fluid levels

Fluid levels would most likely have been checked during the last service, but it’s still a good idea to double-check the vehicle’s oil and water. When the car is turned off and on, take the opportunity to look underneath for any possible leaks or debris.

  1. Inspect your tyres

Since they are the primary point of contact between your vehicle and the road, it’s critical to inspect your tyres and ensure that there is no damage to the side walls.

Make sure your tread depth is more than 80%, and look out for visible cracks or uneven wear. Also, ensure that your spare wheel is free of damage and all equipment needed for a tyre change is in place.

  1. Test the battery

A car battery tends to have a lifespan of about five years, but it can fail before then. An engine that turns over slowly, an ignition that clicks, and dim headlights are all signs of a dying battery.

Check for corrosion around the terminals and make sure they are secured tightly. If a terminal falls off while you’re driving, it can cause a voltage dump which can kill the alternator.

  1. Pack emergency supplies

Having basic emergency supplies in your vehicle is always a good idea. This may include anything you consider important, from a first-aid kit and jumper cables to a puncture repair kit. In addition, keep extra canisters of water and petrol or diesel on hand.

How else can you prepare?

Once your roadworthy checks are completed, says Sumarie Greybe, co-founder of Naked Insurance, you should ensure your paperwork is up to date.

“Before any long trip, you’ll want to ensure your vehicle licence disc is valid, and that everyone who will be driving has up-to-date driving licences,” says Greybe.

She adds that you’ll also want to be ready for emergencies. “If you don’t have insurance, it’s important to rectify that as soon as possible - and not just for your trip, but also for peace of mind in your day-to-day life,” she says.  

She suggests that you keep your insurer’s roadside emergency number to hand so that you can call for help if you have an accident or engine trouble. If available, use a mobile app linked to your insurance policy.

“These benefits are designed to help you when you are faced with unexpected incidents, especially to get you out of physical danger or inconvenience,” says Greybe.

You can get a car insurance quote through JustMoney – click here for more.

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