5 Checks you should make before a long trip

Ah, road trips. Whether they are with family or on your lonesome, it is all about the destination. That is unless you break down or do something silly like lose your car key because then they turn into a nightmare.

Thankfully, you can avoid common road trip issues by planning ahead. Here are 5 checks you should make before a long car journey:

1. Oil and coolant level

Even if your vehicle has been serviced recently, you should check its oil and coolant level before a long trip to ensure the engine has everything it needs to (hopefully) run smoothly and get you to your destination.

It’s a matter of keeping your car ticking over this one. Modern engines are designed to run with poor maintenance, but there’s only so much they can take. And even the newest, most advanced engines can spring an issue with oil or coolant.

Open your bonnet and check your oil level using the dip stick (if your car measures its oil level for you digitally, do a manual check anyway). Check under your car for any leaks and if you see any fluid dripping down beyond the radiator at the front of the car, inspect it. If it’s red, pink, blue, brown or black, visit a garage immediately.

As for your coolant, a visual check is all it takes. The coolant tank on a used Suzuki is usually on the right side of the engine bay. The level should be above the MINIMUM marker when the engine’s cold. Only check coolant when the engine’s cold because it’ll be below the MINIMUM marker when hot and thus give you a false indication.

2. Tyres

You should check two things about your tyres:

  • Tyre Pressures

Check tyre pressures when your tyres are cold (before your journey). Fill them up to the manufacturer recommended pressure level

  • Tyre tread depth

1.6mm is the legal minimum. You should check all four tyres because they can wear unevenly. Use a digital tread checker for an accurate readout, or a 20p coin. You use a 20p coin by inserting it into the tyre groove. If you can’t see the outer rim of the coin, then your tyres are above the legal limit of 1.6mm. Simple and effective.

3. Washer fluid

Your windscreen’s going to splat bugs in the summer and get caked in dirt and grime in the winter. You need to keep it clear, and the only way to do that on the move is with a good set of wiper blades and washer fluid.

Keep your washer fluid topped up with a proper screen wash solution, or with a white vinegar and water mix, you can make at home (one-part vinegar to ten parts water). If you’re going on a long trip in winter, your washer fluid should have alcohol content so that it has a lower freezing point than water.

4. Spare key

The rise of keyless entry systems has led to a rise in the number of people locking themselves out of their own cars. Some used Suzuki in Northern Ireland come with keyless entry, an example being the latest Swift Sport.

If your car has keyless entry, then you’ll know how it is - you get in, your key’s in your bag, you chuck it on the back seat and you forget about it. You probably remember to retrieve it 99% of the time, but what if you forget it? Some keyless systems will deactivate and lock you out if they don’t detect a key

Keeping a spare key on your person (or just keeping your key in your pocket) is all you need to do. And if you don’t have keyless entry, the same rules apply. Also, if you’re buying used cars NI, make sure they come with both sets of keys.

5. Fuel

Last but not least, we have fuel. And no, we’re not being silly.

You’d be surprised by how many people break down because of under fuelling their cars or because they don’t plan refuelling stops important that you fuel for the journey ahead, and that might mean starting with a full tank (or in the case of an electric car, a full charge).

The last thing you want is to run out of fuel in a rural area with no phone signal. If you’re travelling across countries, such as Europe, consider keeping £10 or £20 of fuel in a jerry can in the boot. This could save your blushes.

If you have an electric car, you’ll have to plan your trip even more wisely with your route dictated by the charging stations available locally. Download an app such as PlugShare and you’ll be able to see local charging stations.

Just bear in mind that apps aren’t always reliable, so you might make it to a charging point only to find it isn’t operational. If you do, you’ll have to call roadside assistance to recover you.