8 Quick Vehicle Checks Before Leaving on a Road Trip

by | Jul 10, 2022 | Live Work Play Travel, Trip Planning | 11 comments

Doing my 8 quick vehicle checks before leaving on a road trip.

 

So you are heading off on a road trip. No matter how long you are going for, and the type of vehicle you are driving, before you hit the road it’s really worth your while to take 15 minutes to do eight quick vehicle checks. Why? Because there is nothing worse than breaking down and having to be towed because you ignored checking your vehicle. I always undertake 8 quick vehicle checks before leaving on a road trip. And here they are.  

 

Why Check Your Car Before Leaving on a Road Trip?

 

Although you might think your car feels and sounds good to drive, it may not be! If you are planning to head off on a long road trip, it really is worth your while spending some time checking your car. The last thing you want is for your engine to overheat because it is not being cooled properly. Or have parts seizing up because of lack of oil! So undertake a few car checks that will give you the confidence that your car is performing OK and is alright to go on a road trip. When you have confidence in your vehicle you should have the confidence that your road trip won’t be hindered by unforeseen problems because you didn’t do these few essential checks. Without further ado, these are the checks I do on my vehicle before embarking on any long road trip.

 

Check the Oil Level of Your Vehicle

 

Oil is required in your car engine to keep all the parts lubricated and moving smoothly without overheating. Over time, the oil can break down and wear out – and so becomes less effective at keeping parts lubricated and cool. If you don’t have enough oil, parts can heat up and worse, seize up and stop working. So a simple check of the oil level can help your car keep going. 

It is easy to check the oil. Lift the bonnet, take the top off the oil and take the level out. Wipe the level with a cloth or tissue and place the level back in the oil, wait a second or two, take the level back out and see how much oil is present. Read the reading – it should be above ‘minimum’. If you need more, put more in.

Every car needs oil and the type of oil needed for your car can be found in the owners handbook. If you are buying or hiring a car, the owners handbook is essential reading.

 

Check the Water and Coolant Level of Your Vehicle

 

The water and coolant in your engine keep the engine cool. If the engine became too hot it would stop. While water does help to keep your engine cool, it works way better with coolant. Why? Because water boils faster and at a lower temperature than coolant. You need the right level of coolant so it keeps your engine cool and keeps it from overheating.

To check the water and coolant level, look at the markings on the side of the plastic overflow bottle connected to the cooling system. The level should be between the ‘low’ and ‘high’ markings on the side. If the coolant level is low, add the appropriate amount of coolant.

 

Check the Water Level in the Washer Bottle for your Windscreen

 

While driving, you need a clear and unimpeded view through your windscreen. If you have a windscreen that is streaked with bugs, bird poo, mud, road grime or other gunk, you might miss seeing something dangerous. Having the appropriate level of water and washer fluid in your windscreen wiper bottle is imperative to wash your windows while driving.

Check the level and fill if required. Don’t overfill though. When your engine is going the water heats up and can overflow.

 

Check your Tyre’s Pressure and Tread

 

Having the right tyre pressure helps you to brake properly and aids in fuel efficiency. If your tyre pressure is too low, it can distort your tyre’s footprint. Meaning, when your car’s tyre contacts the road the wear and tear on the tyre can increase dramatically – which means you will need to get new tyres more regularly.

On the other hand if your tyre pressure is too high, it can keep your tyres from having enough grip on the road – which can lead to the car ‘moving’ when it passes over bumps and potholes. To ensure a smooth ride, have the appropriate tyre pressure.

To check the tyre pressure, firstly find out what it is from the handbook and then get a tyre pressure reading. If it is too high, let some pressure out and if too low, simply put some air in.

TIP: Best to check the oil, water, coolant and tyres when the car is cool. Also, check and inflate your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold. You get a more accurate reading if you do. And don’t forget to check your spare tyre.

Also check the tyre tread. New tyres usually have a tread of 8-12 mm. The more tread you have, the better your tyre grips the road. In Australia the minimum standard amount of tread your tyres should have is 1.5mm. If it gets to this low you need new tyres and if you drive a car without any tread – apart from being plain dangerous – you can be fined.

 

Are Luggage Racks, Trailers and other Towables are Secure?

 

There is nothing worse than driving off and something falls off or out of your vehicle. Before you take off, ensure everything is secure – luggage, roof racks or boxes, bike racks and anything you are towing. You don’t want things moving around and making thumping noises.

 

Check your Vehicles Lights and Indicators

 

Driving without lights and indicators is just plain dangerous – and illegal. If driving at night ,you need to see the road. And without indicators other drivers don’t know what you are doing. So a quick check of these should be added to your check list.

 

Check your Emergency Road Side Tool Kit

 

Lastly, but not least, check your emergency road side kit. If you don’t have any, I would suggest you get some. Though you can’t pre-empt what might happen during your road trip, it is wise to have some tools that will enable you to fix minor problems. And even if you don’t know how to use them, hopefully someone may stop and help you. Some things to have include, but are not limited to:

  • Vehicle Owners Manual
  • Jumper Leads
  • Spare tyre, jack, tyre lever, pump and tyre gauge
  • First aid kit – in case you hurt yourself during repairs
  • Tool kit that can have things in it like – Work gloves, Vice grip, Socket, spanner and shifter set, Screwdriver with changeable bits, Regular and needle-nose pliers, Spark plugs, Light globes and fuses, WD40, Electrical Tape, Rags or an old towel, Parachute cord or rope, Extra fluids (small bottles of oil and coolant) for topping your vehicle
  • Water – for your vehicle and yourself.

 

Get Road Side Assistance

 

Joining, or updating roadside assistance is a good idea. You don’t know when something might happen and road side assistance can come to your assistance.

 

TIP: When packing for your road trip, pack a blanket as you never know when you might need to sleep in your car.

 

Is Your Vehicle Ready for a Road Trip?

 

Finally, I cannot recommend enough doing these eight quick vehicle checks to do before hitting the road. Of course, they do not replace a full car service but they can help to keep your car in good condition for your road trip. I do them before any road trip I undertake and I hope you do too. I would hate to see you on the side of the road somewhere! Happy road tripping.

 

Female-Checking-Oil-Of-Vehicle-Before-Road-Trip

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!

 

Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from Eurail and Interrail Passes. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. World Nomads is great for general travel insurance while SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers.

Need something else? Check out my Resources page.

 

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Hi. Sharyn here, the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve been travelling all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. My aim with this blog is to help you work abroad or work online and travel the world.   Read more.

 

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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 

11 Comments

  1. Krista

    We’re heading out on a mini road trip next week so it’s a good thing I’ve read this or else I would have forgotten to check everything – thank you!

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    Good to know some of these things, as car repairs can take a long time and cost a lottttt of money. Definitely don’t want any car trouble while on holidays!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      Car repairs can be costly and just a few little checks can help keep the car moving along smoothly during your holidays and travels.

      Reply
  3. Faith

    I am actually heading out to Wine Country in Washington tomorrow–so thanks for the tips. In our part of the world–where winters can be brutal in the mountains–I also recommend keeping a blanket in the trunk should you ever have to spend a night unexpected car camping. Ugh.

    Reply
  4. Robin

    Great reminders! We drove up to Colorado to go camping, and ran the battery out of the car. Good thing we were prepared, thanks to lists like these!

    Reply
    • Sharyn McCullum

      It’s always wise to be prepared before your travels cause you just don’t know what will happen.

      Reply
  5. Linda (LD Holland)

    We do a lot of road trips and I must admit we are not great at checking our vehicle before we travel. And have had trouble on the road because of that failure. We really do need to add a proper emergency road side tool kit. Great tips for preparing for a road trip.

    Reply
  6. Petra

    This was very helpful!!

    Reply
  7. ANUKRATI DOSI

    Tyre’s pressure is something I would check every time, no matter what.

    Reply
  8. Angel

    This is such a good post! I’m guilty of not checking oil level on a road trip haha. This article is very helpful 🙂 thank you!

    Reply
  9. Denise

    Great list of car checks before a road trip!

    Reply

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