Everyone loves a road trip right? And everyone should remember the old saying when it comes to going on adventures – be prepared! But even if you’re not heading out into the unknown on a long trip, any driver worth their salt should make sure they’re up to speed (no pun intended) on preparations big and small for both short hops and epic journeys. Of course, all the preparation in the world doesn’t mean you won’t get unlucky and run into some car trouble along the way. Happily, for you, enough people have encountered these common problems to make dealing with them – or better yet, avoiding them altogether – a much simpler state of affairs. Here are some pointers.
Keeping your vehicle in good nick day to day is essential. A car needs to be driven, so don’t leave it festering away in the garage, a regular spin around town will keep it well oiled and exercised. Enlighten yourself in methods of general upkeep of the core features, and if you’re not a hands-on car enthusiast then forge a good relationship with your local mechanic. Keeping the car in good health and the paintwork and interior in top condition also helps the resale value when you come to upgrade or move on.
This should be a no brainer – before you set out on any journey make sure that all the safety features of your car are in working order. Depending on the age of your vehicle this may just mean a routine check on the seatbelts and airbags, but if you have ABS, semi-autonomous driving features or another safety tech it’s essential to make sure these are all fully functional.
When you park up for the night you want peace of mind that your car is going to be safe. If you’re going to be leaving your car on a residential street, then consider investing in a steering wheel lock, which not only makes it harder to steal the car but also acts as a major deterrent to any would-be thieves. Likewise, don’t offer any incentive to those with light fingers – never leave any valuables in the car, and if you have to, don’t leave them somewhere visible.
For those less inclined to leave their vehicle on a public street, you thankfully have other parking options available to you, both short and long term. Before setting off on any journey, it’s prudent to investigate these services online and search for the best available deals. Parkos, for example, offers comparisons of different parking locations near airports, where you can find cheap and (crucially) safe parking for your vehicle whilst you’re traveling. Additionally, a number of parking garages also have valet and shuttle services, making the experience that much easier on your journey.
Car batteries on average last between 2 and 5 years, depending on the conditions and usage they have been exposed to. Make sure your battery is fully charged before embarking on a long trip. You can get this checked by your local mechanic, who will be able to let you know if your current battery is in good shape or not. If not, it’s strongly advisable to replace it.
Many of us travel with spare tires in our trunks. But how many of us know how to change them? Before you set out, get your current tires checked for wear and pressure levels, and take advice on the optimum inflation rate for your car. But it also pays huge dividends to be able to replace one yourself if you get caught out in the wilderness, with no mechanics for miles around.
Remember to have your brake pads and fluids checked out before your trip as well. It goes without saying that faulty brakes are more than an inconvenience, they are a real danger to you, your passengers and your fellow road users. So make sure your mechanic gives you the all clear.
Engine problems out on the road are a real nightmare. Be sure to have yours tuned up and tested out properly before you hit the road. If your engine has a history of problems, overheating or erratic behavior, it might be worth discussing with the mechanic if a full replacement is necessary (it may just need new filters or a bit of TLC).
This may seem like a real no-brainer – but running out of gas in the middle of nowhere is no laughing matter. So keep an eye on that fuel gauge and fill up way before you reach a critical level. Additionally, you can take the extra step and make sure to note down all the different gas stations that are along the way towards your destination. Better safe than sorry!
Once again – be prepared! Put together a small tool kit with wrenches, pliers, nuts, and bolts in the trunk, should you need to make some tweaks at the side of the road. A roll of strong adhesive tape is advisable for makeshift repairs (just to get you to the next garage should your bumper fall off or a window smash). If you’re heading out into the wilderness proper, make sure you have a flashlight and even an emergency flare, along with the rest of your survival kit.
Some of these things may seem a bit elementary, especially to experienced drivers. But the peace of mind is essential, and knowing your vehicle is in tip-top condition and that you are prepared for all eventualities will allow you to relax and enjoy your (hopefully smooth and problem free) road trip!