When you are planning a long road trip, ensuring that your car or van is in tip-top condition is vital, both in terms of safety and efficiency.

Here are the ten checks you should action before hitting the road:

Basic Checks

If you are competent in car matters, you should be able to perform most standard service checks yourself. However, if you don’t know your spark plugs from your wheel nuts, you would be advised to get a mechanic to give your vehicle the once over. The most basic things to check are oil, screen wash levels and wipers. A vehicle in A1 condition will stand a better chance of coping with a long journey.

Battery

Your battery is the beating heart of your car and will need to be in good condition with squeaky-clean terminals. A road trip will quickly lose its appeal if the car won’t start. 

Tyres

safety check tyre

Carefully check your tyres over for any signs of wear and tear or suspect bulges. Tread depth should be acceptable; if your trip is to be really long one should consider new tyres for the occasion. Inspect your tires for any tears or bulges in the side wall. Ensure that your tyre pressures adhere to those recommended by the manufacturer in the handbook or as marked inside the door panel. If in doubt many tyre shops will be happy to check this for you, often free of charge. 

Brakes

If you haven’t had a service recently, you would be advised to get your mechanic to check the state of your brake pads before setting off. Fitting new ones should they be required is a quick and simple job, and won’t cost much.

Emergency Kit

Preparing for the various worst case scenarios possible when travelling long distances will ensure that you are covered for all eventualities, however unlikely. Make up an emergency kit including such items as a strong torch or flashlight, a warm blanket, a well-stocked first aid kit and a basic set of car tools. Always carry supplies of bottled water and snacks such as biscuits and chocolate. 

Pack-Up

A mistake many people make when setting off on a road trip is to over-pack their car or van. Too much weight will affect the car’s efficiency. The load capacity of your particular vehicle will be listed in the handbook, so check it before you state to load up. This figure includes both cargo and passengers. Roof racks and boxes are only suitable for lighter weight items, as putting a heavy load on the car roof can affect the handling of the car in bad weather or emergency conditions, increasing the chance of the car rolling over. If you’re not intending to use your roof storage on the journey, remove it, as it will otherwise negatively impact on your fuel economy.

Sat Nav

If your vehicle doesn’t have a built-in GPS system, it could be well worth your while investing in one for your road trip. This takes the pressure off you in terms of navigation and relegates hard to read maps obsolete. A decent system will be alert you to traffic issues, and also of services where you can stop, take a break and re-fuel. 

Kids

kids

Most parents will be all too aware of how important it is to pack enough snacks, drinks and activities to keep the kids amused on any journey! On a long trip, this is even more vital, so make sure you well stocked up with age appropriate refreshments and things to do. 

Timing

In order to avoid heavy traffic, you may be better off planning to drive through the night or leave before dawn. Before setting off, check local travel reports to see if there are any blackspots that should be avoided. Forewarned is forearmed. 

Safety First

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Always adhere to the highway code and avoid getting overtired. Stay hydrated and stop regularly to stretch your legs and have a snack.