Picture the scene; you’ve stocked up on your holiday essentials, packed the car up and have set off on your road trip. The roads are clear, you’re making good time, and everyone’s excited; your destination is getting closer by the minute. All of a sudden, you hear a bang, or maybe a loud screech. Perhaps your car begins to shudder to a halt, and you have no idea why. While you call roadside assistance, your passengers start to get restless as the hours go by, and your much anticipated holiday starts to feel like a distant memory.

You may think that this would never happen to you, but how can you be so sure? When a simple check of your vehicle before embarking on your journey could prevent your trip from being ruined, wouldn’t it be better to be safe rather than sorry?

Checking your car doesn’t have to be long or tedious and could save you from a massive headache should something go wrong once you’ve set off. Stick with us, and we’ll take you through the essential road trip vehicle checklist to make sure that you’re never stranded on the side of a motorway with a broken down car.

What To Include On A Road Trip Vehicle Checklist

There are a few essential components on your car that should be checked before setting off on any road trip; for the safety of you and your passengers, as well as for your peace of mind. They won’t take long and should you encounter a problem, or something doesn’t look right, a mechanic will only be a call away and more than happy to advise you on the best course of action. We’ve broken it down into 8 essential checks; work your way through and make sure that your car is in good working order before beginning your journey.

1. Brakes
2. Headlights
3. Tyres
4. Wipers & Fluid
5. Clutch
6. Oil
7. Battery
8. Head Gasket

closeup of car pedals

1. Brakes

Possibly one of the most important checks you can make – your brake system must be working at all times to ensure your safety as well as those around you. As specialists in the repair of car brakes in Milton Keynes, we are regularly presented with a variety of problems when it comes to this vital vehicle component. Because of this, it’s top of our list as we know just how many problems faulty brakes cause – aside from the obvious!

There are a few different checks you can make when it comes to your brakes, from brake pad wear to brake fluid. If your brake pads look worn, i.e. if the composite inner section of the brake pad is less than 5mm thick, it will need replacing. If you’re not sure how to carry out this check properly, take a look at this guide from Wagner Brake for a step by step guide. We’ve also found a really handy article on checking your brake fluid too, so take a read of both and make sure you know what to look out for.

2. lights

You may be setting off during daylight hours, but it’s important to check your lights nevertheless. The chances are that if you’re embarking on a long journey, you’ll be driving in darkness for some of the time at least, so your lights need to be in good working order. This includes your full and low beam lights, brake lights, fog lights, hazard lights and indicator lights. It’s a good idea to take your car for a quick spin around the block with a family member or friend following you. This way, they’ll be able to pick up on any lights to the rear that may not be working – as this can generally go unnoticed for quite some time.

Lights in and around your car need to be in perfect condition before beginning your road trip, for the safety of yourself as well as other road users. Not only this, in a lot of cases, it can actually be illegal to drive any distance if particular lights aren’t working. Take a look at this article from midrive for more information on car lights and the law.

car tyre closeup

3. Tyres

Tyre pressure and tread depth are the two main things to look out for when carrying out a tyre check. If your tyres are not sufficiently filled, this will cause the pressure to drop and a high chance of a blowout occuring or being left with a flat tyre – neither of which would be particularly welcome during a road trip. Your tyres need to be in excellent shape before heading out on a long journey because they will be put under immense pressure for a long period of time. Consult the manufacturer’s guide for your particular vehicle, and make sure that both the pressure and tread are correct.

It’s easy to check at home with the help of a few handy tools. Invest in a tyre tread checker and tyre pressure gauge and you’ll be able to check them whenever you like. Should the readings not be right, take your car into a garage to get them corrected.

4. Wipers & Fluid

This one is pretty simple. Do a quick wiper test on your windscreen by spraying some fluid on the glass and making sure that it is wiped away sufficiently. If on closer inspection, parts of the wipers are loose, they will need replacing before embarking on a long journey. Check out this youtube video from eric the car guy on how to change your wiper blades should you find yourself in this predicament.

If your windscreen fluid is low, this will need to be filled up before your road trip too, to ensure that any debris can be cleaned away effectively if needs be. Halfords have a large selection of wiper fluid should you need to pick any up.

5. Clutch

Your clutch is vitally important to the smooth running of your car, so it’s imperative that you check this pedal is in tip top condition before setting off. It is very easy to do and involves making sure that the clutch is engaging correctly and that no unusual sounds can be heard while it is in operation. For a full guide on how to check your clutch properly, read this article from Your Mechanic for a step by step guide. If you find there is a problem with your clutch and are local to us, don’t hesitate to contact our team who carry out Clutch repairs in Milton Keynes on a daily basis. They will be able to advise you accordingly and let you know what the problem may be.

man changing car oil

6. Oil

It’s a good idea to carry out a thorough under the bonnet check, to make sure that everything looks present and correct. One of these checks should include your oil, which helps all of the moving parts within your engine work seamlessly together without overheating. Oil should be changed every 3 months or around 3000 miles, so if you are getting close to this marker, it’s best to change it before carrying out a long trip to be on the safe side. Take a look at your vehicle’s own guide to find out how often you should be changing your oil. For a full breakdown on the importance of changing your oil and why it needs to be done, have a read of this information from Wonderopolis.

7. Battery

Signs of a low battery can be usually detected by looking at the headlights; if they are dim, you could need to charge it up. A healthy battery should be at 12.6 volts when resting and more when the ignition is on – Auto Batteries have a useful guide on how to do this, but if in doubt, speak to a professional mechanic.

8. Head Gasket

Probably a lesser checked component within a vehicle but important nonetheless – a head gasket makes sure that the oil and coolant fluids do not mix together and seals in the internal combustion process. Occasionally, a head gasket can become defective and blowout, causing a number of internal problems within your vehicle. Fortunately, having carried out Head gasket replacement in Milton Keynes for many years now, we promise that it isn’t a large job or expensive either. So if you think there may be a problem, call your local mechanic right away.

family on a road trip

You’re Good To go!

We’ve come to the end of our list and hope that we’ve helped you feel more confident in making these important checks. Don’t run the risk of breaking down suddenly on a road trip; take a few moments to run through this checklist and you’ll be arming yourself against any unwelcome surprises later on down the line. You don’t need to be a professional mechanic to carry out checks to your car, but if you should need any help, please feel free to give our team a call and we’d be more than happy to help. All that’s left to say is happy travels and enjoy your road trip!

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