Long journey

Vehicle checks to make before a long journey

Vehicle checks for a long journey

In a typical year, a UK driver covers almost 6,700 miles, according to the Department of Transports survey into driving habits. The same survey also found that the average distance of a journey was just seven miles. From this survey it’s clear to see that we’re making lots of short trips in comparisons to longer ones. but when you do need to make a long journey, can your car cope with the extra stress and stain? This is why we have provided some pointers to take in to consideration when checking your car for a long journey. 

What to consider 

Tyres

The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the central 3/4 of the tyre, all the way around. If your tyres are any less, you could earn yourself three points and a £2,500 fine per tyre. However, it’s not just the depth you need to check before taking a long drive. You should also check also the pressures of your tyres. Vehicles with unevenly, under or over inflated tyres can become unstable. Most cars have a sticker on the inside of the drivers door detailing the correct pressure based on the vehicle and load. This will be related to the size of the tyre which you can compare from the sticker to the details on the sidewall of the tyre. It’s also a good idea to check around for cuts or budges in all tyres as this may potentially lead to a blowout.

long journey tyre

The Coolant

Engine coolant is essentially a combination of antifreeze and water. Antifreeze does, of course, help to prevent the coolant from freezing during subzero temperatures, but the chemicals in antifreeze actually increase the boiling point of water which also helps to prevent engines from overheating. Coolant circulates the engine to help it keep help it maintain operable temperatures. Before taking a long drive, ensure that you have sufficient coolant levels in the overflow tank, although typically it doesn’t need to be topped up often, it’s good to check prior to a long journey. You can purchase coolant that is correctly mixed with antifreeze and distilled water that you pour directly into the overflow tank.

If you want to find out more regarding how to check and top up your coolant, check out our previous blog here:

Oil

Without oil your engine will overheat, weld itself together and self-destruct, luckily its easy to check your oil level. With the engine cold and the car level, check the dipstick. Top up as necessary via the cap at the top of the engine, and give the oil time to run down to the sump before rechecking the level. But take care not to overfill as it could cause your oil to develop froth or foam, which will prevent it from doing it’s purpose, overfilling can also cause your car to overheat quickly.

Spare Tyre

There is nothing worse than getting a flat tyre, only to realise that the spare one is missing, damaged or also flat. Check that your car has a spare tyre in good condition, also the equipment needed to fit the spare tyre (jack, handle and wheel brace). Some new cars are now being equipped with space-saver tyres, these are small temporary tyres that have a maximum distance of 50 miles. Don’t worry if your car doesn’t have a spare tyre, new cars now come with a puncture repair kit instead.

Windscreen

It’s no fun peering through two arched smears of exploded summer flies, which is why i’d recommend filling up your washer bottle before you leave. You can use water, but the stuff you can buy in garages contains antifreeze and detergents, which will generally clean the windscreen better than just water.

Lights

Make sure you check all your lights: indicator, brake, dip, full beam, fog and so on, one by one. Either get a friend to watch for blown bulbs, or park by a white wall or shop one night to see them yourself. Ensuring your lights are fully functional is imperative to completing a long journey.

suzuki ignis driving with lights on

The Boot

Is your boot full of boxes, sports equipment and a scarily large amount of unwanted junk that’s never made it in the house? Now would be a good time to clear it all out. Carrying unnecessary weight will waste fuel on a long journey.

Battery

If your car is quite new, then this shouldn’t be an issue. A car battery lasts from around four years onward. However, there’s not really a specific time when they need replacing as it’s dependent on various factors such as quality of the battery and driving habits. Frequent short drives can lessen a batteries life as can colder climates. Take a quick look at the battery under your bonnet. Look at the general condition of the terminals. If there are signs of corrosion, it may be nearing the end of its life. Another sign is if your car appears to be turning over slower when starting. The last thing you need when out on a long drive is a dead battery, so it may be best to get it replaced.

Navigation

A long journey will require a lot of planning, most importantly, the route you will take to get there. Which is why it’s a good idea to have a navigation system to hand to help guide the way. It’s also a good idea to have a map to hand just in-case a problem occurs with your navigation device.

man holding road atlas map

Other Items

Once all checks have been made, you can start to prepare other items you may want to bring for you travel. Food and drink can be useful as you will save time having to find somewhere to buy it. Having a first-aid kit in your vehicle is a good precaution to take just in-case any injuries occur. It may also be a good idea to keep a blanket in the car in case you break down at night. Lastly, a torch/flashlight. If your journey will consist of nighttime driving, packing this should be an essential as it will be a huge help to finding out a problem with your vehicle, should you have one.

Want to make sure your car is ready for a long journey? Why not book it in for a health check at one of our service centres. They are located in Byfleet, Bookham and Orpington.

Have we missed anything that you would check before a long journey? If so, Let us know on our socials! We are @twwhiteandsons on Twitter and Facebook. Check out more guides and tips on our blog!