Lifestyle

How to Prepare Your Car for a Long Drive: 6 Tips to Keep in Mind

There will be a rise in road trips in 2021 – at least according to a study from Harvest Hosts.

A whopping 76 percent of respondents said they intend to go on drives more than they did in 2020. In fact, almost all the respondents (99 percent) admitted that they feel safer travelling in their own vehicles.

With concerts, big sporting events, or major festivals still being limited due to health concerns, these numbers are far from surprising.

Of course, people were already in love with road trips even way before COVID-19. If you’re among those who want to relish the wonders of the road, you’ll have to be thoroughly prepared.

To ensure your safety and make the ride most enjoyable, here are six tips you need to keep in mind when prepping for a long drive:

1. Prepare a checklist.

With so many things to do, it would help if you had a list of the items you need to bring and tasks that need to be performed before your long drive.

The car prep tasks will be discussed in great detail later. For now, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need in your car survival kit, such as:

  • Jumper cables
  • A couple of flashlights with spare batteries
  • A thick towing rope or chain
  • Different sizes of wrenches and screwdrivers
  • Some bungee cords
  • Pliers
  • A hammer
  • Reflective emergency triangles
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Duct tape

You’ll also need a couple of things to protect yourself from the weather, like rain ponchos and umbrellas. Plus, make sure you have a way of calling for help when necessary (e.g., mobile phone with car charger).

2. Inspect your car’s tyres.

Besides the essential seasonal check-ups, you also need to inspect your vehicle before every extended road trip to reduce the chances of the car running into trouble. And one of the first things you need to check is the tyres.

Here, you’ll need to focus on three main things: air pressure, tyre tread, and alignment.

Tyre Pressure

With too little pressure on your tyres, your car is bound to use up too much petrol. Too much, and it would be difficult to manoeuvre your vehicle. Plus, having the wrong air pressure can lead to premature and uneven wearing of the tyres.

Fortunately, this is easy to deal with; simply pump more or less air into them to get the ideal tyre pressure. You’ll find those numbers in the vehicle’s manual or printed on a sticker inside the driver’s door.

Measure the tyre pressure before you set out on your road trip and every 1,000 miles after. If the temperature changes significantly, recheck the pressure as it could affect the air pressure inside your tyres.

Tyre Tread

Tyre tread signifies the amount of wear and tear the tyre has gone through. It also provides traction and channels water away from the tyres to remain in contact with the road, even on a slick road.

If the tyre tread is too worn down, controlling your vehicle could be much more difficult, particularly during rainy days.

You can use the penny test to see if the tyre tread on all the wheels is at the optimum level.

Tyre Alignment

Misaligned tyres could cause uneven tyre tread. And even a slight imbalance in weight from the misalignment could spell disaster on long road trips, so take the time to check tyre alignment for a safer drive.

Besides knowing what to check, it is also imperative that you learn how to replace flat or faulty tyres. You can’t always count on help with this, especially if you’re going somewhere away from towns and providers of tyre change services.

3. Check your car’s fluids.

Fluids help make your car run smoothly. Service intervals typically depend on mileage, but if you’re going on a lengthy drive soon, it would be best to bring up your vehicle’s fluid check schedule.

Before your road trip, check the engine oil’s condition. Don’t forget the brake, coolant, clutch, power steering, and windscreen fluid levels. This way, you won’t have to take too many emergency stops on your drive.

4. Replace filters and brake pads.

A fresh set of filters and brake pads help ensure that you’ll get the best possible driving conditions on your road trip.

Brake pads

The brake pads provide the necessary friction to bring your vehicle to a slow-down or a halt. They get worn down over time, which could affect their effectiveness and lead to unhealthy consequences.

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to determine whether it’s time to replace your brake pads. If you step on the brakes while the car is running and hear a squealing or screeching noise, that means there’s not enough pad material on your brake pads.

You can also perform a visual inspection to see whether the pads are already less than a quarter-inch thick, though you may need to remove the wheels to do so.

Depending on the brake pad material and how they are used, you may need to replace them between 25,000 and 70,000 miles.

Air filters

Air filters prevent bugs, dust, and debris from entering the engine and the car’s interior. As they are used, these components eventually reach their maximum capacity and become blocked. This could affect fuel economy, engine performance, and air quality inside the vehicle.

Replace filters at least once every year, or:

  • Every 10,000 to 15,000 miles for the engine air filter
  • Every 12,000 to 15,000 miles for the cabin filter

The good news is that these are easy to replace and relatively inexpensive.

5. Keep the lights working.

Headlights, taillights, and indicator lights should all be in good working order, especially during a long drive. Aside from being a possible reason to get pulled over, burnt-out exterior lights increase the risk of road accidents, particularly at night.

To check that they are working, turn on your vehicle, put the gear lever to “Park,” and switch them on. Keep the car’s handbrake up and walk around to check if all the bulbs are working. Do the same for both the right and left indicator lights.

As for the taillights, you can ask a friend to step on the pedal or keep it down using a brick while you inspect the lights.

6. Bring your car to the car wash.

Clean the interior and get rid of any unnecessary clutter. Focus on anything that you come in contact with more frequently, like the floor mats, seats, dashboard, and storage areas. Deal with bugs, bird excrement, and other debris that may have stuck onto the exterior of the car.

If there’s a smell that won’t seem to go away or a hard-to-remove stain, bringing your vehicle to a car wash might be the best solution. Let the pros handle it.

Of course, car washes don’t only clean the cabin or even the exterior shell of your car. The best ones also offer engine cleaning services to prime your engine for the trip.

Ready for a Road Trip?

Prepping your vehicle for an extended road trip should be done more carefully and thoroughly. Follow the tips listed here to make sure nothing gets in the way of an excellent drive.

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