Travelling long distances and making lengthy journeys proves to be a serious test of your car’s current condition and maintenance level. Minor glitches in a car’s condition may turn your enjoyable trip into a really problematic tour so it is better for drivers to make necessary adjustments and repairs before you plan your journey. The following paragraphs will illustrate some basic procedures to help you deal with some minor faults but it is recommended that you take your to a workshop or mechanic for a thorough check-up. The below-mentioned actions must be made a few days before your trip, do not procrastinate and wait for the last day.
Get information from your Car’s Manual
The owner’s manual contains all needed information about your vehicle. Things like the location of jack, changing a tire. Changing a headlight bulb and a lot more is discussed there. Reading it will definitely help you and give you an idea about what you are going to do.
Start with the Engine Oil
Oil changes are essential for a car’s engine and frequent oil changes reduce chances of any damage to it. If you have not changed your oil for a while, doing it before a long trip will be a good idea.
To check the engine oil, make sure that the car is on a flat surface, then warm the engine and stop. Give it a minute so that the oil pours down the oil pan. Find the oil dipstick, pull it out and wipe it with a clean cloth then insert it back again. Pull it out again and examine the level, it should be full. If the oil appears very black, it needs to be replaced immediately. If the oil seems fine, then simply use the same oil to optimize the level.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
You need to take care of your transmission fluid as well. If you have not replaced it in a long time then do it before your trip. Long journeys are a real test of your car’s overall ability.
Examining the transmission fluid takes some simple steps, Warm the car while parking it on an even surface. Put the car in the parking position and leave the engine idle. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it. Reinsert it completely and pull it out, now check the fluid level and condition. Transmission fluid has a red or pinkish-red colour when new but becomes brownish with time. If the oil seems too dark, change it.
Engine Antifreeze or Coolant
Check the engine coolant level in the tank. The level should be between ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ marks. Check for leaks, lack of coolant can cause the car to overheat and seriously damage the engine. If there are no leaks you are good to go. Simply top the coolant up if it is a little below the optimum. Remember never open your radiator if the engine is hot.
There is no real method to predict or assume when the battery will die. It can happen suddenly without any prior symptoms. Battery life is usually somewhere in between 2 to 5 years if your battery is 4 to 5 years old, it is recommended that you change it before the trip. Take a look at the battery for acid leaks, cracks or other damages like corroded terminals. Fix them if possible or simply replace it.
Some more items to check
Check the brake fluid, power steering fluid and washer fluid. Also look for any irregularities like a leak, loose clamps and hoses.
Get the tire pressure balanced. Usually, the recommended pressure is indicated on the manufacturer’s label. Inspect the tread wear as well, if it is too worn out change the tires as they are not safe to drive as is. Wearing of tires can also mean wheel alignment problems.
Steering and Suspension
Suspensions and steering can be inspected properly in a repair shop. If you feel strange noise, vibrations or knocking then there is a problem that needs your attention. If the shock absorbers appear dry or any one of them appears dry then it needs change. If your car meanders from the side at high speed or the steering wheel is out of centre then you need to check the wheel alignment.
Constant Velocity (CV) Joint boots
These joint transfer torque to the front wheels. They are greased from the inner side and enclosed by a rubber boot that can break sometimes. If this rubber breaks, then all the lubricant will leak out causing the CV joint to become inoperative. You can do this by turning your wheels outside, if you see splashes of grease it means the rubber has broken. If not then there is no need for change.
Electrical equipment and lights
The lights, wipers and horns need to be checked. Spare bulbs for headlight and back can be helpful. Wiper blades need to be changed if they are not properly wiping the windshield. Ensure that AC and heater are working.
Jack, Wheel Wrench and spare tire
The pressure of the spare tire should also be balanced as in the other tires. See if the jack is working and wrench too. If your spare tire is placed underneath then make sure it is easily removable. If you have wheel locks installed then make sure you have the keys and wrench to remove them.
Car emergency kit
It should include; jumper wires, tire gauge, tire sealer-inflater can flashlight and a simple tool kit which contains screwdrivers, pliers and other common tools.
Do not forget the first aid kit and items like blankets, extra water and energy bars.