How to Prepare a Car for a Road Trip in 5 simple steps

By Olivia Apr 12, 2022

Got a sweet escape planned? let us help you prepare for the road ahead with our 5 step road trip checklist. Once complete you can rest assured knowing that you and your car are both prepared for a smooth journey.

By the end of this article, you will learn how to complete the top 5 checks that we recommend all drivers must complete ensuring a safe journey over the long weekend.

Your Road Trip Checklist:

  1. Test headlights, turn signals and horn
  2. Check Fluid levels
  3. Check your tyres including the spare with the 20c coin method.
  4. Inspect the battery and its terminals.
  5. Inspect and replace your wiper blades.

Let's get started!

Our road trip checklist is distilled down to the most critical elements. A long road trip is an exam for your car and getting your vehicle in top shape will make your trip more enjoyable. Let's being with a simple check.

1. Test headlights, turn signals and horn.

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Visibility of the road ahead is vital to a safe journey, especially with most road trips starting during the early hours of the morning it's essential to check all headlights and turn signals before you head out.

How?

Turn them on!

Get someone else to confirm that each light is properly working. If any aren’t in working order, ensure to replace the bulbs before you leave.

Lighting Checklist:

  • Headlights (inc. full beam)
  • Blinkers (indicators)
  • Brake lights
  • Hazard lights
  • Reverse lights
  • Fog lights

Most petrol stations will not carry a large variety of headlight globes, a spare set of globes specific to your car might not be a bad idea, especially if you won’t be travelling near any auto parts stores during your journey. If you need to replace a bulb on the road, refer to your owner’s manual for full instructions.

Finally, give your horn a quick ‘beep’ nothing worse than needing a horn at a critical moment only to find out that the fuse to the horn is blown.

While blubs and fuses are easily fixed if not working, it’s important to check them all before you go.

Top tip: Switch on your hazards lights and walk around the car to easily check if all your turn signals are working as they should.

If you don't have your user manual you can always use the vehicle light selector tool.

2. Check fluids levels and top up if required

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Fluids are the lifeblood of any engine. There are 3 essential fluids and they will require occasional top-ups depending on the kilometres the car has travelled, so consider how far you've driven since your last service, and how far you plan to go on your trip in order to decide what needs attention. If you’re going to pass a service interval mid-trip, you may want to keep an eye on your fluids.

Engine oil: Critical for any engine as it lubricates moving internal components. If your car has not had it's engine oil and filter changed within the recommended service Interval, use the dipstick to check the oil condition and top up if required.
Note: If the oil is black, gritty or below the minimum fill line, get it checked out right away. Please refer to your owner’s manual before adding oil as every engine will require a specific type of oil to be used and the manual will identify how often it should be changed.

Coolant: As the car will be running for longer than usual during the road trip engine coolant is nearly as vital as motor oil. Coolant not only keeps engine temps down but helps the engine maintain an optimum operating temperature. Low coolant can cause overheating, especially if the weather is hot with a fully-loaded vehicle.

Most vehicles have a transparent “overflow” tank under the hood that allows for visual inspection of the coolant level. If the coolant level is just a bit low, you can top it up (please refer to the user's manual). If the level is well below the "Low" mark, have your cooling system checked for leaks. Any coolant leak should be fixed before your trip.

CAUTION: Cooling systems are pressurised when hot. Never attempt to check engine coolant on a hot or warm vehicle.

Windshield wiper fluid: Road trips during this time of the year offer several opportunities for bugs to smash into the windscreen and there's nothing on your car's exterior more important to keep clean than the windscreen. Adding washer fluid is super basic and should be done at the start and end of every journey.

For more details check out our guide on how to express clean your windscreen.

3. Check the quality of the tyres including the spare with - The 20c coin method.

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There are 3 things you need to check with your tyres: pressure, tread and your spare tyre.

Tyre pressure: All tyres will have a maximum pressure written on the sidewall. Some European cars will have tyre pressure labels stuck to the driver's side B-pillar. Make sure your tyre pressure is correct for the amount of load you intend to carry.

How to check tyre pressure

An easy way to check is by using the gauge at the fuel station to read the pressure in your tyres then top it up to the correct level.

Add or take out air accordingly. Check the owner manual if the tyre pressure sticker can not be found.

Tyre tread: Did you know that if your tyre tread depth reaches 3mm or less it can significantly reduce grip during wet road conditions.

Let's show you how to test your tread depth with a 20c coin

Start by placing an Australian 20c coin into one of the central circumferential grooves of your tyre. If the tread doesn’t reach the bill of the platypus, your tyre has less than 3mm of tread remaining. It’s time for some new tyres.

Top tip: Don’t forget to check the tyre pressure and tread depth on the spare wheel. While checking the wheel, ensure the wheel lock nut and portable jack is in the car before you head out.

4. Check Battery and terminals.

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Road trips and sightseeing go hand in hand as we explore the beautiful countryside we might be switching the car on and off several times demanding more power from the battery.

Not to mention, all the devices we will be changing within the cabin along the way. An average car battery lasts for 5-7 years. If your battery is more than 5 years old, have it tested; replace it if you suspect it's getting weak.

Signs of a weak battery include slow cranking, headlights getting dim at idle and excessive corrosion around the battery terminals.

5. Inspect and replace your wiper blades.

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One of the simplest ways to ensure you have a safe road trip with minimal fatigue is to ensure your windscreen is clean and prepared for all weather conditions. To achieve this, you must check and replace your wiper blades. You need to be able to see when you drive, right?

It’s an awful feeling when you’re caught in a storm while driving with the family and you can’t see anything because your wipers aren’t working as they should.

Fortunately, it’s simple to check and easy to replace them if they’re worn out. The top 3 signs your wiper blades need replacing are:

Squeaking: Your blades squeal with every stroke

Shuddering: Smooth wipes have been replaced by shaky scrapes

Smearing: Your wipers have stopped clearing and started smudging

If your front or rear wipers display any of these symptoms it's best to replace them before you head off.

For a full run down, check out our guide on how to know if your wiper blades need replacing.

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Find perfect-fitting, premium-quality wiper blades for your car

Need help? Click here

Are the wipers you need out-of-stock or not shown here?

Have no fear! More than likely we'll still have the right wipers for you. We add new vehicles all the time. Let us know what you're after and we'll see what we can do!

 
 
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Posted by
Olivia Apr 12, 2022
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