We might still be in the grip of winter, but many people will no doubt be planning a road trip of some sort over the coming weeks. Whether it’s to visit family or escape on a New Year’s minibreak, chances are it could mean a long stint behind the wheel.
It’s tempting when there’s a lengthy journey ahead to simply throw your belongings into the car and hit the road – but neglecting to ensure your vehicle is up to the trip could be costly in the long run.
Breakdowns could be preventable
According to Driving Instructions Association magazine, there are as many as 500 breakdowns every day on Britain’s motorways. And although some of these incidents will simply be down to unfortunate faults, many could be prevented if drivers took a little more time to prepare.
“Many breakdowns are avoidable if proper care is taken of your vehicle, both before and during a journey, so it’s important to conduct a thorough inspection of your car before leaving home and to stay vigilant on the roads when driving,” Green Flag states.
It might sound daunting, but there are a number of easy maintenance tasks you could and should be doing as a vehicle owner each time you plan to make a long trip.
Spending just five minutes on a quick round-up before you set off could help to keep you safe and prevent the major headache that breaking down can cause.
So, what are these jobs that need to be added to the to-do list? Let’s take a look to refresh your memory:
This might sound obvious, but a recent study by LV= found as many as 800,000 drivers every year break down because they have failed to notice their fuel tank is empty – or they decide to chance it once the red light comes on.
Always take a look at the fuel gauge ahead of your trip and make time to head to the petrol station if it’s looking low. You might also like to consider where you can fill up on the way to your destination, if it’s an especially long journey.
2- Oil, coolant and screenwash
Another important area to examine is under the bonnet. The RAC states that as many as one in three cars have oil levels that are dangerously low, which could cause catastrophic damage to their engine.
Use the dipstick as you were trained to on your driving test and ensure the oil mark lies between the minimum and maximum lines. While you’re there, take a look at coolant levels and top up the screenwash too.
The latter might not sound important, but it’s surprising how dirty the windscreen can get in both winter and summer as everything from grit to pollen assails it – and you don’t want to be stuck behind filthy glass with no way to clean it as you zip down the motorway.
This is another biggie, with figures from the RAC showing tyre problems are the most common cause of breakdowns in Britain. Look for any signs of wear, tear and bulges around the full circumference of each tyre, and check the tread for a minimum depth of 1.6 mm.
Tyre pressure should also be correct and you may have an indicator on your dash to alert you if this isn’t the case. If not, you’ll need to use a tyre pressure gauge, which can be found at your local petrol station, if you don’t have one.
Not only are lights essential for the safety of you and other road users, but you could also be fined if any of them are not in full working order and you’re spotted by police. Check the bulbs before setting off, even if you plan to be driving in the daylight.
5- Emergency kit
Keeping a bag of essentials in your vehicle is always prudent should you get stuck in traffic or become the victim of adverse weather or other unforeseen circumstances. In winter, warm blankets and plenty of snacks should be included, as well as torches and high-visibility vests.
If you don’t have these, consider stocking up in advance of your journey to stay on the safe side.
Should you carry out any of these tasks and spot what you think could be a problem, seek professional help and don’t take to the roads until you’re sure it is fixed.
Heather Stark, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, comments: “Maintenance might seem like an unnecessary chore, but it really could be the difference between life and death. At the very least, it could prevent an embarrassing breakdown, so don’t put it off – get under that bonnet!”