It is always crucial to keep checking your car and performing basic maintenance. Cars are highly powerful and complicated machines and thus even the most well-made car will need regular attention in order to stay running efficiently and to remain safe. If you don't perform regular maintenance and checks then you might put not only yourself in danger but also any passengers who might ride with you and also the other drivers on the road.
But while maintenance is always important, it becomes especially so when you are travelling long distances. These can take their toll on your car and furthermore they leave you with little chance to perform maintenance while you're travelling. It might be a long time before you get to make repairs and in the meantime you might not be safe on the road.
Here then we will look at some of the most importance maintenance you need to perform before setting off on any long car journey, as well as some additional tips that can help to keep you safer.
Windshield Wiper Fluid
If your windshield wiper fluid is low and you haven't had a chance to top it up, then it would only take some dirty rain in order for your visibility to be seriously compromised. In turn this would greatly increase your chances of having an accident as even a slight reduction in visibility can seriously undermine your reaction times and prevent you from being able to see and react to something coming your way on the motorway in time.
Your windshield wiper fluid will normally be held in a transparent or translucent container inside your bonnet, normally located higher up towards the windshield itself. It should have a cap that might have a picture of your wipers on them – and if not you can locate it by referring to your driver's manual. If you can find this, then all you need to do is fill it up to a point between the 'min' and 'max' level with a solution made from one part wiper fluid and two parts water (add too much wiper fluid and your wipers will leave a sticky residue behind them).
If it's very cold, then you might also want to consider adding a little antifreeze into your wiper fluid solution too to help clear ice and condensation.
Now is also a good time to check and top up your oil. Your engine oil is crucial in order to lubricate, cool and seal your engine, so you need to ensure you have ample supply before you set off. To do this, locate the dipstick in your car bonnet (it's the round or T-shaped handle) and pull it upwards. Clean the end off, then dip it back into the slot it came from in order to see how high the oil is coming up. On the dipstick, you should find again that there are markers for a minimum and maximum level and ideally you want your oil to be at a point just between those. If you need more, top it up by pouring your engine oil into the cap marked 'OIL'. Again, refer to your manual if you are at all unsure.
This might sound obvious, but making sure you have enough gas in your car before you set off is crucial.
Now most people know they need gas but the problem is that they think they can put off actually doing it until the red light comes on on the dashboard. This is a big mistake, as if you get caught in traffic there will be no telling how long you might have to wait until you come to a gas station. And what happens if you get lost?
For those reasons, it's well worth topping up right at the start of your journey and making sure you have a full tank if you're going to be on the road for a long time. Ultimately, you won't be saving any money by putting it off – in fact you might be forced to spend more money if you end up having to call out the mechanic to help you get off the side of the motorway because you broke down…
Your tires need filling with more air regularly and this is something you can do relatively easily at most gas stations. When you top up your fuel before setting off, make sure you top up your tires as well. This way your car will be more responsive and it will be more fuel efficient thus meaning you won't waste as much money on gas.
Another important thing to check before setting off, is that your lights are all working. It's actually surprisingly easy not to notice that your lights have stopped working and unless another car starts blinking at you, you can end up driving around without them for a long time. Turn the car on, turn on all the lights and then take a look around or get a friend too.
Take a seat in your car and make sure that you can see easily out the front windshield. You may find that you have a lot of chips or a lot of grime on your front window. If you have lots of chips, then consider using a windshield chip repair kit. If you have a lot of grime, then it's just a case of giving your glass a thorough wash before taking off. Remember to wash the rear windshield and passenger seats too to ensure that you have full 360 degree vision out your car.
Most important of all is that your brakes are working and you aren't going to have difficulty stopping on the road. For the most part, there's no need to suspect anything is wrong with your brakes and they shouldn't need regularly changing or topping up with brake fluid between services. That said though, you do need to listen to your car and to that way spot any early signs that they might be wearing out. Do they squeak and make a lot of noise when you start braking? Do they feel slow to respond or 'spongey'?
Finally, it's a good idea to stock your car up with supplies on long journeys. The longer you are travelling for, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong. That might sound pessimistic, but it pays sometimes to think of worst case scenarios so that you can prepare accordingly. If you break down, then the following supplies could well be of use:
A blanket to stay warm
A fully charged phone to be able to call for help/tell people you're going to be late
Food and water
First aid kit
Salt (if it's cold)
Make sure you have all these things with you in the car and you should be able to take care of any situation.
While there's no reason to suspect that anything will go wrong on your next long journey, it's always better to be safe rather than sorry and by taking these few precautions you can be much safer in the knowledge that you and your vehicle are prepared for the worst!