8 things every car owner forgets to check when road tripping with their commuter vehicle
Your car might seem like it’s running well between point A and point B, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to go all the way to point Z and back over the long weekend.
Most commuter vehicles in decent nick can handle longer drives every so often, provided you’ve taken the time to prepare. Putting 10 minutes aside to make sure everything’s ticking over nicely before you head out can save you a major headache four hours into your drive.
Here are eight things every car owner forgets to check when road tripping with their commuter vehicle. As April Harwood, CSMO of JAX Tyres, says, “The most common mistakes Aussie road trippers’ make is actually before they’re on the road.”
- Windscreen and wipers
This is one of those items that doesn’t seem like it will be a problem until you’re two days into your drive and can barely see four metres ahead of your vehicle. Before you head out give your windscreen a quick clean. Check your wipers and don’t forget to top up your wiper fluid. You’ll thank yourself after you pull out the dust storm on the Nullarbor.
At a glance your tyres might seem fine, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to face the rigours of a long road trip. If you’re going to spend time and money on road trip vehicle prep, this should be one of your areas of focus.
Inspect your current tyres. Make sure your tyre tread depth adheres to the most widely accepted minimum standard of 1.5mm and make sure your tyre pressure is where it should be. April Harwood says, “If your tyre pressure is too high, you can lose traction on the roads, while if tyre pressure is too low, the rubber will wear faster.”
- Spare tyre
When’s the last time you checked your spare tyre? Before you head out on a longer trip (especially one where the distances between mechanics might be eye-wateringly significant) it’s worth taking the time to make sure your spare tyre is in decent condition. The only thing worse than getting a flat on the road is swapping your flat out with a dud.
- Wheel alignment
This is definitely something you don’t think about on your daily commute, but incorrect wheel alignment can cause major issues when using your car for a longer trip.
April Harwood says, “Poor wheel alignment impacts how square tyres are when rolling down the road. A lack of symmetry could lead to uneven wear and tear, so if your car favours one side it’s a clear sign to address wheel alignment.
- Air filter
Slightly unclean air filters might have a negligible effect on your daily commute, when you start racking up the kilometres behind the when it can make a big difference on a longer drive in terms of fuel economy. If you’re going to be driving for a while it’s worth getting these replaced to make sure everything is up to standard.
Don’t leave the fate of your road trip resting on Google Maps. It might seem a little archaic in 2019, but before you head out revise your route with a physical map you can bring along. That way if you’re off course you can make the sort of navigational decision that won’t end with your vehicle half-submerged in an unmarked river.
If you’ve got the funds and the inclination, it might be worth investing in some decent navigation equipment. Canstar’s car insurance expert, Steve Mickenbecker, says, “If you’re likely to be driving through any remote areas it is worth considering whether to bring special equipment along for the ride, such as a satellite phone and navigation so you can stay connected when you run out of reception.”
Your car’s going to get dirty anyway, so there’s no point in it being clean at the start of the trip right? Wrong! If you’re travelling with others a clean vehicle can be the difference between a fun trip and the four of you never talking to each other again.
And don’t forget the exterior of the vehicle. Smears and dirty spots on the windows can cause glares and impede your vision while you’re driving.
- Survival kit
If something nasty happens on the road, you’re also going to want to know you’ve got the tools to deal with this problem. A survival kit should include snacks, water, a first aid kit, torch and jumper cables. When your car has forgotten how to start in the middle of nowhere, these are all very nice things to have.
Ben Squires is a freelance writer based in Sydney interested in all things travel, finance and comedy.