This year marks the 11th year since I have passed my driving test. The first day I had my car, I drove to a shopping centre about 15 miles away with my mum. Coming home, it was getting dark and Olivia, at 7 months old, needed picking up from Nursery. We had no choice but to drive on the motorway. I was simultaneously thrilled and absolutely terrified. But ultimately, looking back now, it was the best thing I could have done. Because ever since then, I have loved driving on the motorways.
Around 6 months later we took a family holiday to Butlins in Minehead. At approximately 240 miles away it was going to be slow and steady for me in my little 51 plate 1L Vauxhall Agila or as it was affectionately known, my postman pat car! The week before we left I made sure I had done all my car safety checks for long journeys. As a new driver, I knew if anything happened it would be blamed on me being a ‘new driver’ Ironically, my mum’s cars got a flat around 15 miles from home and they ended up having to be towed to a garage for a whole new wheel!
Since that first long distance drive 10 years ago, I have driven around quite a bit. We have visited places far and wide and have a huge bucket list of things and places to visit now we have a car after 4 years of not driving. But one thing remains the same. Before each long journey, I have always made sure the car is safe to drive and have undertaken a few car safety checks. Including late one Friday, when after picking up a brand new (to me) car, I drove it around the Wirral then checked water, oil, tyres and a whole host of other things before heading off to Manchester the very next day! Insane, yes but totally worth it.
So I’m going to share with you my top tips for car safety checks for long journeys.
Check Your Tyres.
After the above-mentioned incident, I can’t stress how important it is to check your tyres. You are going to be continuously driving for long periods of time, you want to make sure that the tyres are up to the job. So check the pressure is correct for both the front and back tyres and for the load you are carrying too. You can do this at any petrol station when you fill up.
Also check your tread too. This is to make sure your tyres are legal to be on the car. Have you tried the 20p test? If you place the 20p in the tread and if the tread covers the outer rim of the coin, then your tyres are above the legal limit. If not, they need to be changed before hitting the road. Also, don’t forget to check your spare tyre too for any damage. The last thing you need is to be forking out for a new tyre should anything happen.
Oil/Water/Screen Wash Top Up
It literally takes minutes to make a few checks on your water and oil levels before setting off. Your car needs these to function as it should and making sure they are topped up will help reduce any problems whilst making your journey.
Get someone to stand in front and behind your car and check all your lights. Best done in the dark, this will let you know if any bulbs will need replacing before you set off.
If your car is due a MOT around the time of your long journey it’s worth considering taking it before you leave so you know your car is roadworthy and any potential problems highlighted so you can get them fixed before your journey. You can book an MOT online at Kwik Fit after the date stated on your previous test certificate.
If you want to be extra cautious you can always opt to have a service before you leave. A full service is recommended every 12,000 and an interim one every 6,000. This is something I have done before after buying a second-hand car a month before a long journey. There was no MOT due and as I would have Olivia, one of my sisters and my eldest niece in the car, I needed a piece of mind before driving across the other side of the country.
No matter what condition your car is in, breakdown cover is always a must. Especially if like me you are pretty clueless when it comes to cars. It’s an extra piece of mind that help will be there should anything unexpected occur.
Just In Case.
Being no stranger to long journeys, there are so many things I always take with me for just in case. Keep a bag or a box in the boot for all those items that would come in handy in the event of a breakdown. You can purchase kits now with everything in them but in previous cars, I have had jump leads, water, oil, a petrol can, blanket, gloves, torch, first aid kit and tyre weld to name a few. When travelling with others make sure to keep plenty of snacks, drinks and activities.
I also have a portable battery pack for my phone. It holds 4 full charges for my phone so in an emergency I can always be contacted as my phone will be charged. But one thing I do have, in my glove compartment is all my paperwork for the car. Insurance details, breakdown cover etc. All numbers written down that I would need should I not have access to my phone. It’s great having everything stored on your phone but if you don’t have access to it would you know who to ring? So I keep a handwritten note also with numbers for family, insurance company – with policy number and breakdown cover too. It’s never hurts to be extra prepared.
Having never broken down on a long journey, but on a motorway on the way home from work, I am always extra cautious when travelling anywhere. Those of you following my car dramas over on Facebook can testify that in my case I definitely need to be!
What tips or advice would you give when undertaking car safety checks for long journeys?