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Essential Car Checks before a Long Journey

Checking your car before a long journey is important at any time of year, however, it becomes even more essential in the winter months when the weather conditions are often less than ideal which makes it especially important to give your car a once over before you leave.

Long journey

Check your lights

If you’re making a long journey in the winter months, the chances are, you are going to spend at least some of the time driving in the dark.  Before you set off, check that your lights are clean and working, remembering to check your indicators, brake lights and fog lights as well as your headlights.  Whatever the conditions, it is important that other road users can clearly see you.

Turn the lights on and walk around your car, checking that everything is in order.  If it’s not, get your bulbs replaced before beginning your journey. If you’re not confident with what you’re doing, shops and garages that stock bulbs will often be able to fit them for a small charge.

Check tyre pressure

Most petrol stations have a machine that will allow you to check your tyre pressure, and if necessary, inflate them for you. You can also purchase your own tyre pressure inflator at a relatively low cost. Keeping your tyres at the correct pressure is important from both a safety and financial perspective.  Underinflated tyres can increase breaking distance, cause your tyres to wear more quickly, and increase your fuel consumption.  This is especially noticeable on long journeys.

Your tyre pressures should be written in your vehicle handbook.  If you can’t find the information you are looking for, there are plenty of websites which will allow you to check by simply entering your vehicle registration number.

Check your screenwash

It is especially important to keep your screenwash topped up in the winter months, as gritted roads will quickly make your windscreen dirty. The water in the screenwash reservoir under the bonnet can freeze during the winter months, so make sure you add enough screenwash solution to prevent this happening. The back of your screenwash bottle should give dilution ratios for different temperatures. If you aren’t confident about getting the balance of water and screenwash right, you can always buy a premixed solution.

Topping up your screenwash is something you can do yourself, and is usually a matter of just filling up a tank under your bonnet until it is full.

Check your oil levels

Checking your engine oil is something you should be doing regularly anyway, using the dipstick provided, as driving around with low oil levels can damage your engine.  If you do find your oil levels need topping up, it is important to use the correct oil for your vehicle, as using the wrong oil could do more harm to your engine than good.  This is definitely one of those things that is better to check with a garage if you aren’t sure, as a mistake could be very costly.

Check your emergency supplies

Following this list of car checks to do before a long journey should help reduce your chances of being involved in a breakdown or accident, however, it’s important to be prepared just in case.  In addition to food and water, warm clothes, a blanket and a torch are useful things to keep in your car during the colder weather.

And if you’re driving with children, here are some games to play in the car with kids on long journeys