Prepare for Safe Travels Ahead with Our Road Trip Checklist
Whether it’s to visit family for the holidays or to enjoy a school break, a lot of people choose to travel by car, especially during the summer when the road conditions are better.
In order to ensure a smooth road trip experience, it is crucial to conduct a pre-emptive vehicle inspection prior to embarking on extended journeys.
There are many items that should be checked during a car’s pre-trip inspection and the whole process can be a little confusing. That’s why to assist in maintaining your vehicle’s optimal condition, we have developed a comprehensive checklist that covers all the essential aspects to remember before setting off on your journey.
Below are 7 essential car components that should be checked over before traveling!
Check Your Tires’ Conditions
In Victoria, the winter season brings consistent rainfall and occasional snowfall, posing a risk of driving on wet roads and potential hydroplaning for travelers. Conversely, during the summer, the roads are dry and temperatures soar. It is vital to remember that your vehicle’s tires experience diverse conditions throughout the year, underscoring the utmost importance of conducting a thorough inspection before embarking on any extended road trip.
Having “bald” tires is likely the most common issue involving your car’s tires. Driving with bald tires can reduce driving stability since they have less grip on the asphalt. To check whether your tire is bald (i.e., has lost its original characteristics and does not adhere so well to the ground), you need to look at the tread wear indicator. This is a small bulge in the tire, often indicated by the abbreviation “TWI”, which marks the threshold of 1.6 millimeters. If the rubber of the tire is flush or below this marker, your tire is considered ‘bald’ and it’s time for a fresh rubber.
It is also important to remember to check your tire pressure regularly. Ensure that the car’s tire pressure aligns with the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Driving with flat or under-inflated tires can lead to increased instability and longer braking distances, resulting in higher fuel consumption and can ultimately making your trip that much more expensive.
Add ‘Wheels’ to the Road Trip Checklist: People usually remember to check their vehicle’s tires, but forget about the wheels! Having cracks or dents in your wheels is more common than you think, so be sure to include this assessment in your road trip checklist. This way, you are able to avoid damage to your car’s suspension, braking system, and most importantly, you significantly reduce the chances of an accident.
Balancing Your Vehicle’s Wheel Alignment
The wheels also need to be aligned and balanced, but always remember, these are two separate procedures that have complementary functions.
In the process of wheel alignment, the angles of the wheels are adjusted to restore them to the original specifications set by the manufacturer. Have you ever experienced the sensation of your car pulling to one side while driving? This is a common indication of misaligned wheels. Driving a vehicle with misalignment requires the driver to exert more effort, resulting in a more tiring (pun intended) journey. Moreover, it has negative effects on the tires, causing accelerated rubber wear.
The wheel balancing process, on the other hand, is done to distribute the weight equally around the tire’s circumference. When this process is done, it makes the wheels rotate without causing vibrations in the vehicle, making it more comfortable for the passengers, as well as increasing the tires’ life span.
It is recommended to perform these two procedures every ten thousand kilometers driven. However, it is advisable to have a checkup before traveling, even if you haven’t reached this distance yet.
If you are going on a road trip soon, it may be time to book an appointment for a preventive maintenance inspection!
Inspect Your Car’s Brake System
It is important to make sure that your car’s brake system is working properly before driving at high speeds. When inspecting your car prior to a road trip, remember to have the following components of the brake system looked over:
- Brake discs and pads
- Drums, shoes and linings
- Brake fluids
- Wheel cylinders
Following the inspection, it may be necessary to replace the brake pads in the braking system. In such cases, the new components may require a few kilometers to properly integrate with the other parts. During this adjustment period, the braking system may exhibit slight compromises. To account for this, it is advisable to avoid abrupt or sudden braking if possible. Additionally, consider driving the vehicle around the city before embarking on the road trip to ensure the system is functioning smoothly and efficiently.
When dealing with brake fluids, it is important to check both the fluid levels and their effectiveness. It can be challenging since the fluid may appear to be in the correct quantity but could be old and not functioning optimally. Typically, brake fluid has a lifespan of either 2 years or twenty thousand kilometers. If, during an inspection, it is determined that the fluid’s efficiency is compromised, it is advisable to replace it before embarking on your travels.
Don’t Forget About Your Car’s Suspension
The suspension system is another critical component that, if damaged, can have detrimental effects on other parts of your vehicle and lead to unnecessary complications. Additionally, a properly functioning suspension system is vital for ensuring passenger comfort during the journey.
During your road trip car maintenance routine, it is important to inspect the shock absorbers for any signs of damage, check for fluid leaks in the suspension system, and examine the springs for rust, cracks, or unevenness. These checks will help ensure that the suspension components are in good condition and capable of providing a smooth and safe driving experience.
Check Your Car Fluids
Your engine depends on a number of fluids to function properly. When they dry out or lose quality (it might be because they are sitting there for too long), the entire operation of the vehicle can be compromised.
Be sure to check (or have inspected) the following car fluids before your big trip:
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
Vehicle’s Electrical System
Your car’s electrical system will be working really hard during your trip. Your vehicle’s lights, for example, are a vital way of communicating with other drivers, so it is essential that they are in working condition before hitting the road.
As part of your car maintenance routine, it is essential to check the operation of various lighting components including: turn signals, brake and reverse lights, hazard warning lights, and high and low-beam headlights. Additionally, assess the condition of the battery to ensure it is prepared for high-demand usage.
In addition to the items mentioned, it is also worth inspecting other components such as windshield wipers, an air conditioning system, and your audio system. Functional wipers will ensure clear visibility during adverse weather conditions, a properly working air conditioning system will provide comfort during the trip, and a functional audio system will enhance your road trip experience with your favorite playlist!
Don’t Forget About These Additional Safety Checklist Items
Lastly, it is crucial to include a thorough inspection of your car’s safety items in your travel checklist. Ensure that the rubber on the windshield wipers is not excessively dry, and check the condition of the jack, wheel wrench, and reflective warning triangle/cone. If you carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle, remember to check its expiration date and replace it if necessary. These safety measures contribute to a safe and well-prepared journey.
Conducting a thorough inspection of your car before embarking on a road trip is of utmost importance, as it directly impacts not only the vehicle’s performance but, more importantly, your safety. Performing preventive maintenance allows you to proactively identify and address potential issues and anticipate risks that may not commonly arise during city driving but could easily occur on the road. Prioritizing these checklist items ensures a safe and secure journey for you and your fellow travelers. For over 30 years, Searle’s Auto Repair has been providing high-quality, honest service to the Greater Victoria region. To book your preventive maintenance prior to your road trip, give us a call at (250) 475-2000 or request an appointment online.