20 tips for preparing your car for a long summer drive

Are you going on vacation soon and taking your car for a long drive? It’s important for your safety to check certain points.

With summer just around the corner, many of you are planning road trips, and it’s a very good idea indeed. It’s a great way to let go, get a change of scenery and enjoy quality time with family and friends. A road trip offers the promise of an epic adventure… which can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not careful. To help you avoid the endless mishaps of a road movie gone wrong, read this travel guide with twenty tips to prepare your car for long journeys with complete peace of mind.

Before departure

Check or change the oil: If it’s not time for an oil change, check the oil level with the dipstick and top up if necessary.

Replace the engine air filter: Consult your owner’s manual to locate the air filter. If it’s clogged, don’t hesitate to replace it.

Check your spark plugs: If your car is idling or you’re having trouble starting it, it may be time to replace your spark plugs. Check that the spark plugs are neither corroded nor fouled, and that the electrode gap is correct. If this is not the case, replace them, but don’t forget to consult your owner’s manual for the correct procedure.

Check your tires: There’s nothing worse than having a puncture on a freeway in the middle of a heatwave. To avoid this, check the condition of your tires before setting off. A simple coin will do the trick. Insert a one-euro coin into the bottom of a groove in the tread. If the engraved stars on the edge of the coin are visible, it’s time to change your tire. Some tires have wear indicators (check the manufacturer’s website). Similarly, if you notice any cracks, tears or bulges on the surface of your tires, they’re ready to be replaced. What’s more, if your car vibrates or pulls to one side, you may need to have a wheel alignment performed before hitting the road. Finally, if everything looks good, make sure your tires are inflated to the right pressure.

Check the shock absorbers: Does your car make strange noises when you drive over bumps? Or does the front end « dive » when you brake or accelerate? Press hard on your hood to see if your car bounces back after you let go. If so, you may need to change your front shock absorbers.

Check the condition of the jack and spare wheel: Don’t underestimate this check before setting off. Just because the spare tire has never been used doesn’t mean it’s in good condition. Like all tires, spare tires deflate over time: make sure yours is properly inflated. Finally, check that your jack is stored in the right place. And don’t forget to test it before your trip to make sure it’s working properly.

Voiture pour un long voyage sur la route en France

Photo credit: PxHere

Check or change wipers and washer fluid: Insects, dirt and weather can easily obscure your windscreen. To keep your view clear, replace your wiper blades and fill your washer reservoir. Most wiper blades are easy to replace yourself. Just follow the instructions in your owner’s manual or on the spare parts packaging.

Check fluid levels: Power steering fluid, transmission oil and antifreeze are essential fluids for your trip. Make sure yours have been changed and filled to the levels recommended by the manufacturer. Most fluid containers have gauges and volume indicators on the side.

Drain the radiator: High temperatures can cause your car to overheat. To avoid finding yourself on the side of the road with a smoking car, remember to have your radiator drained, especially if the last oil change was more than a year ago. This is because antifreeze sediments often clog the pipes. Draining your radiator is essential for your vehicle to run smoothly.

Check headlights: Brake lights, indicators, high beam and low beam – test them all in the dark.

Check battery condition: Open the cover to inspect the battery. Are the connections loose? Are cables frayed or broken? Is the casing dirty, corroded or even cracked? If you see liquid oozing from the battery, it’s time to replace it. You can clean the terminals by first removing the cables (negative first), then scrubbing them with an old toothbrush and a paste of baking soda and water. Car batteries have a lifespan of three to five years. How old is yours? You can test it with a voltmeter.

Check the brakes: top up the brake fluid and check the brake pads – especially if you’re heading for the mountains. The aim is to prevent the brakes from letting you down on a steep descent. If your brake pads are worn, i.e. 5 millimeters thick or less, have them replaced.

Inspect belts and hoses: Have you noticed holes, cracks or frayed walls in your belts or hoses? Replace them now, before they cost you dearly in repairs.

Road-trip, contrôler sa voiture pour plus de sécurité

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Zach Dischner

Check your plip: Many newer cars are equipped with a remote door locking system: the « plip ». If you’ve been using it for a long time, remember to replace the battery so you don’t find yourself locked out of the vehicle.

Read your manual: Few people take the time to read their vehicle owner’s manual until there’s an emergency. A quick read today could save you serious hassle later.

Check your horn: Just once, thank you. It’s best to avoid annoying the neighbors.

What to take on your long car journey

Here are a few items that may come in handy if you have a little trouble on the road:

  • Tire gauge
  • Tire sealing foam
  • Bridging cables
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Roll of duct tape
  • Towing strap or tow rope
  • Utility knife
  • Rain poncho
  • Funnel
  • Drinking water
  • Snacks
  • Coverage

But also :

Sun visors: Hours spent in the blazing sun can be harmful to drivers and passengers alike. Side suction cup sun visors help reduce the impact of heat and glare while driving.

Car insurance and emergency assistance contact details: Needless to say, it would be unwise to leave without these basic guarantees.

Cell phone and charger: nowadays almost indispensable, your cell phone is one of the most precious travel accessories. Whether you use it to listen to music, use GPS, find a restaurant or call in an emergency, it’s your best ally. Remember to buy a cigarette-lighter phone charger, to make sure you don’t run out of battery when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

First-aid kit: Bandages, scissors and disinfectant wipes are among the essentials. These basics can be supplemented with insect repellent, sunscreen, anti-inflammatories and, if you have a doctor’s prescription, an Epipen (adrenaline auto-injection pen), useful in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

Songs, books and games: you can’t go on a road trip without a soundtrack worthy of the name! And if you’ve got kids, pack a bag of games to keep them entertained. And don’t forget audiobooks: they can cover long distances in the blink of an eye.

GPS or maps: Not a fan of the old-fashioned method of navigation? Check your app store to download one of the many mobile GPS navigation applications. The Google Maps app comes pre-installed on many smartphones.

Main photo credit: PxHere