Things to Check before a Road Trip
The first thing to check, according to the HGV driver training centre, is the radiator and cooling system. You should then check the engine oil, transmission and power steering fluid levels and the condition of the battery. The condition of the tyres and windscreen wipers and washer fluid should then be checked. The last things are the headlights, taillights and indicators.
How to Check Your Radiator and Cooling System
Before you remove the radiator cap, you need to allow the engine to cool for a few hours. This will help you avoid injury. To check the radiator coolant, you need to look at the plastic overflow bottle level. The level should be between the high and low markings.
When the engine is cool, you can remove the cap and check the level inside as well. If the level is low, you should top it up with the coolant recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
Checking Your Engine Oil
To check the engine oil, your vehicle must be parked on level ground. You should start the engine and run it for a short time before turning it off. While the engine is warm, you need to remove the dipstick. This should be wiped off with a paper towel or clean cloth before you reinsert it. The stick must be fully reinserted or you will get a false level.
You can then remove the dipstick and check the oil level which should be between the low and high markings. If the oil is low, you should top this up, but first check the manual for the right oil grade. If there is no oil on the stick, you should not restart the engine because it can seize, which is very expensive to repair.
Check the Tyre Condition
The life of your tyres will be reduced by incorrect tyre pressure and your car will be less safe to drive. The tyre placard will state the correct pressure for your car and this is found inside one of the front doors. If you cannot find it, you can check your manual. You should use a basic mechanical or pneumatic tyre pressure gauge to check the tyres because the service station gauge may be inaccurate.
You also need to check the tyres have enough tread left. There is a legal minimum of 1.5mm for tread depth on any part of the tyre surface. It is recommended that you replace your tyres before they wear down this much.
Check the Battery Condition
If your battery has caps, you should remove them and check that there is enough fluid for the plates to be submerged. If the battery does not have caps, there should be an indicator on the case. You should check this to determine the health of your battery. If the levels are low, you need to top it up with distilled water.
Check Transmission and Power Steering Fluids
The way to do this depends on the vehicle model you have. You will need to check the owners’ manual for more information. If you have a low fluid level, there could be a leak and this has to be looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Check Windscreen Wipers and Washer Fluid
You should fill the washer bottle with water and the correct amount of washer fluid. Do not use any household detergents for this as they will damage the wiper blades and your paint.
If your wiper blades do not clean properly, you need to replace them. This should be done if they are spilt or otherwise damaged as well.
Check the Lights
Working lights are vital for safety, but they are often overlooked. You need to test your headlights and indicators, including the high beams. You should ask someone to help you check the reverse and brake lights.