A longer journey or road trip can be an exciting prospect

And a proper adventure if you do it correctly. So, whether you’re heading on a summer holiday or winter vacation, there’s lots to look forward to.

However, before any long journey it’s really important to do a number of checks on your vehicle. This will not only improve the safety of you and your occupants, but will also reduce the likelihood of a breakdown. Here’s what you should be checking…

close up of a tyre showing the tyre tread


The tyres are the only area of your car that are in contact with the road, and are majorly important to check regularly – not just on longer trips.

There are two particular elements to inspect – the tyre condition and the pressures. Let’s look at the latter first, as these are key to making sure the rubber is correctly inflated. You should be able to find the recommended tyre pressures in your vehicle or handbook, or they’re often found in the fuel filler flap. If your car is fully loaded, make sure to adjust them to account for this, though you’ll find this information in the same place.

Secondly, check the tread depth of the tyres. The minimum legal requirement is 1.6mm (you can check by putting a 20p into the tread and the outer band of the coin should be obscured if there’s enough tread). Even if your tyres are close to this, though, you should think about replacing them. At the same time, have a look for any rips, cuts or bulges in the tyre as these could compromise safety too.

Fluid levels

The next checks to do are under the bonnet, so pop it up first. Fluid levels are paramount to a vehicle’s safe running, with the main ones to check being the oil, washer fluid and coolant levels.

Washer fluid is the easiest one. Though you can theoretically just use water, we recommend using dedicated washer fluid, which can be poured straight in, and will do a much better job of cleaning the windscreen.

Next, check the oil. For this, remove the dipstick, wipe the end of it on a cloth or clean paper towel, and then put back in. Remove again, and if there’s no oil showing on at the bottom of the dipstick, you’ll need to top this up. The recommended oil for your car can usually be found in the vehicle handbook, too.

Keeping your engine cool is particularly important in summer, and that’s where coolant comes in as it’s able to regulate the temperature of the cooling system. The reservoir is usually filled with a dark red liquid. If it’s looking low, you’ll need to top it up.

under the bonnet of Vauxhall Corsa
vw polo headlights


Making sure your car is visible at all times of the year is really important, and it’s why you should check your car’s lights before setting off on any road trip.

You can either use a shiny surface for this, but it’s worth asking a friend or relative to help with this. Have a look to make sure the main and sidelights are working as they should, along with the indicators and brake lights. You should also forget the foglights while you’re at it, too.


The windscreen is key to making sure you can properly see where you’re going, and is an area you should check.

A few weeks ahead of any trip, have a look to see if there are any chips or cracks in them, and if there are, this should leave time to be able to support them before heading away. These can sometimes be hidden behind the rear-view mirror, but could cause potential issues.

While you’re at it, have a look at the wipers too, and that they’re not perished and are able to clear the windscreen properly. If they can’t, it’s worth getting them replaced.

Fuel level

While you don’t necessarily need to set off with a full tank of fuel, if you want to make a longer trip that bit easier, it could be worth brimming it before you take to the road. It will be one less thing to worry about, after all. The same goes for if you’re doing the trip in an electric car too.

If you drive a diesel vehicle with a fuel additive system for the exhaust (AdBlue), it’s worth checking the range of this, and topping up accordingly if needs be.

Check out our information about how to keep your car performing at its best




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