Heading off on a long journey? These are the car checks to make beforehand

People are starting to move about more than they have done in months. With restrictions eased, people are free to explore more of the UK and take some time out from being at home. It means that cars which haven’t seen action for several weeks are going to have more strain put upon them during longer journeys.

If you’re planning on travelling further afield, it’s a good idea to give your car a few checks before setting off. Here, we go through some of the best ones to do before going out on an adventure.

Tyres

Tyre pressure check
It’s paramount that a car’s tyres are inflated to the correct level (Goodyear)

Tyres are an absolutely crucial element of a car’s layout. They’re the one point of contact between the vehicle and the road, meaning any issue with them could prove disastrous. It’s why it’s so important to check them.Look at the sidewalls for any cuts or damage which could lead to a puncture, and scope out the general condition of the rubber. If it’s cracked and dry, it might be time for a change.

And, of course, look at the tread depth. The UK legal limit is 1.6mm and one of the easiest ways to tell if your tyres are within this is with a 20p coin. Simply insert the coin into the tread grooves; if the outer band of the coin is obscured by tyre, then you’re within the limit. If you can see the band, the tyres need replacing.

We’d check the tyre pressures too. Most garages have air compressors to top up air (and you can buy them online for use at home, too). Check the required pressure for your tyres by consulting your car’s handbook or on the instruction panel inside the fuel filler cap. Adjust your pressures accordingly and not only will your tyres perform more effectively, but it’ll save you money in fuel, too.

Oil

Oil
Locating your car’s dipstick is a simple task. It’s usually marked out under the bonnet by a yellow cap. (PA)

Oil is crucial to the smooth running and operation of your car’s engine. Without it, you’re in for a whole heap of trouble. It’s why ensuring that your car’s oil levels are correct is so important as without a proper amount there’s the potential for a lot of damage to take place.Yet despite being so crucial, it’s simple to check. Simply wait for the engine to cool if it’s been running, and find the dipstick within the engine bay. It’s often highlighted with a yellow handle but if you’re struggling to find it, consult the car’s handbook.

Then, once found, pull out the dipstick and clean it with a rag or paper towel. Re-insert it into the engine and take it out once more; now, you’ll be able to see the level of oil in the engine via the dipstick’s markers.

If it’s too low, add more oil. Only do a bit at a time, and repeat the dipstick process each time – you don’t want to overfill it.

Windscreen washer fluid

Washer fluid is essential for maintaining windscreen visibility. (PA)

Particularly during the summer months when there’s more dust and insects on the road, making sure you’ve got enough windscreen washer fluid is important. Much like oil, it’s dangerous to run out of but easy to check.Again, look under the bonnet, this time for a blue cap. If the levels are low, simply top up with the correct washer fluid. Avoid using just water.

Coolant

Engine shot
Coolant is key to maintaining an engine’s temperature

Coolant is integral to keeping your car’s engine at the correct temperature. During summer this is very important, but it’s just as key during colder months too. Though it’s unlikely that your coolant levels will have dropped, it’s always worthwhile checking the coolant tank – again, this is typically found under the bonnet.Only ever use the manufacturer’s recommended coolant to top up the system if it’s low.

Fuel

Fuel pump
It’s worth checking fuel levels before setting off on a journey

It might sound simple, but ensuring that you’ve got plenty of fuel in the tank in readiness for a long journey can easily slip people’s minds. In fact, plenty of drivers undertake a trip and forget to fill up, resulting in a fair amount of stress during travel.

Before you set off, check your fuel gauge and ensure you’ve got enough to get you to your destination. If not, it’s worth filling up closer to home where you know the location of filling stations; leaving it until later could result in the stressful situation of having to find a fuel station in an unfamiliar area.

Lights

BMW detail
It’s paramount that the headlights are checked

Lights can be an aspect of a car which are easily forgotten during the lighter months when the days are longer and the nights shorter. However, if you’re making a longer trip then there’s a good chance that you’ll be driving in darkness as you near your destination, which makes fully working lights crucial.

Check that your headlights and indicators are working up front, and test the rear lights and brake lights too. We’d give the hazards a test for good measure too – you never know when you might need them.

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