3 vehicle checks to make before a long journey

If you mainly use your car to commute to work and back, and pick up the shopping at the weekend then a long journey might be just what it needs! When your car is running, the alternator charges the battery up. If you only ever make short journeys, your battery will only ever be charged in short bursts. Making a longer journey will give your battery a really good charge, so it’s worth hitting the open road every once in a while!

If you’re one of the thousands Brits who enjoy holidaying in the UK then your annual break gives you the perfect opportunity to run your car on a longer journey. However, if you mainly do short journeys throughout the rest of the year it’s important to prepare your car for its extended road trip…

1 – Check your oil

You should be checking your engine oil regularly throughout the year anyway, but it is especially important to check it before you set off on a long journey. Oil is vital to the function of your vehicle; it keeps everything in the engine properly lubricated, preventing wear on moving parts. It also inhibits corrosion, improves sealing, and carries heat away from moving parts.


Check your oil by removing the dipstick – check your vehicle’s manual if you’re unsure of its location. Wipe the dipstick clean, and reinsert it before drawing it back out. The oil level should be within the minimum and maximum lines. If it falls below you’ll need to top it up with the correct oil for your vehicle; if there’s too much oil you’ll need to get your mechanic to remove some.

2 – Check your tyres

The only contact your car has with the road’s surface are four areas of tyre roughly the size of your hand. If your tyres are worn or bald then they won’t be able to perform their vital job properly. The legal minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre, although for the best results you should ensure that your tyres have a healthy 3mm tread depth for maximum traction.


Before you set out on your journey, check whether you have a spare tyre in your boot or not. Many new vehicles come with a puncture repair kit as opposed to a space-saver tyre. Check the condition of your tyres before you set off, ensuring there are no slow punctures. Finally, top up the tyre pressure to the correct level for your vehicle and load – see your car’s handbook for more information.

3 – Check your fluids

Embarking on a long drive puts your engine under considerable pressure, so it’s important that your radiator is working effectively and keeping the engine cool to prevent overheating. Coolant fluid is essential for maintaining a healthy engine so check the fluid level regularly and top up where necessary – but only do this when the engine is cold! During the winter months coolant is prone to freezing so be sure to add antifreeze at a 50 – 50 ratio.

When driving for a long distance on the motorway it’s likely that you’ll encounter a few dead bugs, general dust and debris, as well as spray from other vehicles in wet weather. It’s essential that you have plenty of screenwash at your disposal to keep your windscreen clean and clear whilst you’re driving.


Of course, there are other things that you need to check regularly, but these three key things above are particularly important before setting off on a long journey. As well as having your vehicle serviced regularly by a reputable mechanic you should be checking the following things yourself:

  • Windscreen – Check for cracks and scratches; not only can they impair your vision they can also weaken the windscreen, making it potentially dangerous.
  • Power steering – Ensure there is enough power steering fluid in the reservoir and that your steering is working as it should be.
  • Wipers – Check your windscreen wipers; over time they wear down and can smear the windscreen, making it difficult to clean dirt and rain away.
  • Lights – Check all of your lights regularly; headlights, fog lights, brake lights, indicators. Replace bulbs as soon as possible after they have broken.
  • Bodywork – Regularly check your car’s bodywork for rust and get it treated straight away to prevent the rust setting in and causing irreparable corrosion.

Remember – if you don’t think your car is fit for a long journey why not sell it to us and use the money to buy a new one! We’ll buy any car less than ten years old, regardless of its condition!