Road trips are fun but unexpected breakdowns can happen if you’re not prepared!  In this month’s Autolife, we look at some simple steps you can take to reduce your risks of a breakdown on a road trip and some essentials you should pack with you.

Before your road trip

Get your vehicle serviced!  The most important thing you can do before heading out the door these holidays is get a professional to check that everything is running smoothly.  Some of the things you should check before you leave are:

  • Your oil – if you don’t need an oil change, see if you need to add oil.
  • Your engine air filter – if it’s dirty or filled with debris, it’s safer to replace it with a new one.
  • Spark plugs – check your spark plugs for corrosion, residue or gaps between electrodes, and replace them if necessary.
  • Tyres – the last thing you want to do is have to change your tyres mid-journey.  Check that your tyres aren’t cracked and ensure that they are inflated to the correct pressure.  Also make sure that your spare tyre is inflated just in case you need to use it!

  • Fluids – ensure that you check and fill the fluids in your car to ensure they don’t run low on your trip.
  • The lights – check your brake lights, indicators, high beams and low beams in the dark to make sure they’re all functioning.
  • The battery – car batteries typically last between three to five years so if yours is on the older side it’s important to test it and replace it if you think it might be worn.
  • The brakes – fill the brake fluid and check the pads – you don’t want your brakes failing when you’re on the road!
  • Belts and hoses – if there are cracks, holes or frayed edges in your belts or hoses replace them now to avoid a roadside repair.

The best way to ensure that every part of your vehicle is in tip top shape is to just take your car in for a comprehensive service for a guarantee that every part of your vehicle is fit for the road.

What to pack in your car emergency kit

Sometimes, despite your best measures to avoid risk before you set off, you can still find yourself in the unfortunate position of a vehicle breakdown.  The best way to prepare for this is to have an emergency car kit with some useful items to help you cope with a mechanical breakdown.  Here’s a guide to the essentials you should pack in your car’s emergency kit:

  • A car owner’s manual – car manuals usually contain instructions on how to deal with changing fuses, topping up fluids, maintaining the correct tyre pressure and other common problems.  Having a car manual on you can sometimes save you from having to call in a repair in the first place.  It can be useful to keep your warranty, car insurance and emergency car service contact information along with the manual for easy reach.
  • A torch and spare batteries – if you have a break down at night, a torch can be necessary to do things like check your car’s bonnet or even to try signal motorists.
  • A spare tyre, a jack and a wheel brace – in the event that you have a flat tyre, having a spare can get your back on the road in no time.
  • First aid kit – although a first aid kit won’t be able to fix all medical problems, having a basic first aid kit can be a huge help at quelling an issue or at least keeping someone safe until an ambulance can get to you.

  • A blanket – blankets can be helpful in many situations – if you’re feeling groggy sometimes the best solution can be to find a safe spot to pull over and take a quick nap before you get back on the road.  If you break down on a hot day, a blanket can also be used to create some shade.
  • Drinking water and snacks – if you are stuck in a breakdown on a hot summer’s day, drinking water can be a literal life-saver.  If possible, try to find space for a 10-litre container to get you through any emergency – but any amount of water is better than none at all.
  • Jumper leads – having your own jumper leads can be a good way to try to get your battery going with a jump-start before you have to call emergency roadside assistant.  Your manual should have instructions on how to safely carry out a jump-start.
  • A basic tool box – as well as the above, a basic tool box can help you fix some small issues with your car if they arise.

Sometimes, breakdowns can be totally out of our control.  If you’re planning to be on the road this summer though, make sure that you’re prepared to weather emergencies to truly make the most of a summer road trip.