Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

Traveling by car is definitely the easiest way to:

  • travel economically
  • travel freely and without constraints from predefined programs
  • have maximum autonomy in managing time and transfers

11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

To travel peacefully and to avoid unpleasant mishaps, your car must be in perfect working order.

You will be far from your home, and dealing with a repair might not be as easy as when you are in your environment and can count on your trusted mechanic.

Moreover, the discomfort and time lost due to a breakdown of your car would ruin the holiday.

The most correct procedure is to take the car to a workshop and have a check-up: all necessary checks will be carried out by a qualified technician, and any problems will be highlighted before departure.

However, if you’re reading this article, that’s not the solution you were looking for. If you’re here, it’s because you want to avoid the mechanic’s check-up and inform yourself about the prescriptions you must adhere to face your journey by car. Let’s see what the 11 checks to perform before setting out on a journey are:

Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

1 – Check and Clean the Windshield Wipers

It hadn’t crossed your mind, had it? Yet, this is the first check you need to perform. Visibility is crucial when you travel on roads you don’t know. Windshield wipers are indispensable not only in case of heavy rain but also for fog, ice, and dirt on the windshield, which are challenges you will have to face. To determine if your windshield wipers are still good or need to be replaced, you should check for:

  • Difficulty in moving
  • Rubber noises or strange movements
  • The rubber not perfectly adhering to the windshield glass

If they’re not in perfect condition, replace them. It only takes a few euros at the gas station, and you’ll be much more at ease during your trip.

2 – Check the Lights

Visibility is the first thing you should think about. So, after the windshield wipers, you need to check the lights. Do they all turn on? Do they work correctly? Here too, for a few euros, you can buy new bulbs and travel by car with more peace of mind. Don’t forget that lights are not only for seeing the road but also for making you visible to other vehicles and signaling braking and gear changes. Learn about the regulations in force in the country you are visiting (if traveling abroad) and remember that outside urban centers, it’s mandatory to keep the lights on even during the day. Fines for malfunctioning lights can be very hefty!

3 – Check the Windshield

A small crack could ruin your trip. Check that everything is in order and, in case of damage (even minimal), have a thorough check by a body shop. Replacing the windshield before leaving is quite simple, but once away from home, it could be a significant waste of time and cost much more.

4 – Check the Tire Pressure and Wear

The wear condition of your tires is crucial for a safe holiday. Here again, the expense for replacing tires can be significantly lower if you turn to tire dealers in your city and if you have all the time to evaluate the different offers. If you had to replace them urgently, perhaps on the highway, you wouldn’t have alternatives and would be forced to pay the price they ask. You mainly need to check 3 elements:

The Pressure

Do the check when cold. Check the right pressure in the car’s manual and verify at the gas station or tire dealer (who will certainly also perform the other two checks). The right pressure, when traveling by car, will allow you to save fuel and minimize tire wear as much as possible.

The Tread Depth

It should be more than or equal to 1.6 mm. You can use a toothpick to verify. If your tires do not pass the check, replace them without hesitation. Remember that the safety and reliability of your vehicle can ruin your holiday and cause financial and health damages!

The Alignment and Balancing of Tires

Verify that you have traveled (after your last check) no more than 5,000 km.

Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey
  • Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey5 – Check the RadiatorTraveling by car for a vacation often means traveling in the summer. The radiator is crucial to avoid engine overheating (even in winter). You must check the coolant level and that there are no leaks. A minor flaw in the cooling system can be imperceptible when driving short urban distances and only reveal itself after several hundred kilometers. You could burn the head gasket or melt the engine! A very severe financial damage! Check the coolant level every Monday for at least three weeks before departure to be sure it is constant and there are no leaks.6 – Check Your Vehicle’s Fluid LevelsAnother necessary check before traveling by car for long distances is the levels: You must check the engine oil level (if you don’t want to risk serious transmission damage), the coolant (for air conditioning) if you want to ensure all comforts during your trip which, do not forget, should be enjoyable and fun. Another check to perform is the windshield washer fluid.You also need to check the power steering fluid and the transmission fluid. Here’s a small test you can do: If you have difficulty steering and feel a vibration in the steering wheel when you stop, you need to check and replace the power steering fluid.The transmission fluid should be checked regularly, especially when the car has many kilometers, and you need to face many more to travel by car and reach your vacation destination.7 – Check the BeltsReplacing a belt before leaving is not very costly, but repairing damage caused by a broken belt certainly is. You risk very serious damage to your car! Check the tension and wear condition. Near the belts, mechanics write the mileage at which they performed the last replacement with a marker: make sure you have not exceeded 75,000 km, and if so, have the belts replaced by a professional.

    8 – Check the Exhaust and Rust

    The exhaust terminal is connected to the engine. The fumes travel from the engine (usually front) to the exhaust at the rear. The manifold is subject to heavy wear and could be very damaged even if you do not realize it. It would be a big problem if the damage were to manifest during your trip. Often a small weld can solve the problem. A check under your car is sufficient to verify the condition of the manifold. Have a professional check the rust condition.

    9 – Check the Brakes

    Can you think of something less fundamental in your car? Right after the engine, brakes are the most important element when you decide to travel by car. Ensure that your car’s braking distance is constant and has not increased. Brakes should be checked every 6 months.

    10 – Check the Battery

    Imagine being on vacation and having planned a trip. When it’s time to leave, the car won’t start: the battery is dead! Checking the battery is essential when planning to travel by car. To check the battery, you can use a multimeter. The voltage should be between 12.5v and 14.5v when the charge is 100% and the engine is running. If the voltage is equal to or lower than 12.0v, it means your battery is at 25% and indicates you need to change the battery. You might notice a drop in battery charge if you encounter:

    • Slow or difficult ignition
    • Leakage of liquid that smells like rotten eggs (sulfur)
    • Malfunctions in the electrical system equipment

    11 – Check the Emergency Kit and Documents

    Before you start traveling by car, you must check that your emergency kits are in order and functioning:

    • First aid kit. Did you know it has an expiration date, and the fines are very steep in case of an expired kit?
    • Spare tire and tools. Everything in order?
    • Is your License valid? Has it expired? Are you authorized to drive in the country you visit (if going abroad)?
    • The vehicle registration document? Your car’s inspection?
    • Safety and emergency equipment? The road code can be different even if you travel within the EU. If you intend to travel by car outside the European Union, you must inform yourself very well about the road code of the countries you will cross.
Traveling by Car: 11 Checks to Perform Before Setting Out on a Journey

Traveling by Car: Final Tips

How long have you had your driver’s license? Are you up to date on the current regulations? If you obtained your driving license more than 10 years ago, I recommend a refresher. The benefits are multiple: fewer fines, more safety, and awareness. I suggest consulting Esame Patente, a site where you can update your knowledge of the road code.

Before you start traveling by car, read How to Plan a Trip and follow the related articles. You will find many tips on how to organize and plan your trip entirely independently and without any form of intermediation.

Traveling with children? Ensure that the car seat you use is approved and suitable for their age in each country you’ll cross.

We’ve taken care of your car, but remember that active safety is much more critical than passive safety: a skilled driver in good condition can determine the success of your trip. The driver must be rested, not drink alcohol, and not eat too much before driving (to avoid falling asleep).

One of the reasons you decided to travel by car is the possibility to save money: plan the stages of your trip carefully and use all available tools to identify the cheapest fuel stations along the route.

When you decided to travel by car, did you think about how much luggage to bring? You must pay close attention to weight distribution when you’re loading your luggage. One solution to increase your car’s carrying capacity is to install a roof box. In this case, avoid placing the heaviest suitcases on the roof and be aware that it could alter the car’s balance. You must keep the center of mass low; it’s essential to ensure the best setup for your car. So, use the roof box to place bulky but light luggage and distribute the heavier weight between the trunk and the cabin.

Don’t forget to keep the reflective yellow vest, a charged flashlight, and disposable gloves within reach. If you’ve followed all my advice, you won’t need them, but it’s better to be prepared for everything!

Safe Travels!


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This post is also available in: Italian

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