- Check your windscreen wipers for any signs of wear and replace them if you need to. Squeaking, juddering and visual damage are all signs you need some fresh wiper blades.
- Make sure your tyres have sufficient tread. The Highway Code states that cars, light vans and light trailers must have a tread depth of 1.6mm. You should also check the tyre pressures. (The correct pressure levels will be in your car’s manual.) When you’ve checked the four tyres on the car wheels, check the spare too – just in case you need to use it.
Here are a few more things to consider before you set off
- Make sure your handbook/manual is in the car and handily placed. As well as telling you how to use your car’s comfort and safety features, manuals often contain troubleshooting tips that might come in handy during your journey.
- Check your oil. Make sure the car is parked on a level surface, then find the dipstick under the bonnet. Wipe the dipstick clean with an old cloth, then re-insert and remove it to check that the oil level is between the MIN and MAX markers. Whether or not you’re driving long distances, the RAC recommends checking your oil at least fortnightly
- Check your engine coolant and windscreen wash containers. Make sure that both are filled to the correct levels with the right mixture of water and antifreeze.
- Check your battery for any signs of corrosion – it shouldn’t have any at all. If your car is slow to start, the engine cranks slowly or takes some time to fire, your battery may need replacing.
- Make sure all your lights work as they should, and that they’re clean. Ask a friend or family member to stand behind the car while you test the brake lights, reverse lights and rear indicators.
Pack extras for safety and comfort
Having these things to hand will make it easier, safer and less stressful if you break down on a long journey.
- If you’re travelling at night or during cold weather, have some spare warm clothes on board. A raincoat and pair of wellies could also come in useful.
- A torch. Being able to see in the dark is a big help if your car experiences issues. Make sure the batteries are fresh and take some spares just in case.
- If you do break down, a high-visibility vest or jacket and hazard triangle will make you and your car visible to other road users.
- Pack some extra food and drink for the journey. They’ll keep you going if you run into delays or detours.
What to pack if you’re driving abroad
If you’re planning to drive on the continent, there are some things that you need to carry with you that are not compulsory in the UK. Failure to have them in your vehicle could land you with a heavy fine.
In France and Belgium you must carry a reflective jacket, which should be stored somewhere you can access it quickly and easily. You must also carry a hazard triangle and, if you’re in France or Monaco, an unused breathalyser device.
In Spain and Italy, the rules on jackets and warning triangles are similar to France and Belgium. In addition, you’re required to carry snow chains if you’re driving in Italy between October and April.
In Spain, a spare wheel is mandatory, and if you wear glasses, you’re required to carry a spare pair with you.
Don’t forget breakdown cover
Whatever else you take with you, vehicle breakdown cover is a real road-trip essential. It can be arranged quickly and easily, and most providers can extend your cover for trips to Europe. We make comparing the types and cost of breakdown cover really simple. Find out what you need to know about comparing breakdown cover.