While enjoying the current spell of hot weather my mind has started wandering to road trips. For many keen drivers a road trip is an essential part of summer, a chance to get out in your car onto some quiet country roads, instead of sitting in traffic queues on the way to work.
Choosing the destination can be one of the hardest parts of arranging a road trip, but usually you need little more than good roads in open countryside. There are loads of places to visit in the UK that combine stunning scenery with equally stunning roads – Scotland, Wales and the Lake District are a few ideas. If you’re feeling ambitious you could try Europe – the north of France is a good starting point, or you could even go further afield and try Spain or Italy. Or how about visiting some classic European race circuits? Spa Francorchamps and the Nurburgring are two tracks that are in easy reach.
Once you’ve decided on the destination you’ve got your accomodation to think about, and if you’re heading into Europe you can start adding ferry or Eurostar tickets.
But in the excitement of arranging the trip it’s all too easy to miss the most important thing – making sure that your car is ready for the trip! Before you set off you want to be sure that your car is in tip-top condition so that it won’t let you down miles from home.
Time For Some TLC
The first thing to check is your car’s service log book. Is it nearly ready for a service? If so it might be worth booking the car in early. It’s all too easy to rack up big mileage on a long road trip and your car will definitely appreciate the fresh oil, filters and spark plugs that a service will bring.
If it’s too early for a service then consider changing the oil and filter before you go. You should also check that all fluids are topped up, so crack open the bonnet and check your coolant tank, brake fluid and power steering fluid. If they’re low and you’re not sure what you should top them up with consult either your handbook or give your dealer a ring for advice.
It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got some spare oil and coolant in the car. You should be able to find both in single litre bottles, and you can stash them under your seat for use in emergencies.
What’s Your Rubber Like?
Check your tyres for signs of wear and damage. If the tread is low then get them swapped, and if you’ve been meaning to get that slow puncture fixed then you’d better get it done before you set off.
You should also look for any unusual bulges in the sidewalls, as these will indicate damage to the tyre that could weaken it. If left you could end up suffering a blowout – a nasty experience if you’re travelling at speed when it lets go.
Any Blown Bulbs?
Check that all of your car light bulbs are working – headlights, tail lights, signals and brakes. If you haven’t got anyone to help you check the brake lights then either stick something heavy on the brake pedal and check yourself, or reverse up to a window or garage door and hit the pedal – you should be able to see each brake light reflected behind you.
If you’re thinking of heading into Europe make sure you’ve got a set of spare bulbs in the car. In some countries it’s a legal requirement to carry spare bulbs at all times, so it’s better to spend a few quid now than risk a hefty fine from an eager Gendarme.
Are You Insured?
Do you know if your insurance cover includes travel in Europe? Chances are you’re not covered as standard, so check the exclusions on your policy and if you’re still unsure then phone up your insurer and ask the question. If you aren’t covered then see if you can arrange temporary cover for the duration of your trip.
In Case Of Breakdown
If you haven’t already got car breakdown cover then now is the time to look into it. You don’t want to break down hundreds of miles from home and not have any roadside cover as you’ll be at the mercy of local recovery crews. Towing your car to the nearest garage could easily cost hundreds of pounds if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, and if you’re abroad it starts to get even more complicated as the language barrier kicks in.
If you’ve already got breakdown cover and you are thinking of travelling abroad then check the small print to make sure you’re covered outside of the UK. If not then phone up and see if you can extend your cover.
Enjoy The Trip
The most important thing to remember about a road trip is that it’s an adventure into the unknown. Don’t stress about itineraries and planned routes, just try to relax and see where the road takes you. As long as you’re roughly going in the right direction and you get to your hotel before closing time you’ll be fine!
Now where did I put that road map?