10 things you ought to check before setting off on a long ride or to some limited distance.
1. The coolant: Most new radiators have overflow bottles with min/max water levels, which are easy to find.Older cars fill via the radiator cap.Never open them while the engine’s hot or running.
2. The tyres: Less can earn you three points and a £2,500 fine per tyre.Get the pressures right at a garage – if they’re wrong you’ll burn more fuel, wear the tyres and suffer poor handling.
3. The spare tyre: There’s little worse than having to change a wheel, only to find the spare is missing, flat or damaged.Also check the jack, its handle and the wheel brace are there and fit your car!
4. The engine oil: Without oil your engine will overheat, weld itself together and self-destruct.With the engine cold and the car level, check the dipstick.Top up as necessary via the cap at the top of the engine, and give the oil time to run down to the sump before rechecking the level.Do not overfill.5. The windscreen washer bottle: It’s no fun peering through two arched smears of exploded summer flies, top up your washer bottle before you leave.You can use water, but the stuff in garages contains antifreeze, detergents and, well, smells nice!
6. The lights: Go through all your lights ,indicator, brake, dip, full beam, fog and so on one by one.Either get a friend to watch for blown bulbs, or park by a white wall or shop window one night to see them yourself.
7. The fan belt: Check for cracks in the rubber or excessive play.A prolonged shrieking while you’re driving means either it’s loose and slipping, or you’ve got kids.
8. The hoses: Park up on a patch of tarmac you know is clean, then check underneath for oil or water leaks after a few hours.Even a small leak can lead to dangerously low fluid levels on a long journey.
9. The boot: Is it full of boxes, mouldering sports equipment and a baffling array of junk that’s never quite made it into the house?Now’s the time to clear it all out, hauling unnecessary weight wastes fuel.
10. The map: If there isn’t one, get one in any decent petrol station or news agent. Satnavs are great, but a paper map works when it’s flat.
Good preparation guards against incidents and accidents, but sometimes the unexpected happens. If you’re involved in an accident on a long journey,is due to your recklessness by not making sure your car is in contact before setting out.Always be cautious and play safe.