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Before you leave home, there are several simple steps you can take to protect your vehicle and your loved ones if you are planning to travel long distances.

Brake pads

Brake pads provide the friction needed to slow and stop your car. They wear away with use, eventually becoming too thin to work effectively. Depending on what your brake pads are made of and how you have used them, they can last anywhere from 23,000 to 65,000 miles.

It is also important to evaluate how the vehicle reacts to braking when driving. Remember that the weight of a car affects its braking distance. If your are towing things, or if the gear you take for your trip is heavy, you need to adjust your braking distance to accommodate the extra space you will need to get your car to stop. 

Fluids

Fluids are the lifeblood of any car. Check the fluid levels before driving your car

  • Coolant: The process to check coolant varies from car to car. If your car has a coolant expansion tank, look to see if the coolant falls between the minimum and maximum indicators on the tank. If it doesn’t, open the radiator cap to see if the coolant is filled up to the top.
  • Engine oil: Most cars have a dipstick in the engine bay which lets you quickly inspect the oil. It’s best to check your oil after your engine has been turned off for at least 10 minutes so the oil can settle at the bottom and cool off. 
  • Windshield fluids There is nothing on your car’s exterior more important to keep clean than the windshield. After all, you have to be able to see where you are going. Make sure you have enough windshield fluid in your reservoir. Also, make sure the spray covers your entire field of vision. 
  • Transmission fluid: Some cars have a dipstick, however others require a professional mechanic to inspect the fluid condition
  • Brake fluid:Most cars have a brake fluid reservoir in the engine bay, and checking it is as simple as taking a look at its level and color. Like with other fluids, make sure the level falls between the minimum and maximum indicators. 

Drive belts

Press down on the belts to make sure they’re completely tight. There should be very little slack, and if the belt has teeth, none of the teeth should come loose when you push on the belt.

 Steering

Take your car for a short drive and check if the steering pulls in a certain direction. If that is the case, this means that you have a wheel alignment problem. If your alignment is off, your steering wheel will wobble at higher speeds, so be sure to get your wheels aligned before your trip.

Lights

Having a burned out headlight, twilight or blinker is an easy way to get pulled over on a drive. More importantly, your lights are extremely important if your road trip involves driving at night in most conditions, or if you are in an unfamiliar region of the country. The last thing you want is to be pulled over and given a ticket out of state.

Make sure they are all in working order. Turn on your car, switch on the headlights, and walk around to see if any bulbs are burnt out. 

Spare Wheel

A simple yet essential check that you can do yourself before tackling any long journey is checking to see if your spare tire, the jack, and spanner, are all present in your vehicle and if they are working properly.

Don’t forget to check that your spare tire is properly inflated.

Essential Accessories

General equipment such as a shovel, torch, ropes, drop sheets, a battery charger, and fuel are also a helpful assortment of tools to have in your car for a variety of situations. It is also advisable to bring a first aid kit in case of injuries, a solar charging unit to charge cell phones in the event that your battery runs out, and a blanket if you get stranded somewhere cold.

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