As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

What to Check Before a Road Trip

As we approach the festive season, no doubt many of us are planning to get away. Whether it’s a much-needed holiday, or a family catch-up, this is the time of year where we load up the car and hit the roads. But how much preparation do we do before we go?

Here’s a small checklist of the things you should pay attention to.



They may get the least love, but they are the sole reason a car can roll along a road. Tyre pressure is important; you should check this before any long drive and when the tyre itself is cold.

The right pressures are printed on a placard stuck somewhere on your car, generally inside where the doors close. Underinflation can lead to premature wear on the outside of the tyres, while overinflation can have the centre of the tread wearing.

The tread itself is important, with a minimum depth required in order to squeeze out any water you may drive through. There are also products that can be sprayed onto the sidewalls of the tyres that keep them clean and the rubber nourished, so it doesn’t dry out and leading to cracking.



This is the box that sits in front of the engine and circulates cooling fluid through the engine. The whole idea is to try and keep the engine cool on the road. Water is only a part of the mix you need, with coolant also necessary. It is fantastic at working its way through the radiator and engine to keep it cool.

The radiator itself needs to be without leaks, otherwise you will run into all sorts of issues. It may be worth getting a good quality flushing agent to try and clear out any junk or goop that’s accumulated in the system.


Engine Oil

An engine needs oil to spin without overheating from friction. There is a dipstick on the side of the engine that, when pulled out, should be coated on some of its length, with clean oil. If it comes out black and maybe a bit smelly, this is not a good thing.

Clean oil helps things spin smoothly and can help in better fuel consumption. Any oil change will need a change of oil filter as well. Depending on your car and mechanical know-how, you may be able to do this at home, but always check the new filter is tightened sufficiently before adding new oil, otherwise your garage floor could become a mess.



Headlights and Indicators

Contrary to popular belief, it is actually against the law to not use your indicators. Sometimes the bulbs need replacing. A good indication to determine if you need a swap-out is the noise we hear inside the cabin. The noise may start to sound like a clock gone mad, as the system is designed to let you know something is wrong.

Headlights, depending on the age (and make) of the car, have no audible signal, but may display a warning on the dash. Some of the bulbs are easy to change, but others are far more tricky. Of course, it’s pretty simple to check your headlights to see if they’re working, just turn them on at night.


Air Conditioning

You’ll find there is a compressor in the engine bay that has a certain gas inside that makes the air cool. After some years, that gas becomes inefficient or may have leaked out and cold air doesn’t happen.

Although it may seem expensive to get the system re-gassed, it’s a one-off cost that can keep you chilled for years to come.



Of particular importance is the windshield – keep that clean and it reduces glare and sunlight scatter, which can impede a driver’s vision. In the engine bay is the reservoir full of water and cleaning agent. If this is empty, you need to make sure you use cleaning agent to help break up dirt, dust and any other rubbish. If the window is clean, but it looks like there are all sorts of surface imperfections from dirt and stones, it’s time to consider having the screen replaced.