Things to check before going on a long drive.

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In these busy times when there’s no time even to have a meal peacefully, we sometimes wish to go for a long drive either alone or with family away from the hectic and busy routine and seize all the happiness before you come back to your inevitable busy life. Now, what if your car breaks down in the middle of a deserted place with no one around to help, neither can you have fun nor can you help yourself out of the situation.

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 (Picture Credits: http://www.secretsofthefed.com/eerie-beautiful-overlap-35-photographs-abandoned-places/)

Therefore, it is necessary that you see everything is checked before setting off, so that the trip does not end up in disappointed instead of being filled with a lot of fun.

The most probable form of damage to check before going on a long drive are if all the fluids are enough and not leaking. Check all the fluids in the car for any leakage and fix it.

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Check the engine oil

An engine oil is the yellow dense fluid in a dipstick but it turns to a black dense fluid when it is no more suitable for use so, replace the engine oil with a fresh one if it turns into a dark fluid. Moreover, if the dipstick is not full or close to completion, then refill the engine oil (but make sure the engine oil is not a mixture of two different engine oils). It is advisable to carry spare engine oil in your journey because many engine problems occur due to a lack of sufficient engine oil.

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Check the coolant level

Check the coolant level in the overflow tank. It has to be somewhere between ‘full’ and ‘low’ at least. If it is a bit low you can refill it by following the guidelines in the car’s manual, sufficient coolant is necessary to avoid the engine to overheat which might cause serious damages to the engine. Have your cooling system checked for any leaks.

CAUTION: Do NOT open the radiator cap and when the engine is hot.

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Check the battery

Take a look at the condition of the battery, replace the battery if you find any cracks or acid leaks or any other damage. Also, see that the terminals are tightly fixed and not corroded as corroded terminals cause a lot of trouble. A battery life is generally 3-6 years, so if your battery life falls somewhere in that period, it is a good idea to have it tested before the road trip. It is not possible to say when the battery may die it as it is unpredictable but one way to find it out is when the engine cranks are slower that normally on starting the car.

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Air Filter

Change your air filter if you did not change it for a long time as an untidy air filter causes a lack of power. Your car manual can give you necessary directions regarding it.

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 (Picture Credits: http://www.samarins.com/maintenance/engmain2.html)

Brakes, Steering, Suspension and Drivetrain components

Brakes, steering and suspension are very important to be checked because any problem in these essential parts can lead unfavourable mishaps. It is recommended and only possible in a garage to get your car’s brakes, steering and suspension properly inspected before the trip because in a repair shop when the car is on the lift.

Here are few signs of possible problems:

Feeling vibrations in the steering and pulsations in the brake pedal while braking is a cue to the possibility of your brakes having warped rotors.

A clicking or popping noise while taking a turn could be an indication of a bad or a worn out CV joint.

Having a knocking or rattling noise coming from the suspension while driving over bumps can mean one of the suspension components is probably loose, it might not be safe to drive.

Look inside the wheel arches if all four struts (shock absorbers) appear dry, a leaking strut should be replaced before a trip. Once the strut will lose enough oil, the car will start bouncing like a boat and any road unevenness can throw the car out of the road.

Have the wheel alignment checked if you feel the car is unstable at highway speeds or if the steering wheel is out of centre or when the car pulls aside while you drive on the same road. Improper wheel alignment can cause handling issues, increased tyre wear and also it is uncomfortable to drive when the car constantly pulls to one side.

Spare Tyre, Wheel Wrench and the Jack

A spare tyre can play a crucial role on long drives. The pressure of a spare tyre, if it is a full-size (the same size as the others tires) should be the same as in the other tyres. In case it’s a small temporary-use tyre, the optimum pressure is shown on the sidewall of the tyre (usually 50-60 psi). The owner’s manual can help you in providing exact data. If your car has a spare tyre that’s secured or placed underneath, make sure it is easily removable; the mechanism could be rusted. Check if the jack is still operable.

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Miscellaneous

Check if the horns, wipers and all the lights are working properly and also the pressure in the tyres (the recommended tyre pressure is generally given on the driver’s door frame or the glove box).Carry a basic emergency kit (generally consists of Jumper wires, tyre sealer-inflator can, tyre gauge, couple of rags and work gloves, flashlight, basic tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and set of most common sockets) for your car in case of an emergency and…

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..do consider carrying a GPS Navigation System as it can both- navigate you to your desired destination and also direct you to the nearest fuel station, coffee shop, hotels, etc.

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