Essential car checks before your long journey: our driver's guide

Every holiday period involves trips, long drives and lots of planning. Wherever you are going, you need to take some precautions before taking to the road. Before you embark on a long journey, it’s important to make sure your car is in good condition. Doing some basic checks on your car can help ensure that your car is running smoothly and safely. Here is our guide about some essential car safety checks you should do before a long drive.

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What is considered a long car journey?

A long car journey can vary in length depending on the individual, but generally it is considered to be a trip lasting for more than two hours. Before embarking on a long car journey, it is important to carry out a thorough check of the car to ensure a safe and comfortable journey.

Why is it important to check your vehicle before a long motorway journey?

Taking a long motorway journey in a car can be a great way to explore new places, but it is important to ensure your vehicle is in good working order before you set off. Performing a car check before a long drive is essential for safety and comfort, as it can identify any potential issues that could affect your journey and is key for proper car maintenance.

Basic Car Checklist You Should Do Before a Long Drive

Taking a long drive can be an exciting adventure, but it’s important to make sure your car is in top condition before you hit the road. Doing a few basic car checks before a long drive can help ensure that your engine and equipment are running smoothly and safely. Here are some of the most important car checks you should do before you embark on a long journey.

Check and clean your windscreen wipers

Before embarking on a long drive, it is important to check and clean your windscreen wipers. Wipers are often overlooked but they are essential for ensuring a clear view of the road in case of heavy rain or to remove dirt. Make sure that the blades are properly attached and in good condition, and that they are not cracked or worn. Clean the wipers with a cloth and warm soapy water to get rid of any dirt or debris.

There are different signs that show your windscreen wipers should be changed: if it has difficulty sliding, rubbing noises or strange movements… Sometimes it can just mean they need to be cleaned. Grab a cloth and clean them. You could save some money and yourself some trouble!

Check your headlights

Headlights are an essential safety feature, allowing you to see the road ahead and be seen by other drivers in dark or low visibility conditions. Check that all headlights and taillights are in good working condition and replace any bulbs that are not functioning properly. It is also a good idea to clean your headlights and taillights to ensure they are shining brightly.

Headlights, indicators and rear lights thus need to be checked before any holiday departure. Their good working condition will enable other drivers to see you and also to keep you safe and to avoid fines. Ask a family member or a neighbour to help you check!

Check your windscreen

Before setting off on a long drive, it is important to take a few minutes to do simple checks on your windscreen to make sure it is in good condition. Ensure that there are no chips, cracks or other damage that could impair your vision while driving. If you notice any damage, it is best to have your windscreen repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

Also, make sure your windscreen is clean before hitting the road. A quick screen wash will help you get better road visibility.

When doing a visual check of your windscreen, if you see damage or imperfections and worry it might be serious, ask your Point S mechanic during your next visit. It is important to take care of deep cracks and chips in the glass as it can be dangerous.

Check tyre pressure and condition

There are three  main elements to consider when it comes to tyres:

  • Tyre pressure needs to be checked before any long drive. It is recommended to check when it is cold, so the heat does not affect the reading. Good tyre pressure will make you save fuel and minimise the wear of your tyres. Make sure the correct pressure is applied. Information about pressure can be found either in your vehicle handbook or printed in the sill of the driver's door (sometimes it can be printed on the inside of the fuel tank flap).
  • The tyre tread depth should exceed 1.6mm. Below this, your tyres are not safe, and it increases your accident risk, as the tyres will not be able to grip the road properly. To check your tyre tread, you can use a tyre tread depth gauge, or simply insert a 20p coin into the grooves. If the outer band of the coin is visible, then the tread is too low, and the tyres need to be replaced.  If you are stopped by the police and found with illegal tyres, you could receive a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre.
  • Checking your wheel alignment and balance is important. Wheel alignment is the adjustment of the angle of the tyres so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. Wheel balance is the process of ensuring that the weight of the wheel and tyre assembly is balanced evenly around the axle. Both tyre alignment and tyre balance help to keep the car running smoothly and reduce the risk of premature tyre wear.

For  good auto maintenance practices, tyres should be checked every 5000 miles.

Check your radiator

The radiator is responsible for cooling the engine and preventing it from overheating. Checking the radiator fluid levels will ensure that your car will not overheat on your journey.

During summer, one of the reasons why the engine overheats is the radiator or a problem stemming from a fluid leak. When you stop your car, if you see a green, orange or yellow liquid under your car, it means there is a cooling liquid leak. You need to fix the problem before doing any long drive.

Check your vehicle liquid’s levels

Before taking a long journey, it is important to check the liquid levels of your vehicle. This includes checking the engine oil, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and windscreen wiper fluid. All these liquids must be filled to the recommended levels before taking a long drive to ensure the best performance and safety of your vehicle.

Oil level

The oil level should always be kept at the recommended level for optimal engine performance. To check the oil, locate the dipstick and pull it out. Check the level of oil on the stick and top up if necessary. It is also important to check the colour of the oil to ensure it is not too dark or dirty. 

Brake fluid

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that is used to transfer pressure to the brakes when the driver presses on the brake pedal, allowing the car to slow and stop. It is important to ensure that the brake fluid is at the proper level so that the brakes are functioning properly and will be able to handle the demands of a long drive. If you notice any leaks or an abnormally low brake fluid level, have it checked by your nearest Point S mechanic as soon as possible.


Coolant helps to regulate the temperature of the engine, and low levels can cause the engine to overheat. Check the coolant levels in your car’s radiator and top up if necessary. Make sure you use the correct type of coolant for your car, as recommended in the owner’s manual. If the coolant level is too low, top it up with a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water. It is also important to check the colour of the coolant. It should be a light green colour. If it is discoloured or rusty, it should be replaced.

Power steering fluid

The power steering fluid is responsible for providing the necessary pressure to turn the steering wheel, so it should be at the correct level. To check it, locate the power steering reservoir and make sure the fluid is at the “Full” mark. If it is not, add more until it is full. Low levels of power steering fluid can cause the steering wheel to become difficult to turn and can also lead to costly repairs. Checking the power steering fluid is an easy task that can help you stay safe on the road.

Transmission fluid

Checking your transmission fluid before a long journey is important (especially if your car has a lot a mileage) for the proper functioning of your car. The fluid helps keep the transmission cool, lubricated, and clean. To check the fluid, locate the transmission dipstick, pull it out and wipe it off with a clean cloth. Reinsert the dipstick and check the fluid level. If the fluid is low, top it off with the appropriate transmission fluid. If the fluid is dark or smells burnt, then it should be changed. It is also important to check the transmission fluid filter for any dirt or debris that might be blocking the filter.

Windscreen wiper fluid

Windscreen wiper fluid is essential for keeping your windscreen clean while driving in wet or dusty conditions. Make sure you fill your reservoir with sufficient windscreen wiper fluid before setting off on your journey.

Check your timing and driving belt

Before embarking on a long journey, it is important to check your car's timing and driving belt. This belt is a key component of the engine, as it helps to keep the camshaft and crankshaft in sync as the engine runs. A faulty timing and driving belt can cause serious damage to the engine, so it's important to check it before setting out.

Make sure this aspect is checked during your next visit. Changing a belt isn’t expensive but repairing a damage caused by a broken belt is. The belt must be checked every 40,000 miles to 100,000 miles depending on your vehicle, by your Point S specialist.

Check your exhaust pipe and rust

It is also important to check your car’s exhaust pipe and rust. You should look for any signs of corrosion, holes, or other damage to the pipe. If you find any, it is essential to have it repaired before you can take your car on a long journey. Additionally, you should check the underside of your car for any rust, as this could be a sign of a more serious issue.

If you hear noises when you drive over potholes, your exhaust pipe might be detached. Most of the time, this fix just requires a little welding. When looking under your vehicle, pay attention to rust. If the rust has been there for a long time, it could break certain components when your car receives impacts. Have the rust on your car checked by a certified Point S centre.

Check your brakes

Checking your brakes before a long drive is an important part of car maintenance. Make sure to check the brake pads for wear and tear, as well as the brake fluid level. If the brake pads are worn or the brake fluid level is low, you should have your brakes checked and serviced by you Point S professional mechanic. Additionally, check the brake lines and hoses for any leaks or cracks. Finally, make sure to test the brakes by pressing on the brake pedal to ensure they are working properly.

They are essential for your safety and other drivers’ safety. When you brake, and you feel that your braking distances increased and that when it is raining it is even worse, have your car checked immediately. Usually, brakes should be checked every 6 months.

Check your car air conditioning

A well-functioning air conditioning system will help ensure that you stay comfortable during your drive. Check the air conditioning system for any leaks and make sure that all the vents are working properly. Make sure to have the system serviced by a qualified Point S mechanic if necessary. Check our expert advice for more information about air con check!

Check your battery and signs of corrosion

Before you head out on a long drive, one of the most important parts to check is your battery. Make sure that the connections are tight and free from corrosion.

You can check it with a multimeter. The voltage should be between 12.5v for a 100% charge, and 14.5v when the motor is running. A voltage of 12.0v is equal to a charge of 25%, meaning you should charge your battery. Several signs can indicate a problem, such as:

  • If start-up is slow or is difficult
  • A rotten egg smell (sulphur), coming from a leak
  • The electrical equipment is not functioning properly

If you are unsure, ask your Point S mechanic. It is good practice to check the battery every 3 months.

Check your emergency equipment

Finally, before embarking on a long drive, it is essential to check your vehicle's emergency equipment. First aid-kit, spare wheel, warning triangle and tools must be in good condition. Also check that all your papers are up to date such as your license. Additionally, make sure you have a flashlight and jumper cables. This will help prepare you for any emergency situation that may arise during your drive.

If you have all this checklist done, you can drive with peace of mind while feeling safe in your vehicle!

However, if you'd rather have your vehicle checked by a professional, make an appointment directly with one of our experts!

How can I prepare my old car for a long trip?

Before embarking on a long trip in an old car, it is important to check that everything is in working order. This includes checking the oil, coolant, brakes, tyres, lights, wiper blades, battery and other components. It is also important to check that all fluids are at the correct levels and that the car is not leaking any fluids. Additionally, it is important to perform a general inspection of the car to make sure it is in good condition.