6 Top Tips to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

Discover essential tips for prepping your car to enhance safety and comfort on your journey.
Published on December 7th, 2020
  Written by 
Adrian Edlington
Adrian Edlington is PR & Communications Manager at Savvy. With a keen interest in personal finance, car loans, the mortgage industry, cost of living pressures, electric vehicles and renewable technology, Adrian's research includes conducting primary data surveys and analysis of up-to-the-minute secondary Australian data sources. His work on behalf of Savvy has been featured on ABC.net.au The Conversation, the Sydney Morning Herald, AFR, News.com.au, The Age, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, SBS On The Money, 7News, Car Expert, Which Car, Drive.com.au and more. In his spare time, Adrian enjoys mountain biking and business podcasts.
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   Reviewed by 
Bill Tsouvalas


Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
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Embarking on a road trip is an exciting adventure, but ensuring your car is ready for the journey is essential for a smooth and enjoyable experience. In this guide, we'll explore the top six tips to prepare your car for a road trip, ensuring you're ready to hit the open road with confidence.

1. Inspect your car

Having a basic understanding of your car's vitals is crucial. Before embarking on your road trip, it's important to inspect your vehicle to identify any potential issues. Here's what to check:

  • Engine: Inspect the engine oil level, coolant level and transmission fluid. Ensure there are no leaks and that all fluid levels are within the recommended range.
  • Brakes: check the brake pads and discs for wear and tear. Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations when braking, as these may indicate brake problems.
  • Tyres: inspect the tire tread depth and sidewalls for signs of damage or uneven wear. Ensure the tyres are properly inflated to the recommended pressure – and don’t forget the spare!
  • Lights: faulty lights not only pose a safety hazard but can also land you with a ticket. Test all exterior lights, including headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals. Replace any bulbs that are burnt out or dim.
  • Battery: check the battery terminals for corrosion and ensure they are securely connected. If your battery is nearing its lifespan (typically around 3–5 years), consider replacing it before your trip to avoid any surprises.
  • Fluids: oil, coolant, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid are essential for smooth operation. Check their levels and top them off if necessary. Refer to your car's owner's manual for specific fluid types and recommended replacement intervals.
  • Filters: dirty air and oil filters can hinder engine performance and fuel efficiency. Replace them according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

2. Pack emergency supplies

No road trip is complete without a well-stocked emergency kit to handle unexpected situations. These are the essential items you should carry in your car:

  • First-aid kit: include bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers and any necessary medications.
  • Jumper cables: if your car battery dies, jumper cables can help you get a jump start from another vehicle.
  • Torch and batteries: a torch is essential for nighttime emergencies or roadside repairs.
  • Blanket: keep a warm blanket in your car to stay comfortable in case of a breakdown in cooler weather.
  • Phone charger: ensure you can stay connected in case of an emergency by keeping a portable phone charger in your car.
  • Reflective vest and warning triangle: improve your visibility to other drivers in case of a breakdown on the roadside.

3. Plan your journey

Planning your route in advance can help reduce stress and ensure a more enjoyable journey. Here are some tips:

  • Research your destination: take some time to research your destination and the route you'll be taking. Look for points of interest, scenic routes and attractions along the way that you may want to visit.
  • Consider traffic and road conditions: check for any road closures, construction zones or traffic advisories that may affect your route. Use real-time traffic apps or GPS navigation systems to monitor traffic conditions and find alternate routes if necessary.
  • Estimate travel times: calculate the distance to your destination and estimate how long it will take to reach each stop along the way. Factor in rest breaks, meal stops and any sightseeing detours you plan to take.
  • Plan rest stops and fuel stations: identify rest stops, service stations and shops along your route where you can refuel, grab a snack or stretch your legs. Aim to stop every 2–3 hours to prevent fatigue and maintain alertness while driving.
  • Create a flexible itinerary: while it's helpful to have a rough itinerary for your road trip, be prepared to be flexible and adapt your plans as needed. Unexpected delays, weather conditions or simply interesting detours may require you to adjust your route or schedule.
  • Pack navigation tools: bring along a GPS navigation system, smartphone with map apps or printed maps and directions to help guide you along your route.

4. Organise your luggage

Properly packing your luggage and cargo can maximise space in your car and ensure a comfortable ride. Here's how to pack smartly:

  • Use all available space: don't just throw everything into the boot. If you have roof racks, use them for larger items like suitcases or camping gear. Consider using under-seat storage for smaller essentials.
  • Pack light: only bring what you absolutely need. Avoid packing “just-in-case” items that will likely remain unused.
  • Secure your stuff: use cargo nets, organisers or storage containers to keep loose items secure and prevent them from moving around while you’re driving.
  • Weight distribution matters: place heavier items towards the front of the boot and distribute the weight evenly to avoid affecting the handling of the car.
  • Avoid overloading: be mindful of the weight limit of your vehicle and avoid overloading it. Too much weight can decrease fuel efficiency and strain the suspension system.

5. Check your documentation

Before setting off on your road trip, ensure all the necessary documentation is up to date and readily available. This includes:

  • Driver's licence
  • Vehicle registration
  • Car insurance
  • Roadside assistance membership

You can keep physical copies tucked away in a glove compartment organiser for easy retrieval, or make sure you have digital copies readily accessible on your phone should the need arise.

6. Perform a final vehicle check

Before you hit the road, take one last walk around your car and double-check everything. Ensure all doors, windows, and the trunk are securely closed. Here's what to look at:

  • Doors, windows and boot: ensure all are securely closed to avoid unwanted elements or belongings entering your car.
  • Lights: double-check that headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are all functioning properly.
  • Tyres: give them a final visual inspection for any signs of damage or uneven wear.

This quick once-over can give you peace of mind and prevent any minor issues from becoming major inconveniences on your trip.

A road trip can be an exciting adventure and a chance to make lifelong memories. By following these tips and taking the time to prepare properly, you'll be ready to hit the open road with confidence, knowing that your car is in top condition.

If you need a reliable vehicle for your upcoming road trip, you can explore car loan options through Savvy. We can help you compare options from more than 40 lenders to find rates and terms that suit your needs and budget. Start comparing car loans with Savvy today.

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