How to Prepare for Long-Distance Drives

From the very beginning, we'd like to state that there's no illusions here about you remembering every single detail on this long-distance trip preparation guide. But if one can keep in mind just a few guidelines on the subject, I guess it's worth the try. Basically, there is a considerable amount of prep-work that one has to do before considering to go on a business or vacation trip by car: checking the tires pressure, oil level, cooling liquid, lights, route info or service equipment.

Checking the tires pressure is one of the most important things one has to do before long-distance drives. And that happens for a number of reasons. First of all, it helps prevent tire wear. You've probably heard about tire explosions on TV or happening to people you know. And we're more than sure you'd like to keep it that way. These explosions are usually connected to the tire quality, whether it's resumed to its manufacturer or level of wear and pressure.

Secondly, getting a good tire pressure improves the car's maneuverability. You wouldn't want to 'benefit' from different pressure levels on your car's tires, as this would most likely affect the vehicle's cornering grip and also tires' wear. The more outworn tires are, the longer the braking distances. The higher the grip level, the better chances of engine's power translated to the wheels (therefore improved fuel efficiency). So keep that in mind when thinking about skipping a simple pressure check on your car's tires. As the figures differ from vehicle to vehicle, one must check the door edge/post or fuel cap stickers for the proper info. The tires must be checked for inflation pressure when cold. Therefore, if one has to drive more than one mile to the nearest gas station, he/she should record the figures and later inflate each tire with the proper amount of pressure.

Checking the oil level is also important when considering a long trip, as oil is correctly regarded as the blood life of your car. The first thing one has to bear in mind when doing an oil check is make sure the car is standing on level ground. This will prevent the oil from rushing to the back while you're checking the front end of your engine unit. Once he dipstick is located, you should first pull it and clean it with a towel and then reinsert it to check for oil level. The dipstick has two marks on it in order to help you determine the minimum and maximum level of oil. If the oil doesn't rise to the minimum mark, you should add the necessary amount until the line will be located between the two marks. When doing so, add oil little by little to prevent overfilling.

Third most important check-up before hitting the highway is your car's headlights and taillights. One should always keep an extra set of light bulbs for extreme situations. The last thing you need is your car rambling through the dark with only one light keeping it on the road (both lights out meaning you have to spend the night only God knows where). Changing the light bulbs on your car is quite easy but differs from vehicle to vehicle.

The first thing you have to do is you have to make sure you have the correct light bulbs for your car. Secondly, make sure that your car is off and the emergency brake on. Determine which light bulb needs to be replaced (high beam, low beam or corner/park lamps) and proceed to replace it while wearing protective gloves or a paper towel (as most are pressurized and could explode at touch). You then open the hood and access the back trim of the headlamps, remove the bad light bulb and replace it. As most of the headlamp units are vehicle-specific, one can find the way to access it through the owner's vehicle manual. The same procedure goes for the taillights.

You also have to make sure you have towing and battery cables stored in the trunk. You never know when you might need it in case your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and have no signal on your mobile. Towing cables (along with a good Samaritan) will therefore become your best chance to get to the nearest gas station or car service shop. Also, you might forget about turning off your headlights when stopping for lunching or dining and find yourself unable to start your car due to battery failure. We know that you can't possible imagine yourself dealing with these 'situations' but once there, there's really no turning back.

Also, even if your car is equipped with a GPS unit, you might want to buy a map for the route you're about to travel on. Taking a personal interest on the road before you start off is also important, as neither the GPS nor the map benefit from day-to-day updates. You might find yourself driving on a closed road or run into high traffic due to road repairs. A detailed map will help you find the best secondary route that gets you the right places.

Also, make sure you purchase the necessary vignette and pay for all road taxes (if needed) before leaving home. The police or highway patrol have a bad habit of checking these kind of details when stopping you for a routine check (along with car insurance, license and registration) and you don't want to begin or end your trip with an unnecessary ticket.

More, if you know you're going to drive for more than 3 or 4 hours, you might want to take a quick snack before you get on the wheel. Avoid eating while driving for at least two reasons: it will most likely result in stomach aches (as you'll be stressed to keep an eye on the road also) and it will certainly affect your visual contact with the road. Another simple way to deal with this 'problem' would be to just stop at a fast-food or little restaurant along the road rather than, say, spill coffee all over your pants and deal with both agonizing pain and driving at the same time.

In all, these would be the basics when considering to take a long-distance drive. Once again, we don't expect you to remember it all. In the end, I guess this prep could be resumed in musts (tire and oil checks), needs (extra set of light bulbs, battery/towing cables) and shoulds (road taxes, adjusting your appetite and route maps). But remember, if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere due to oil problems or your lighting system goes down when enjoying you're favorite CD while night-driving, we're covered. Just to be sure though... WE'VE TOLD YOU SO!
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