Ultimate Safety Checklist Before a Long Journey

As the UK makes its way back to something like normality, many of us are now making plans for a holiday. And with foreign travel still potentially off-limits this summer, it looks like this year is set to be the year of the staycation – a holiday taken in the UK. With so many groups and families getting ready to hit the road, then, we thought we’d put together a useful guide to help you all stay safe – so here is our ultimate safety checklist before a long journey.

Get a grip

Let’s start with the basics – check those tyres. This is perhaps the most obvious check to make before starting any long journey, but we all know how easy it is to get lazy about this one. The last thing you want is a sudden tyre blow-out on the motorway, so take the time to give your tyres a quick once-over in advance of setting out.

You should look at tyre pressure and make sure they’re all properly inflated, of course, but also make sure to check the tread depth and the general wear and tear. Tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in the UK, however, it is recommended to replace tyres when the tread depth is at 3mm. Look for particularly worn patches and for bulges anywhere on the tyre. Remember that petrol stations will always have a pump if you just need to top up the air in your tyres and that for anything more substantial Perrys offers a comprehensive tyre service. (And don’t forget to check your spare tyre too!)

Don’t be a dipstick

Don’t be a dipstick this summer – check your oil level before you set off! (Sorry... we couldn’t resist the corny joke!) It is true, however, that many of us don’t bother to make this simple check before we begin a long journey. It only takes a moment to use the dipstick to check that your oil level is between the min and max mark and then to top it up if required. It’s also a good idea to have an oil and filter change once a year, or between 6000 and 1200 miles.

Light bulb moment

How many drivers does it take to change a light bulb…? Just the one, actually – but the problem is that we rarely see our car from the outside while it’s actually running so often don’t know that bulbs need changing. Check all your lights before your journey, and pick up a few spare bulbs to take with you too. (And if you are planning on crossing the channel, don’t forget you’ll need headlight deflectors so that when you’re driving on the other side of the road you don’t dazzle oncoming drivers.)

Emergency supplies

It’s not a nice scenario to think about, but if you do have the misfortune to break down on your journey, you’ll thank yourself for having packed the proper emergency supplies beforehand. This doesn’t just mean your red warning triangle and spare tyre, though. It’s a good idea to also pack a reflective jacket and first aid kit. You may additionally want to pack a sleeping bag or two and some snacks that won’t go off when stored for some time – being cold and hungry while you wait for vehicle recovery is never much fun!

Test your brakes

The basic test for brakes is, of course, to test that they stop the car, that they don’t feel soft or spongy and that the car doesn’t veer to one side as it is slowing down. More advanced is to check your brake pads for wear by looking at the thickness of the pads. New pads are usually around 10mm thick and you should replace them when they are at 3mm.

Windscreen condition

Tiny chips in your windscreen might not seem like anything you need to worry about. However, that small damage can become larger as the car clocks up the miles. Small chips and scratches are easily dealt with before a long journey as they are what is termed SMART repairs. This stands for “small and medium repair technique”, which means, put simply, that a mobile repair service can come to you instead of you coming into a garage. Perrys SMART repairs cover glass chips and scratches, as well as bumper scuffs, fabric and leather upholstery repairs and alloy wheel damage.

Fuel level

This point is almost too obvious to include on our checklist, but the fact is that a surprising number of motorists do have problems due to simply running out of fuel. The worst-case scenario is finding yourself stuck by the side of the motorway because you don’t have enough petrol in the tank to carry on. Little better, though, is the panic that’s induced when you suddenly realise you might not make it to the next petrol station in time. Remember to plan your journey and work out where you’re going to pick up fuel in advance. If you’re coming from a city, it’s easy to assume that there are petrol stations everywhere – but this is just not the case in less built-up and more countrified areas.

I can see clearly now the rain has gone…

Obviously, being able to see clearly out of the windscreen is crucial, but checking your windscreen wiper blades and screen wash is another one of those things we tend to get lazy about. Top up your screen wash and make sure that your wiper blades aren’t worn out and leaving smears on the screen. Far from helping you to see more clearly, these smears can often be a hazard and block your view of the road, especially when combined with the glare of headlights at night.

Book your vehicle in for a service

Getting an overall service is the best way to put your mind at ease before setting off on a long journey. It will cover everything and give your car a clean bill of health that lets you drive in complete confidence. Perrys services are available six days a week, drop-ins are welcome and we always communicate in plain language and avoid jargon.

Break-down cover

This one could seem like a no-brainer, but do be sure to get yourself some break-down cover before you embark on any sizeable journey. And if you already have cover, make sure to check that your policy is up-to-date before you leave and that you’ve got your membership card with you and know the phone number to call if you do break down.

Insurance

Before you set off, make sure your insurance is all present and correct. The real point to look out for here is not whether you’ve got insurance or not – that’s obvious. The thing that often catches drivers out is when they assume that family, adult children and other members of their group are automatically covered to drive their vehicle under their policy. These days, insurance companies offer a multitude of policies that aren’t as simple as they once were; they are all very specific concerning who exactly is and is not covered and under what conditions. Don’t get caught out here and let a basic admin point ruin your holiday.

Bike racks, roof racks and roof boxes

Staycations usually mean a car piled high with luggage and kit and we tend to make use of extras we don’t use habitually, such as bike racks and roof boxes. Remember that these can add considerable height and width to your car so make sure you allow for these and take extra care if weaving in and out of traffic or driving down narrow country lanes.

And make sure that all your racks and boxes are secure, in both senses of the word – attached properly to the car and safe from theft. That might sound like an unnecessary precaution, but when you’re in the services getting lunch for half an hour, your bikes and surfboards are left unattended in a large, busy carpark and vulnerable to theft. So consider locking them up as well as just tying them down.

Navigation and route planning

When it comes to navigation, we tend to rely heavily on our satnavs these days. Remember to check for map and traffic updates before you set off, though, as not all satnavs do this automatically. Also, check that you have a good old fashioned road atlas stowed away somewhere in the car. This might seem outmoded and unnecessary, but it’s a very worthwhile backup – you should never rely completely on your tech.

Be safe and have fun!

So there you have our ultimate safety checklist before a long journey. These checks aren’t always the most riveting of tasks. However, they make all the difference when you’re on the road and they keep you out of danger. So work through the list, stay safe out there and have fun. Bon voyage! 

Written by Perrys | 5 min read
01 Apr 2021

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