Preparing a car for a long journey is an absolutely necessary step to avoid further inconveniences that can cost you time, money and sometimes even life.
Just like when you pack for your vacation and you make sure you don’t forget important things you’ll need, also your car needs to be prepared in advance.
This way you make sure you can cover long distances without extra worries. The first step, whether we are talking about winter or summer, is to take your car to an authorized service to be checked by a specialist.
But there are some checks you can make yourself in order to avoid a car breakdown.
The tires must not have cracks, swellings, and the profile height must be at least 4 millimeters.
If the tire pressure is not optimal, then the handling accuracy decreases and the fuel consumption increases.
The pressure must be checked “cold”, not immediately after using the car.
If the vehicle is “loaded” to the maximum, then the tires must be inflated to the maximum pressure specified in the car’s book. And don’t forget to check the spare wheel as well.
When you drive in the summer, your tires have to go through extreme temperatures. Hot asphalt pushes them to the limit, and that’s what happens with seasonal tires.
If you have winter tires in the middle of summer, we advise you to change them with a suitable set, as soon as possible.
Preparing the car to avoid a breakdown in summer
Summer is the season when many of us take vacations, and road trips to the sea, mountains or abroad and can take a negative turn if you have not taken the proper care to prepare your car for the journey ahead.
Checking tires condition and pressure
If your tires are no longer new you should drive carefully and avoid high speed or sudden strong brakes.
A set of used summer tires can dramatically affect your braking distance and grip in case of emergency maneuvers, not to mention torrential rain.
Old tires are more sensitive to potholes, so you risk a breakdown if you have tires older than five years.
Final words: We recommend that you check the tire pressure before you hit the road and adjust it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Make sure that the spare is also ready for action and that you have a jack, a screw and a stud key in the car.
By the way, if you changed the tires recently and your wheels were tightened with a hydraulic gun and not just a torque wrench, you might have to work hard if you want to take the rim down.
Also prepare a pipe in the car so that you can put it on the rope to increase the force arm when you want to loosen the studs.
Checking liquids – Braking system problems
Regardless of the season, a problem with the braking system must be treated immediately.
The signs are easy to recognize: the brake pedal stroke increases until the system starts to be effective, and the car makes sharp sounds with each press of the pedal.
Checking Brake fluid level
The brake fluid level is very important, in addition, specialists recommend changing it every two years.
Normally, the brake fluid level should not have dropped much since the last check.
If the level is considerably low, you must complete up to the level, but it is also necessary to check the braking system in a specialized service.
Checking Engine Oil Level
Also, you need to make sure that the engine oil level is optimal and, if necessary, refill it.
Checking the oil and further adjustments must always be done on a cold engine, when the car has not been used for a while.
To avoid a car breakdown in summer, at high temperatures, the engine operates at high temperature and, for this reason, the oil must be in a very good condition and at a correct level to avoid excessive wear of moving components in the engine. If we choose to change the oil, then it is also recommended to change the oil filter.
Checking washer fluid Level
The windshield wiper fluid should be a special one for summer, which has a higher boiling point. Also, don’t forget to check the condition of the wipers, and if necessary, change them.
Checking water level
The coolant is a mixture of distilled water and antifreeze(most of the time a 50/50 mixture) but is better to check the car manual. Its role is to cool the engine, ensuring proper operation at an optimum temperature.
The fluid level should be checked regularly to avoid further costly discomfort.
Checking the Air conditioning system
Before you go on the road, it is good to check if the air conditioning works properly to ensure a comfortable trip during the summer.
If you feel that when activating the air conditioning button, the temperature in the passenger compartment does not decrease, most of the time the AC freon level needs to be checked and schedule a refill for the system if necessary.
Contact a specialized center for this purpose and it is also recommended to change the air filter for the passenger compartment.
Check for Electrical problems
Like tires, the electrical system is overloaded in summer, not just in winter. High temperatures put pressure on all your car’s relays, capacitors, diodes and resistors.
The battery doesn’t do very well either, because the temperature under the hood rarely drops to reasonable values during the summer.
In summer, you risk leaving your car on the road due to problems with the alternator, battery, or various electrical components of the car. Go to the service as soon as you suspect you have electrical problems.
The same goes for the situation when the car starts harder and harder with the engine warm. In that case, you might have problems with the sensors.
In order to prevent a car breakdown you should also consider some other things to do before you start the summer trip :
- Check the brake pads and braking system
- Change the air filter
- Check if all the lights are working properly
How to prepare and avoid car breakdown in winter
Approaching a long road in winter involves, in addition to the careful preparation of the car from a technical point of view, other things that you must have with you in case you encounter heavy snow and you have to spend a few hours, or worse, a few days in a hostile environment.
Increased attention to some elements, which may seem trivial, can make the difference between a successful route and a disaster.
Checking the tires and pressure
We remind you that in most cases legislation stipulates that winter tires are mandatory when the road is covered with snow or frost. For this reason, it is mandatory that when you go on a long journey to change your tires with some winter ones, even if you make a trip in October, let’s say.
Tires condition must be good and their profile must be at least 5 millimeters. Checking the pressure is an important step because as the weather cools, so does the tire pressure.
The pressure must be checked at the outside temperature and not in the garage.
Checking engine oil
Engine oil tends to thicken at low temperatures .
Therefore, you need to make sure that the engine oil is optimal for your car and suitable for winter conditions.
Check Brake fluid
The brake fluid must be checked and we must remind you that in winter, when parking the car it is recommended not to apply the parking brake.
If you park the car on a slope (facing the base of the ramp) switch the gearbox in reverse, and the wheels can be directed to the curb for any eventuality.
If the car is stopped on the ramp (with its back to the base of the slope), then it is advisable to leave the car in 1st gear.
Check windshield washer fluid
The windshield fluid should be special for the winter to avoid freezing.
An important recommendation is that before operating the wipers you must make sure that the windshield is not frozen and that the wiper blades do not have ice on them. This way you avoid destroying the wipers or scratching the windshield.
Engine coolant must be checked before setting off, and as explained above, antifreeze is used throughout the year, but is absolutely necessary in the winter.
The antifreeze function of the antifreeze can vary depending on the concentration, from a temperature of -12 degrees (25% antifreeze and the rest of the water) and can reach up to a protection of -65 degrees.
If you find that the coolant level in the expansion tank is low and you need to refill, under no circumstances should you add antifreeze or cold water to the newly used engine cooling circuit.
Air conditioning system
You must make sure that the rear window demisting and defrosting system works in optimal parameters.
After starting the car to warm up the engine and activate the air conditioning to defrost the windows, it is recommended that the ice on the windshield be removed with a special squeegee along with hot water or special alcohol-based solutions.
The car battery in winter is very demanding , starting the engine requires 2-3 times more power than in summer. Having an old or weak battery can be one of the main reasons that leads to a car breakdown during the cold season.
We know very well that cold and the batteries do not “make a good house”.
At temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius, to protect it, avoid starting the radio system as much as possible and try to use the lights, wipers and air conditioning as little as possible.
Obviously, you will have to use them, but you can at least avoid using them simultaneously.
If the outside temperature is below 8 degrees Celsius, all you have to do is turn on the headlights for a few minutes. This will heat the battery.
Diesel engines are different and have a number of additional rules regarding battery life.
For example, it’s a good idea to consider the warning light that says the spark plugs are incandescent and not start the car until this warning light goes out.
Otherwise, you run the risk of using the battery quite a bit. You need to make sure that the battery is in optimal parameters to avoid running out of power after a colder night.
Refuel with more fuel
Why? Because gasoline also contains water, the water that remains in the tank might freeze at very low temperatures.
Because of this, it is not advisable to use the car in winter when your tank is almost empty.
Other recommended accessories that you should have in your car in winter to avoid a car breakdown:
- solutions for defrosting the locks (if the windows are frozen do not force their opening because you risk damaging your electric crane);
- squeegee for cleaning windows and brush for snow on the car
- starting cables for cases in which the battery fails
- snow shovel
- tow cable
The parking brake must not be used in winter . If the temperatures are low, the parking brake must not be used, as there is a risk of them freezing into locked position.
It also matters a lot how you drive. It is not enough to have a well-maintained car and you also need to adapt your driving style to winter conditions. Adapt running speed to road conditions. The main rule is to use a speed that allows you to stop safely, no matter what happens.
Use the engine brake as much as possible. The braking system must not be actuated suddenly, as the skidding phenomenon may occur.
If you want to be safe in winter, behind the wheel, it is really important to use the engine brake.
Keep a sufficiently large distance from the driver in front of you to avoid hitting him in case of skating.
Wish you all a safe journey!