Road trips are a special way to travel. They test your patience and endurance, but also reward you with unforgettable experiences that make the journey as fun as the destination itself. But anyone who’s gone on a road trip will know that you may encounter unexpected situations on the road.
To prepare yourself for different scenarios and avert disasters, you need to prepare your car for a road trip.
1. Get the aircon in top shape
If your aircon isn’t functioning well, now would be a good time to have it repaired. Road trips, after all, are as much about the journey as the destination. You don’t want a fun car ride to turn into a sweltering nightmare. Plus, it’s never a good idea to roll your windows down while driving through some of Southeast Asia’s heavily polluted cities.
2. Clean the interiors
You and your family (or friends) will be spending a lot of time in the car, so make it as comfortable as possible. Vaccuum the inside of the car, especially if there are any unpleasant smells. Tidy up and remove the clutter from the backseat or the boot so you can clear up the space for passengers and luggage.
3. Check the tyre pressure
Some gas stations have facilities for checking tyre pressure. If you’re bringing your car to your trusted mechanic for routine maintenance, though, this will be part of the procedure.
However, if you’d like to do this on your own, you’ll need to purchase a tyre pressure gauge. Insert the gauge into the valve stem on your tyre before you’ve driven your car for the day. Compare the psi (pounds per square inch) shown on the gauge to the one indicated in your owner’s manual or on the sticker inside the driver’s door of your car. If the measured psi is higher, let out some air until the psi matches the required level. If it’s lower, add air.
Quick tip: get a digital gauge that displays the psi number. Bring this with you on your road trip in case you suspect tyre trouble on the road.
4. Fill up the tank
You’ll of course need to start with a full tank for a long journey. You might want to wait to do so till you’re out of Singapore, though, so you can take advantage of Malaysia’s cheaper petrol prices.
5. Check tyre tread depth
Stick a tyre depth gauge into the groove of your tyre tread. Press it against the tread block and read the measured depth, which will be displayed in millimetres. In Singapore, the Land Transport Authority requires to have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm. But since you’ll be wearing your tyres out more on a road trip compared to regular city driving, aim above the minimum. Replace your tyre if the measured depth is too low.
6. Check the oil level
Even if you’ve already done so this month, check the oil level again before leaving on a road trip. Do so when the engine is cold—for example, before you’ve driven the vehicle that day or at least three hours after turning it off—to avoid burning yourself on hot parts. Make sure your car is parked on level ground, too.
To check the oil, locate the dipstick under the hood, pull it out, and wipe off the oil. Next, insert it all the way back into the tube. Then take the dipstick out again and see where the oil reaches. If it’s within the proper oil level indicator, you’re safe. Add oil if the top of the oil streak on the dipstick does not reach the required oil level.
Note that the indicator may vary among different car types and brands, and can be a pinhole, letters H and L for “high” and “low”, and other versions.
7. Install a dash cam
A dash cam, or dashboard camera, records what’s going on in front of your car as you drive. This will be helpful especially if you get into an accident abroad. Dash cam footage will help explain the situation to the local police as well as to your car insurance provider.
8. Google tint policies
Different countries may have different policies on car tint. For instance, in Malaysia, car tints must have “70% Visible Light Transmission for the windscreen, 50% for front passenger windows, and 30% for the rear passenger windows and rear windscreen”, according to The Star Online. Those who wish to use darker tints will need to secure permission and pay a fee.
If your car tint exceeds allowable limits in all the countries you’ll be driving through, you may want to consider having it adjusted before you go on your road trip.
9. Check your lamps
Planning to drive to high-altitude places that can get foggy? Make sure your headlamps are working well. Install fog lights if you haven’t done so yet.
10. Bring spares and tools
Pack a tool kit that includes a screwdriver, pliers, socket set, crescent wrench, spark plugs, wire dykes, powerful flashlight, bulbs, and tire plug—at the very least. If you’re setting out for some rough, rugged and remote terrain, a spare tyre will be crucial, too.
11. Invest in an in-car GPS
Use an in-car GPS instead of your phone to help you navigate through unfamiliar towns and cities. By doing so, you get to save your smartphone’s battery life and reduce the use of cellphone data.
12. Other checks
Have your trusted mechanic inspect your car’s brake pads and battery. If you haven’t taken your car for a routine maintenance check in a while, this is the best time to do so, too. A thorough assessment will help give you peace of mind, especially if you’re taking a particularly long or difficult road trip, and if it’s your first time to do so.
Driving abroad can be fun if you prepare enough. By preparing your car for a road trip, you can focus on chasing adventure, satisfying your wanderlust, and enjoying the company of your fellow travellers. On top of all these precautions, remember to check that your car insurance and travel insurance are in order before you go.