How my free road trip checklist prevents breakdowns

Preparing my 1971 Datsun 1200 wagon for a 10 day road trip from Sydney to Uluru in 1995 took quite a bit of preparation. However most road trips in Australia are not that intense as most Australians tend to venture just a few hours from home (otherwise planes have become more popular these days).

Regardless of your destination it’s important to ensure you get there in one piece. Remember you’ll be away from your regular mechanic and could be traveling in a more remote area, or on a weekend or public holiday – making a mechanic harder to come by. So follow our road trip checklist to prepare your car, ensuring a smooth ride and helping to prevent a breakdown.


Or check out this video…


Your vehicle has several different fluids, besides the petrol, that should be checked, changed if past the recommended time interval and topped off if below recommended levels. These are:

Engine oil
Radiator coolant
Windshield washer fluid

Your owner’s manual should describe the locations of where to check the level of each of these fluids and the correct type of oils or fluids to use for each.

Hot tip: The engine should be cool when checking and topping up any fluids.


Your car’s battery should also be on your road trip checklist. Check the terminals for corrosion and a good connection. Clean and tighten if needed. Check wires for any spots where the covering is rubbed through and replace if necessary. If your battery is more than 3 years old, consider replacing it.


Your road trip checklist should include visual inspection of all rubber components such as all hoses under the bonnet. If any of these appear old, worn or cracked they may be due for replacement. The same holds true for your windshield wipers, which should be replaced if worn, cracked or if they’re not making proper contact with the windshield glass. Measure your wiper rubbers to ensure you get the correct length and remember that the left and right wiper blades are often slightly different in length. Replacement should be straightforward, with most new blade packages having easy-to-follow diagrams.


Tyres should be inflated to manufacturers’ recommendations, although I recommend over-inflating them by 10psi each as this will improve your cars handling and fuel consumption. Make sure your tyres have plenty of tread and that they’re not showing any unusual wear patterns, which could indicate an alignment problem. And importantly remember to check your spare.


Sometimes it’s easy to forget to check your lights, especially the ones at the rear of your vehicle, like your license plate bulb, blinkers and brake lights. Your road trip checklist should include all lights, including dashboard and interior lighting. You may have to enlist someone’s help to check your blinkers and brake lights, alternatively you can easily back your vehicle up to a wall and look for the reflection to check the rear lights. And importantly run your air conditioner for a few minutes each day, for several days before your trip to clear it out. The filter may also need to be changed if its been a while.


The more you haul, the more money you’re wasting. Before your trip, clean out your car and get rid of any unnecessary items. Excess stuff will weigh your car down which decreases fuel efficiency, adds drag to your car and causes excess wear on your tyres and engine. And who wants to travel for hours in a messy car anyway?

To ensure you’re completely ready for your next road trip download our free road trip checklist, covering Planning, Preparing the Car and Packing.


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Elvio is a seasoned Motor Mechanic with 25 years experience in the automotive industry. Well-known for asking the most obvious questions and his bizarre obsession with Datsuns (having owned more than 10), he seems to think the 70s was the golden era of motoring. Current rumours suggest he owns more than 100 caps, prefers Belgium bier to Australian and has been confused with the real Speedy Gonzalez. Well-known at the racetrack for getting maximum performance on a budget and his obsessive attention to detail, he is now taking his passion for all things with an engine to help his customers in his blog. Ask Elvio.