Car Maintenance: 10 Checks Before a Long Journey

12th Mar 2021

By Paige Hodgkinson

Heading off on a long journey?

It's important to check various aspects of your car before setting off on a long journey, especially if it has been sat motionless for a while.

Cars thrive off being driven, not surprising considering this is what they were designed for, and if they're idle for a period of time some issues may arise, so it's important to thoroughly check your motor before setting off to your destination.

Is there enough fuel or electric battery power?

Petrol Pump

This may sound like we're stating the obvious but lack of fuel is actually a really common reason for breaking down and as more electric cars are taking to the UK roads we may see vehicles running out of battery power.

Along with inconvenience and cost, running out of fuel or electric charge can actually damage your car. Fuel injectors and the fuel pump in diesel engines can be harmed if a car draws in air instead of fuel and deep discharging an electric vehicle can cause battery cells to deteriorate; reducing their performance and life-expectancy.

Despite the side effects not being as severe, it's still not recommended to run out of petrol as blockages can form in the filters due to debris from the fuel tank, which can impact the engine's overall performance.

Over 8.5 million UK motorists could be driving with illegal tyres

Tyre Tread Check

A recent study we conducted shows that the cost of illegal tyre fines across the UK could be as high as £21.2 billion so unless you fancy facing a penalty of up to £2,500, per illegal tyre, as well as three points adding to your licence, it's recommended that you check your tyres.

In addition to making sure your tyres have the correct pressure, a lot of modern cars now feature a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, it's important you check the tyre tread depth. Each tyre should have a minimum of 1.6mm, but if the tread is anything below 3mm we would recommend replacing the tyre before a long journey.

Checking your tyres is simple but if you're unsure we have a handy blog on how to look after your tyres.

Check your car's engine oil level

Car Engine Oil Dipstick

This is arguably one of the most important things to check before commencing a long journey, don't worry about this point if your car is a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) though!

Engine oil is essentially the blood of your engine, lubricating essential moving internal parts and preventing wear from friction.

Equally as important is that the correct engine oil is used, the wrong lubricant can lead to chemical reactions such as corrosion or could damage key components such as the DPF, EGR Valve or PPF.

We have a helpful blog on how to check your car's engine oil, which also explains how to top it up, should you need to.

Plenty of screenwash?


It doesn't matter what time of the year it is, it's crazy just how much windscreen washer fluid you can get through in a single journey. Whether it's dust, dirt or flies impairing your vision; screenwash is fundamental.

Restricted vision through your windscreen is not only inconvenient and annoying, it's actually really dangerous and can lead to road traffic accidents.

Did you know that cars can actually fail an MOT for insufficient levels of washer fluid? So not only is it important to check the level of screenwash before a journey, you should also check the amount before an MOT.

Speaking of MOT, it may sound obvious but if your car hasn't ran for a while you should make sure its MOT is up-to-date. If it isn't you can book an MOT at your nearest Evans Halshaw dealership.

Is your car taxed and insured?

Car Insurance

Just like with an MOT, it's illegal to drive a vehicle on a road or in a public place without at least third party car insurance and doing so could result in six penalty points on your licence and a fixed penalty of £300.

Similarly, if you're caught driving without VED you could be fined up to £1,000.

A simple, quick check could save you the embarrassment and financial implications of unknowingly committing a criminal offence.

Does your car start?

Car Battery

The last thing any driver wants is to be rushing to leave the house on time, only to find the car won't start. Now this could be for various reasons, however, if your car has been stationary for a fair length of time, especially in the colder months, the reason may be the battery.

Over a period of time, batteries will slowly lose their voltage if a car is not being used regularly. A simple jump-start could be the solution to getting the car running but make sure you go on a drive to allow the battery time to recharge itself before you switch the engine off.

If the battery is over four years old it may to be time to replace it at your local Evans Halshaw dealership.

Is your car clean?

Nissan 350z Car Wash

Now you may wonder why we're worried about this as technically the cleanliness of your car doesn't affect your car's performance. Well, not only can a dirty car be harmful to your paintwork, you can actually be pulled over by the police if your licence plate isn't visible due to dirt.

Motorists risk a fine of up to £1,000 for driving with numberplates obstructed with filth.

Time to find out the bucket and sponge to avoid any unnecessary penalties on your journey. If your car is particularly dirty here are our top tips for washing your car in the winter months.

Are all the lights working?

Car Headlight

Lights are a crucial addition to any vehicle as they not only aid visibility but also provide signals to other drivers, advising them of your intentions on the road.

If a light isn't working effectively, accidents could easily happen.

You should check headlights, brake lights, reverse lights, indicators, fog lights and registration plate lights. It's easiest to check all the lights with an extra person.

Replacing bulbs is often fairly straightforward but if you need assistance don't hesitate to visit your nearest Evans Halshaw dealership.

What about the windscreen wipers?

Windscreen Wipers

We've already covered screenwash levels but are your windscreen wipers in working condition?

Over time wiper blades can worsen in condition, which prevents them from doing their job effectively. If the rubber has split, the wipers may not be able to clear your window or may just smear any liquid; making it near impossible to see out of the windscreen.

If you plan to do a lot of driving in Great Britain, windscreen wipers need to be working to the best of their ability as you will no doubt be faced with the elements at some point in your journey.

Finally, can you stop?

Brake Disc and Caliper

Brakes are rather important features in cars, without them you'd have no hope of safely stopping or even controlling the speed of your vehicle.

If your car isn't stopping as well as it should it could be due to worn brake pads or discs but it could also be down to the brake fluid, which should be changed every two years.

You also need to check that you have the right amount of brake fluid. Open your bonnet and locate the small, semi-transparent reservoir behind the steering wheel. The fluid should be a light golden brown colour and the level needs to sit between the MIN and MAX marks.

Any concerns at all to do with your brakes or brake fluid needs to be looked at by a trained technician so visit your nearest Evans Halshaw dealership for assistance.

Time to set off

Now your car is in tip-top shape for eating up some miles safely it's time to hit the road.

Don't forget if you have any trouble or fear your car may not be ready for a long journey, contact you local Evans Halshaw dealership for any vehicle servicing or repairs.