Top 9 Important Things to Check Before Long Drives

Planning a road trip can be a fun and exciting time. However, failing to check over your vehicle before you set out on your journey could spell disaster.  As well as meticulously planning your route, you will also need to ensure your vehicle is fully road worthy. Whether you’re going on vacation or visiting friends or family, it’s worth taking time to fully check over your vehicle.  If you’re planning a long drive, there are a few essential things you should check before setting out on your journey.  These small checks will save you time and money by highlighting issues that could escalate into expensive garage bills. In addition, they could also avoid dangerous road accidents.

If you’re nervous about checking over your vehicle, the use of car diagnostic tools can make this task much easier. They are simple to use and plug directly into your vehicles onboard computer, scanning the data to discover any issues.  Using an OBDII scanner can quickly highlight problems, allowing you to make any necessary repairs. This will help you on the way to a happy and carefree road trip and an enjoyable motoring experience.

Here are some of the crucial things you should check on your vehicle:

1.  Leaks and Hoses

Checking hoses for leaks will eliminate the risk of losing gas (petrol), oil or water on your trip. Taking the time to check and replace any damaged hoses could save you a hefty garage repair bill.  While the engine is cold, check all hoses under the hood for any signs of leaks or damage. Weak spots should be gently squeezed to reveal any splits or cracks, swelling may indicate a problem with the inner hose.  If you’re unsure of what to look for under the hood, an OBDII scanner may offer a better solution. OBDII scanners can detect issues associated with lost engine oil, water or gas through leaking hoses.


2.  Tires

Tire problems can occur at any time so it’s essential to check them before you embark on any road trip. Check for any wear and tear on the tread and tire walls and ensure they have enough air.  If you have a fully loaded vehicle for your long drive, your tires may need more air than usual. Both hot and cold weather could also have an effect on the air levels in your tires.  Your spare tire should also be in good condition, with adequate tread and enough air to be used in an emergency.


3.  Engine Oil and Coolant

Costly damage could occur to your vehicle if you run low on engine oil or coolant during your journey. Car diagnostic tools will be able to determine if you have any issues that could impact your oil or coolant.  Checking and topping up the levels of engine oil and coolant is a simple and straightforward task. However, make sure you don’t overfill the reservoirs as this could lead to other problems while driving!


4.  Lights

A broken tail light could lead to a stern telling off from a police officer and an unwelcome ticket. Set time aside to check all internal and external lights are working and replace any broken bulbs.  It’s also a good idea to clean the glass panels covering the lights so they can be seen at maximum brightness.  The use of an OBDII scanner can swiftly pinpoint any lights that are broken and require replacement bulbs.


5.  Brakes

Brakes are one of the most important mechanical parts of your vehicle, but they’re not infallible. Checking the brakes on your vehicle before any long-distance journey is essential for the safety of you and your passengers.  Any potential sounds or differences in how the brakes operate should be investigated further to guarantee your safety. The quick use of an OBDII scanner can indicate if you have any potential brake problems before your trip.


6.  Gas (Petrol) Cap

A broken or damaged gas (petrol) cap could quickly lead to fuel evaporation. This will speed up your consumption of gas and lead to a more expensive road trip.  The gas (petrol) cap also needs to be in good condition to stop any dirt or debris from contaminating the gas (petrol). Contaminated gas (petrol) could cause you to break down on your journey and lead to costly engine problems.  Car diagnostic tools are ideal for picking up any problems with the gas supply of your vehicle before you go.


7.  Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter’s role is to reduce the toxic emissions escaping from your vehicle. OBDII scanners can be used to detect any problems with the catalytic converter’s performance.  If your emissions are too high, you could find yourself in trouble for being over the legal emissions limit.


8.  Transmission Fluid

In older models of cars, checking the transmission fluid levels is super easy using the dipstick provided.  However, many newer models of cars now have sealed units for the transmission fluid, so checking this way isn’t possible.  Thankfully, car diagnostic tools offer a rapid solution. They can quickly assess if there’s a problem with your level of transmission fluid. This will help maintain the smooth running of the vehicle and avoid any issues with the gears.


9.  Mass Airflow Sensor

Mass airflow sensors are critical to the health of your vehicle. A mass airflow sensor in good working order can help to reduce gas consumption and lower tailpipe emissions.  If your mass airflow sensor is defective, it can lead to substandard engine performance and garage repairs.  Unfortunately, mass airflow sensors are quite fragile pieces of equipment and require a good air filter to keep them working well. Air filters ensure the sensor doesn’t come into contact with dust and debris which could break it.  Car diagnostic tools can be used to detect any issues with the performance of the mass airflow sensor.


Essential Checking

It’s essential to remember to thoroughly check these areas of your vehicle before setting out on any long drive. Hot and cold weather can cause problems with the performance of your vehicle, so it pays to be vigilant.  Checking the levels of water, coolant, and engine oil should become second nature to you. Taking the time to examine your tires is a must! A few minutes of effort before each long journey could result is saving both time and money in the long run.  OBDII scanners are fantastic car diagnostic tools to quickly determine if your vehicle is operating at its best. They can highlight any potential issues which could be harmful to your vehicle and hazardous to health.  Always remember to check your vehicle on both legs of the journey! It doesn’t automatically follow that your return journey will be without incident if everything was OK when you left home.


About the author

I’m Tim Miller, an automotive mechanic and blogger from Denver, Colorado. I’m the founder of, an automotive blog about OBD2 scan tools. My fanpage is

I’ve had over 10 years experience in car repair and using OBD scanners.  Some of my review articles about car diagnostic tools can be found on my own website


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