It’s the time of year where road trips become a realistic and exciting travel option. Your first concerns may be food, breaks, or entertainment, but before you get carried away it’s also vital that you make sure your Volkswagen is road trip ready. Road trips are, in general easier on your car than day to day driving, but finding yourself stuck miles from home, especially when you’re in an area with unreliable weather conditions, can spell the end of your road trip dreams.
Check your tires
The first thing to check is the pressure of your tires. The recommended pressure level for your particular VW should be located on your manufacturers label, although it’s often possible to find it within your owners’ manual. You should be able to tell if your tires need balancing; if you feel a vibration at high speeds it often caused by uneven pressure. If your tire pressures need checking before or during your journey, many VW’s will also inform you via the tire pressure monitoring system, which will display a light if there is an issue, the color of which indicates the severity of the issue.
Check your fluid levels
Making sure your fluid levels are at the right point is an important part of readying your car for a long journey. You oil levels are available in your manual and should be at the right level before you set off. You need to make sure you top up with an oil that’s suitable for your make of VW, but you still have the option of choosing between regular and synthetic.
If you’re close to the oil change interval recommended by VW in your manual then you should make sure it’s changed before you leave if you want to enjoy the best performance possible. Of course, you can have your engine oil changed completely by a garage if you’re not confident in changing it yourself. Although this may cost a little more it will save any mistakes that you could pay for further down the line.
Your other essential fluids including your transmission fluid, engine and radiator coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and windscreen wash should also be checked before you leave. If you decide to have a full service beforehand, you should have these checks included. Many garages will also check your hoses or belts to make sure they do not require replacing before your journey.
Check your brakes, steering and suspension
Brake checks are a vital part of your pre-journey checklist and will often prevent any problems from developing during extended periods of travel. Routine checks that can be completed at home include testing the pedal to see how far it needs to be pushed before it has an effect, as well as brake fluid checks. The sound of your brakes hitting your brake pads should also be considered, as it can be an indicator of a problem. As with all other parts of your car, it’s possible to have the garage check them over beforehand as an individual check or part of a full service, so you can travel with peace of mind.
Whether you’re paying for your holiday using savings, a loan, or you’re being treated by your family, you want to make sure your journey is as comfortable as possible. Suspension plays a large part in the overall comfort level of your drive and can be easily sorted via small adjustments or replacement parts, which can be fitted by a local garage for a small price. If you purchase the correct part for your car online you can also replace suspension elements yourself.
Signs of suspension issues include any feeling of vibration in the steering or the brake pedal, popping sounds during turning and knocking or rattling sounds coming from the suspension when travelling on bumpy roads, which often indicates a loose component. Struts inside the wheel arches should also be checked for signs of moisture, which can indicate a leaking strut or shock absorber.
If, when testing your car, you notice the feeling of the car pulling from one side to the other as you drive straight you could be dealing with an alignment issue. This could lead to a number of further problems including worn tires and suspension problems and as such should be dealt with before your journey begins.
Contributed by Emma Jaynes