Important car safety checks and planning to do before a road trip

car driving on a coastal Australian road

RACV Staff

Posted October 26, 2022

The key to a successful road trip is preparation. From emergency roadside assistance to packing your car safety kit, here's what to check with your car before you leave on a road trip.

You’ve planned out your travel route, packed your bags, loaded the car, and are off on that long-awaited road trip. But are you fully prepared from a vehicle safety perspective?

RACV Training Manager for Auto Services Peter Smith says you can never be too careful when it comes to vehicle safety, especially when embarking on a road trip.

“Incidents and breakdowns on the road happen more often than you think." says Smith. Of course, having comprehensive car insurance and emergency roadside assistance in place is critical before heading off, but ensuring your car is in safe working order can give you additional confidence and comfort on the road.”

So, before you take off on your road trip this summer, ensure your car is safe by completing these crucial safety checks.


Road trip safety tips check list

Before you head off on your road trip, complete this safety check list.


Road trip preparation checklist


Service your car

You should be regularly completing easy DIY car maintenance jobs like checking your tyre pressure and replacing windscreen wiper inserts. But unless you're a mechanic you need to get your car professionally serviced before a road trip. “Undertaking a car service is essential before getting on the road, because if your car is not in safe working order the consequences from an accident can be more severe," Smith cautions.

Find an RACV Accredited Auto Care Centre near you and book your vehicle in for a service before heading off on your road trip. A reputable mechanic will check your car's battery, tyres, headlights, oil, brake fluid, water levels, air conditioning and more to make sure everything is as it should be.

Plan your fuel and rest stops

The key to a successful and safe road trip is planning. That means having your route planned out, knowing where the major towns are along the way for supplies, and filling up the tank with the best fuel prices in the area. Luckily, you can easily save money at your fuel stops with RACV's mobility app arevo. The app has a new Fuel Finder feature with an interactive map that displays specific fuel prices at nearby petrol stations. Prices are updated regularly by service stations so you can make informed decisions about where and when to fill up.

RACV Members can save even more money on fuel for road trips with an exclusive offer. While Members save 5c per litre on fuel every day, eligible customers can save up to 13c per litre on fuel when they combine their standard 5c per litre Member voucher with additional discounts

Solve two problems at once by also scheduling your rest breaks around your fuel stops. It's recommended drivers take at least a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving and share the trip with another driver if possible.


car driving on road in the Australian bush

Give your car a thorough clean before your road trip. Image: Getty


Update your Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage

“Sometimes, despite all the proper safety checks and safe driving techniques, breakdowns happen,” Smith says. If your car battery goes flat, you get a punctured tyre or you lock yourself out of the car without Emergency Roadside Assistance, it can ruin your day, or even your entire road trip.

“RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance provides drivers with extra peace of mind, knowing you’re never too far from help should you need it – even on regional roads,” says Smith. Check that your details are up to date before departing on your road trip to keep your assistance callouts smooth and rapid.

Observe the rules around mobile devices in the car

Victoria's rules around portable devices in cars changed on March 31, 2023. What you and can't do differs depending on whether your device is mounted, unmounted or wearable, and your type of licence but the underpinning principles remain the same. That is, don’t touch your unmounted or wearable device while you’re driving.

These changes aim to keep road users safe, reflect the significant increase in technologies capable of distracting a driver, and bring Victoria into line with the road rules in other states. Familiarise yourself with the changes so you know what to do should you need to use your phone while on a road trip.

Before heading off for the day, also make sure any communication devices are fully charged, with their charging cables packed in an easily accessible location.

“A fully charged device is a vital safety tool if you get lost or your car breaks down,” says Smith. “You’ll need your mobile phone to call Emergency Roadside Assistance, to use the maps application to see your location, and to check whether there are any major towns with auto repair centres nearby."

If you're in trouble on the road and your phone battery is low, Smith recommends recording a new voicemail: “If you are about to run out of phone battery with no way to charge it, an effective thing to do is to record a new voice mail message with details on your location - so if someone needs to contact you, they’ll know where you are.” Just remember to change it back afterward!


man on phone while looking at car engine

Call RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance if you break down on a road trip. Image: Getty


Check your tyres

Tyres are the connection between your vehicle and the road. Keeping your tyres in good condition is vital to ensuring your safety while driving, especially when travelling for long distances like on a road trip. Well-maintained tyres can also save you money by increasing fuel efficiency.

Before heading out on a road trip, check that your tyres have been inflated to their recommended pressure. This can be found in your car's manual and often also on the driver's side door, glovebox or in the fuel door. It's also advised get your wheels aligned if it's been a while, as misaligned wheels can cause tyres to wear out faster and increase the risk of vibration and skidding. Carrying a spare tyre is also a good idea, with RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance available 24/7 to change it should a puncture occur. 

Clean your car inside and out

A neat and organised interior can prevent driver distractions, keep the kids comfortable, and help keep your focus on the most important thing: driving safely.

“If you’re heading away on a long trip, take the time to properly organise your car,” says Smith. “Things like storage boxes for the boot to house loose items, a secure place for your pet and bags for kids' toys can stop loose objects from flying around the car, which poses a risk to the driver and passengers.” 

Smith also advises to check your vehicle for any spiders or insects that may have taken up residence in your car. This is common after prolonged periods of being parked under a tree or in the garage. Nobody wants a creepy-crawly on them mid-drive!

Pack your emergency car safety kit

Hiccups can happen to even the most prepared and experienced road tripper. Having a car safety kit means you've got essential items on hand should there be an emergency.

Your kit should include a phone charger, bottled water, non-perishable food, car owner's manual, torch with spare batteries, jumper leads, hi-vis vest, reflective triangle, picnic rug or blanket, spare wheel and tyre, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, your Emergency Roadside Assistance details and a small amount of cash.


RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance is there for you when you need help.
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