In another month or two, our roads are going to be very busy with holiday makers travelling to and from their holiday destinations for the summer holidays.
If you are going to be one of those, now is a good time for you to give your vehicle a thorough check. If there are any problems, at least you have the time to book it in for repairs.
Here is a list of what to look out for.
Make sure you have the Owner’s Manual
You vehicle’s Owner’s Manual has a wealth of vital information that you might need in the case of an emergency. You may have a strange looking light suddenly come on, late at night. The manual should be able to describe the light and what the problem is.
If you need to do simple mechanics, such as top up engine oil or other fluids, the manual should explain how to do this.
If you don’t have the owner’s manual, try to download an electronic copy of it, or order one from the dealer, and keep it in the glove compartment for safe keeping.
Check under the Hood
Check out the battery… are the terminals clean? If you see any acid leaks, cracks or other damage, the battery must be replaced. Ensure the battery terminals are tight and not corroded.
When you start your car, if the engine cranks slower than normal, the battery is probably close to its end. Usually a new battery may last from 3 to 6 years, so if your battery is 4-5 year old, it’s a good idea to have it tested before a trip.
Also check out the drive belt. Does it appear to be worn out or cracked? You may need to get it replaced.
Check the brake fluid level. Low brake fluid level may indicate a leak in the system – have your brakes checked.
Check the power steering fluid. Look for anything irregular – leaks, loose clamps, kinked hoses, etc. If any of the fluids seem to be leaking, or if the steering seems to be harder to turn than normal –have the entire steering system checked by a professional.
Check the Engine Oil
Park your vehicle on level ground and keep the engine running until warm. Then turn off the engine and wait a minute to allow the oil to drain down the oil pan.
Open the hood and pull out the engine dipstick. Wipe it with a clean rag and put it back in fully. Pull it out again and check the level… if it is not on full or close to the full mark, you need to add more engine oil. Be careful not to over full the oil as this may cause unnecessary leaks.
If the oil appears to be a black colour, you need to change it.
If you find you are changing oil too often, you need to get this checked out by a qualified auto mechanic.
Are the Electronics all Working?
Get someone to help you check if your indicators, park lights and brake lights are all working. If you are towing a trailer or caravan, make sure all the electronics are connected and working properly. Check the air conditioner is in good order, and doesn’t need refilling. You don’t want to be fiddling with any buttons while you are driving, so make sure everything works perfectly before you get behind the wheel. A computer diagnosis may be a good idea to get to those electrical problems that don’t pop up until it’s too late.
What condition are the Tyres in?
One of the most important safety checks is your tyres. Is the tread still good, and is it evenly worn out. If so then have your suspension checked by a professional before you have your tyres seen to. Uneven tread is an indication of suspension or alignment problems. Make sure you get the alignment and balancing done before a big road trip. Check the tyre pressure is in-line with the manufacturer’s label, which usually located in the driver’s door frame or in the glove box. You also can find it in the owner’s manual.
Spare Tyre, Wrench and Jack, Warning Triangle
Besides checking you actually have these in your car, and they are all in good working order, it is also a good idea to know what to do with them. Sadly, there is still many woman (and men) who don’t have a clue how to change a tyre. South African roads are not the safest place to break down with a flat tyre, especially at night. So best know how to change it, and how to change it quickly!
Brakes, Steering & Suspension
It is highly recommended that you get your brakes, steering and suspension checked out by a qualified workshop, so that they can inspect the car properly under a hoist. There could be numerous problems that you might not pick up yourself, such as worn CV Joints; worn Shock Absorbers; worn Suspension; Warn Brake Pads; Leaking Steering Rack or Pump etc.
It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car consisting of the following:
– Jumper cables
– Tyre sealer-inflation can
– Tyre gauge
– Some old gloves
– Screwdriver, Pliers and Sockets, Emergency triangle.
Also consider keeping spare fuses, a bottle of engine oil, windshield fluid and of course a first aid kit.
Lastly, make sure you have mapped out your journey either with your GPS, or on an actual map. Not only will you ensure you don’t get lost, but it can also help you pin point any special places on interest you may want to take the family to. If you have little ones travelling with you, you may also want to consider packing an emergency entertainment kit for them!
Safe travels Everyone!