A question I always get asked when I'm in the work shop around this time of year, is can I book my car in to get checked before I go on holidays, and of course people are always in a rush and that time of year is really yard for me to find time to satisfy all my customers requirements, so here is a check list of things to do to your car before you take off on those long road trips with your loved ones.
Road trips. For those who enjoy the slow and steady sound of rubber and asphalt, the highway breeze and the sightseeing experience that accompany road trips or long journeys, this is a heads-up. Journeys and road trips can be cool, but nothing sours the experience faster than car trouble (except police trouble). So, your home based car trouble is already enough. Car trouble on the highway is a different ball game. It is dangerous for you, your car and most importantly your family. Besides, the sight of a broken down car on the highway is generally uncool.
Here are some tips on how to avoid the embarrassing and dangerous scene of a broken down car on the highway. These tips could make your holiday start perfectly or could spell a whole lot of misery for you (if ignored). The tips are not too complicated.
- It is always about the engine oil. You could check if the oil is still good to go but to be on the safe side just change it. Also, check the automatic transmission fluid and if it is due for a change, do it before you hit the road. In effect make changes to the oil (and filter). But do not overfill. Engine oil is vital because its absence could cause your engine to overheat and in critical cases eventually self-destruct.
- Try to cover your headlights with a protective sheet. This is to prevent bugs from getting in and eventual bug clogs.
- Refill your windscreen washer bottle. In case a bug gets splattered on your windscreen your washer bottle needs to contain water (preferably mixed with a little detergent) to wash it off.
- Do not forget to check the level at which the coolant or engine antifreeze is at. A friendly reminder, do not ever open the radiator cap as long as your engine is still hot. During the cause of this particular check, any sources of leakage should be addressed as soon as possible. This may not seem like a problem but during your trip, if there is a lack of antifreeze or coolant your engine is very likely to overheat. This overheating would, in turn, lead to other severe damages.
If there is a need to top up your antifreeze, do so with a 50 – 50 mixture of antifreeze coolant and water. If and only if the coolant previously used was also a mixture.
- Check your hoses: Though the change of hoses may be a bit difficult. It will be easier for you to do it before your journey starts than to do it in the middle of nowhere under the hot sun or in the dead of night. So check for blisters or severe bulges to know whether to change or not. Ask your mechanic. If there are cracks on the walls of the hoses, you need not be told to change the hoses.
- Check your fan belt: What you are checking for is any reason to change the fan belt such as cracks or excessive play. You can do this by turning them sideways so that you can see the surface undergoing friction. Also if you notice a shrieking sound that does not stop for an extended period while driving, it indicates that the belt is slipping. This could also be indicated by a loud screeching sound whenever you pull away from the red light (stop light).
- Ensure you got all your emergency equipment.
- Check all your lights properly. The indicator, full beam, dip, fog, and break. Check them all properly. You could park by a white wall or shop window to check them, or you could get a friend to watch while you alternate through the lights.
- Check your tires: This is critical stuff here. Legally, the minimum depth allowed for your tread depth is 3 millimeters. If you venture lower than the 3 mm, you are ripe for a weekend in jail before being presented in court. A trick to personally checking the depth is by using a penny, anything below Lincoln`s shoulder indicates a need to change the tire. So take good care of your tires. Ensure you get the correct pressure at a filling station. The right pressure also helps you prevent the tire from wearing. It also aids in conserving fuel, so you do not spend more fuel than is necessary. Not to mention the fact that the wrong pressure could lead to poor handling. Before traveling, go for a little cruise and if you feel any irregular vibration, get your tires balanced.
Do not forget to also check your spare tire: A faulty spare in the middle of nowhere that is a road you do not want to thread. Make sure your jack, handle, and the wheel brace are all in your car.
- Clear your boot. Lose all the extra weight. Unnecessary weight can lead to increased fuel consumption. So check if it is full of materials and office stuff that came home from work or school but never left the car.
- Take along all your emergency gear, your flashlight, plier, the screwdriver and even the adjustable spanner. You could also prepare for the worst case scenario by carrying along your fire extinguisher. Flares and a medical kit could also prove to be essential.
- Battery functionality. If as you start your car, it seems sluggish, it is a sign that there is corrosion or your battery is too old (dying in fact). So, if your battery has been in use for more than a few years, check it before your trip. Check for any signs of corrosion on the terminals. Check to ensure that the positive lead and the negative lead are still tightly screwed in place.
After carrying out all the mentioned checks, a last minute drive around the block or within your city is not a bad idea. Make sure all the kinks are worked out. A smooth sailing car is a good way to start your holiday.
Preparation is KEY!