I know it's the last page of a calendar when my whole day is spent answering customers who ask to have their car booked for an appointment before the holidays. They need it checked before a long trip. Everyone is usually in a rush at that time of year, so it is really hard for me to accommodate everyone. So that you don't miss on anything, here is a checklist of things that you need to do before driving away to your adventure.
Road trips are enjoyable. Your car breaking down isn’t.
For those who enjoy the steady sound of rubber and asphalt and the highway breeze that accompany long journeys, this is a heads-up. Road trips can be cool, but nothing sours the experience faster than car trouble (except police trouble). Car trouble when you’re home is hard 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.
How to avoid your car breaking down on your road trip
Taking heed of these tips could start your holiday on the right note; ignoring them could spell misery for you. Don't worry, these tips are not too complicated.
- It is always about the engine oil. Check if the oil is still good to go, but to be on the safe side, change it. Also, check the automatic transmission fluid and if it is due for a change, do it before you hit the road. Do not overfill. Engine oil is vital because its absence could cause your engine to overheat.
- Cover your headlights with a protective sheet to prevent bugs from getting in and causing 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 of the coolant or engine antifreeze. A friendly reminder, don’t open the radiator cap while your engine is still hot. Leakage should be addressed as soon as possible. If the antifreeze or coolant is inadequate, your engine will likely overheat, inviting worse issues to befall your car.
- Check your hoses. Though changing the hoses may be a bit tedious, it will be so much easier do before the journey starts than to do it in the middle of nowhere under the hot sun or in the dead of night. Check for blisters or severe bulges, or better yet, ask your mechanic. Cracks on the walls of the hose are a sure sign that the hose needs replacing.
- Check the fan belt. What you’re checking for are cracks or excessive play. You can do this by turning the belts 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 the lights properly - the indicator, full beam, dip, fog, and break. 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 tyres. This is critical. Legally, the minimum depth allowed for your tread is 3 millimeters. If you venture lower than the 3 mm, expect to spend a weekend in jail before being presented in court. So take good care of your tyres, ensure you get the correct pressure at a filling station. The right pressure also helps prevent premature wearing, improves handling, and aids in conserving fuel. Before traveling, go for a little cruise and if you feel any irregular vibration, get your tyres balanced.
Don’t forget to check your spare tyre. 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.
- Take along all your emergency gear, your flashlight, a pair of pliers, 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.
- If you notice a sluggishness when starting your car, 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.