What comes to mind when the words vacation and road trip are mentioned? At that specific moment… nothing, except for bubbling excitement that results in a silly dance and shrieking sounds.
So, apart from planning the route, stops, playlists, snacks for the car, activities etc., it’s important to include your planning for a proper car check too – for peace of mind. We know that it sounds boring compared to the rest of the planning, but it’s critical if you don’t want to get stuck on the side of the road and waste time you could’ve spent at your destination. If your breakdown is serious, this might not be the only things going to waste, you may end up spending money unbudgeted for.
What exactly do you need to check before you embark on your road trip?
Start your car-check with under the bonnet first. Check the oil and coolant levels. If they appear to be low, fill them up, and check for possible leakages. Make sure that your car’s brake fluid is efficient. If need be, change the oil and oil filter before the trip.
Ensure that all your car lights are in working condition, especially when travelling routes at night or in misty or rainy weather conditions. Make sure to keep some extra brake globes in the car for globes that might blow. You may also cover your headlights with a protective sheet to prevent bug clogs and other damage. LLumar headlight protection film can be purchased from selected partners, nationwide.
This is a very simple test. Use your windscreen washers to spray your windscreen – do the wipers clear the water from your windscreen? If they’re leaving lines that could impair your vision, it’s better to replace them with new ones. Windscreen rain repellent products are also available at Builder’s Warehouse or Makro starting from R50 and work best in rainy weather conditions – the raindrops run so quick from your windscreen that it’s almost unnecessary to switch on your wipers. It’s also best to keep a towel at hand to wipe dirty windshields, spills etc.
4. Wheels & Tyres
Your tyres need to be in perfect condition when you’re travelling. This is what connects your car to the road and it’s best to look at tread depth first (some cars may have a tread depth indicator); if the tire is worn out, replace it. You don’t want to go sliding on the road (like a small child without balance in an ice-skating rink without traction – you can just imagine how it ends).
Also, look for signs of strain, bulges and other possible damage. Check your tyre pressure regularly (even when not travelling a long distance). The tyre will wear out in the middle if the tyre is over-inflated and with underinflated tyres, it will wear out on the sides and edges.
5. Brake Pads
Brake pads have a metal outer part and a composite inner part. The inner part needs to be 5mm thick. If the thickness is below this, we recommend replacing the brake pads. With that goes the handbrake as well. More than four clicks to keep the car from moving, and you would fail a roadworthy test.
6. Drive Belts
Examine the drive belt for any cracks. If the drive belt is damaged or worn out, you may head for an utter disaster and your engine may shut down completely. The battery won’t charge, and your car will start overheating because the water pump (run by the belt), won’t work.
7. Spare Wheel
Before any journey, not only long-distance ones, you’ll need to check that your spare tyre, the jack, and wheel spanner are all in your car and in working condition. The spare tyre should also be inflated correctly, you might haven’t used it in a while so make a mental note to always check. We strongly recommend doing this every time you fill up your car with fuel.
Most of the steering tests can only be done while driving. It’s best to get a technician to test your steering because they can pick up any engine sounds, vibrations or suspension that the normal driver can’t. There may also be a wheel alignment problem when the car pulls in either the left or right direction. The car then needs to be lifted to check the wheel alignment as well as other components, such as the steering rack.
9. Brakes & Clutch
Evaluate how the car reacts when breaking. When the car can’t be controlled when breaking, it’s not safe (when it pulls to either side). When checking the clutch, any of the following symptoms may indicate a clutch replacement: spongy, sticking, vibrating or lose clutch pedal when pressed; squeaking or grumbling noise when pressed; ability to rev the engine, but poor acceleration; difficulty shifting gear or ‘slipping’ clutch, causing a momentary loss of acceleration.
10. Other Checks
-Ensure that you’re travelling in a clean car – inside and out. This makes it easier when searching for things inside the car during the trip.
-Keep a small garbage bag inside the car for when the snacks are finished and there’s no trash bin nearby.
-Get a spare key and keep it in your wallet or elsewhere in case you get locked out.
-Ensure your podcasts or playlists are downloaded (in case you lose service).
-Make sure all the other cables are in the car – phone charger, auxiliary cable, USB cable, etc.
-Bring a plastic funnel and water bucket in case of emergencies. Also, pack a fire extinguisher if possible.
With proper preparation before a trip and a good attitude during the journey, you can make sure you not only survive a long trip but also enjoy it!