It’s been a long year, but the summer holidays are finally within sight! If you are planning to travel anywhere by road this December, take time to go through our essential vehicle safety checklist to make sure your car will get you to your destination without a hitch.
The last thing you want is to put yourself, your family and others on the road in danger. You also don’t want to end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre and no spare, or waiting for repairs you could have handled before your trip.
To prevent unwanted car trouble, here are 10 things you need to check before you hit the freeway:
- Oil, coolant and brake fluid
Open your bonnet and check your coolant and oil levels, as well as your brake fluid. If any of these seem low, you may have a leak or issue somewhere – and it’s advisable to ask for expert advice. Don’t forget to top up your water for your windscreen wipers.
Check that each and every one of your car’s lights are working correctly. You need peace of mind that you’ll be able to see clearly – and be seen – in dark and misty conditions.
To assess whether your car battery is in good working condition, check for warning signs such as the engine light coming on or your car struggling to start. Have a look at the battery itself, too. If it looks swollen or there are any leaks, there’s a good chance you will need to replace it.
The weather can change quickly in many parts of South Africa, so you need to check whether your windscreen wipers are ready for wet conditions. Use your washers to spray the windscreen and then test to see whether your wipers are clearing the water away efficiently. If they are squeaking, slipping or leaving streaks of moisture behind, it’s time to replace them.
As you know, you should check your tyres regularly. This is also critical before embarking on a long journey. Most tyres have a tread depth indicator. If any tyre is worn to this point, you need to replace it before your trip. Make sure to also inspect the surface of your tyres for damage and air bubbles.
On the day you plan to leave, inflate all your tyres to the recommended pressure – and keep an eye on this during your journey. If a tyre is under- or over-inflated, this can quickly cause damage.
- Spare wheel, jack and spanner
Make sure that your spare wheel, jack and spanner are all in good working order and that these are safely stored in your vehicle, along with your warning triangle. Don’t forget to carry out all the checks listed in point no. 5 above on your spare tyre.
Firstly, check your brake pads. These consist of a metal outer section and a composite inner section. This inner component needs to be more than 5mm thick. If your pad has worn down below this point, it needs to be replaced before you hit the road.
Secondly, assess your brakes while you’re driving. If your car veers to either side when you brake, you need to get your braking system checked.
Thirdly, evaluate how well your handbrake is working. If this clicks more than four times before it holds the car in place, take your car in for a check.
Spend a few days checking for leaks on your garage or driveway floor and anywhere else you regularly park your car. If you see spots of oil or coolant (which is shiny and looks similar to oil), make sure to take your car in to your technician.
- Drive belt
Look underneath your vehicle and check the drive belt for cracks and damage. If this looks worn out, your battery will not charge and your car will overheat, because this belt runs the water pump.
Take your car for a quick spin around the block and check whether the steering pulls to the left or the right. Any veering could flag a wheel alignment problem, which should be fixed before you hit the highway.
If you are unsure about anything or notice any other issues, it’s best to book your vehicle in for a service with a technician you trust. You don’t want to be a danger on the road – or end up spending your holidays waiting for spare parts in the middle of nowhere!