December is when all the hard-working people in South Africa are starting to prepare themselves for the holidays. If you’re going on a road trip, while a lot of thought usually goes into the holiday destination, perhaps the most important part of the preparation period is checking your vehicle is up to scratch for the journey.
At least two weeks ahead of time, check that everything is in proper working order. While most people do the common checks, such as making sure they’re topped up with fuel, tyres are properly inflated, balanced and aligned, and the battery is in no danger of running flat, here are seven key components and sometimes less-than-common checks towards a car that is in an all-round, proper working condition:
1. Drive Belt
Because a drive belt can last a long time these days, we’re inclined to neglect to check it. However, a worn belt may cause your car to overheat, the alternator may stop charging the battery, the air conditioner may stop working, and worse, it could mean serious damage to the engine or its system. If a drive belt breaks, you will be stuck – not anything you wish for while on a holiday road trip.
Without proper steering, you put yourself at major risk of an accident. The ability to retain control of a vehicle in dangerous situations, such as avoiding fatal head-on collisions is a lifesaver. So while you may be a skilled and experienced driver, how is your steering system performing?
Of course, steering is also affected by wheel alignment, and as we know, will cause irregular wear and tear to your tyres, so rather than having to replace your tyres soon after the holidays, save yourself some money and have your wheel alignment checked.
3. Fluid Levels
Motor oil is arguably the most important because it lubricates the moving parts of the engine which causes heat and friction to build up. Without sufficient and clean oil, overheating can result and engine components severely damaged, or the engine itself could seize.
Engine/motor oil, brake fluid, and coolant are the main fluids to check for leaks and top up if low, but also check transmission, power steering, and windshield wiper fluid for a comprehensive run-through.
4. Tail & Headlights
While all vehicle lights are critical, we should never underestimate the importance of the rear and headlights. More than simply lighting our way, lights are an important safety and communication tool. Tail and headlights, especially in any low-light conditions (and not just at night) allow a vehicle to be clearly visible to other road users around. Following this simple ‘be seen’ concept can avoid an accident, so make sure your lights are switched on at least from sunset to sunrise, but better yet, every time you’re driving.
5. Foot & Hand Brakes
While brakes can consist of a disc, calliper, and pad, the brake’s pads are typically the first to wear, so if nothing else, check and ensure a minimum of 5mm thickness.
The handbrake is often overlooked when it comes to safety checks, but because it can also act as backup brakes in emergency situations, it’s worth checking. To do this, pull away while applying the brakes slowly and count the clicks. There should be between five and eight clicks before it is fully engaged, and the car should come to a full stop.
Tyres are one vehicle component that is hardly ever overlooked, not surprising since they’re the only part that is actually in contact with the road. But while drivers almost always check for inflation pressure, and to a degree for wheel alignment and balancing, they tend to fail on checking for tyre tread depth. This can be detrimental as worn tyres have difficulty gripping in adverse conditions like wet surfaces. Check tread depth is sufficient with a minimum of 3mm and even all-round wear, and that there are no signs of cracking or other damage.
7. Windscreen Wipers
These are one of the less-considered parts of a car when going on a road trip in South Africa until the sound of distant thunder starts. Due to the harsh conditions of the country, particularly the sun, windscreen wiper blades become worn and cracked, even if not used often. Your engine could be purring comfortably along, but when the rain comes battering down on your windscreen, ineffective wipers will likely put a halt to your journey, or at the very least, scratch your windscreen. Ouch!
Cover all bases and start your road trip on a good footing with a vehicle maintenance checklist. You can also visit a Supa Quick near you for a free safety check, where, depending on the branch you’re at, will check your lights, windscreen and wipers, tyres, shocks, battery, brakes, exhaust, cooling system, and safety equipment.