A long trip is a great opportunity to discover the limits of your car and push it as you would never be able to on your daily commute. Most people wisely get their car serviced before a long trip, but they often leave it as is after the trip, which is a mistake because it could reduce the life span of your car in the long term.
“Thankfully, carrying out a few simple checks and maintenance after a long trip can keep your car in top running condition,” says Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options.
Smit lists some of the things to look out for after a long road trip:
Most modern cars are built to be quite durable. However, the various fluid lines are one of the most fragile parts of any car. A big leak would be apparent immediately and you would get it fixed without anyone having to tell you to do so. “However, minor leaks, which are less noticeable, can really hurt a car because they can trickle oil or other fluids drop by drop leading to a loss of performance and even creating a safety issue,” he points out. “Don’t wash the car immediately after the long trip. Instead park it for a while and then move the car away from where it is parked. If it has a leak there will be stains on the floor and you should to take it to a car repair shop for inspection.”
Tyres are constantly under physical exertion and along with wear and tear from the road, they also undergo massive fluctuations in temperature which can be detrimental to the life of the tyre. Under continued use, most tyres will wear out a lot quicker than under normal use. Smit says the first thing to check for is tread depth. Tread should be deep enough to be visible. If they are starting to bald then the tyres need to be replaced. They might be underinflated, so use an air pump to inflate them to the recommended pressures. Also check for any punctures or other damage to the tyre. “Sometimes, the tyres can look innocuous only to lead to a blowout and a possible accident out on the road. If you are unsure about the condition of the tyres then get a second opinion from a professional tyre company,” he says.
Most modern cars will have some type of warning light to alert you of a possible problem with your battery. Never ignore such warnings. Another sign of an undercharged battery is the headlights appearing dimmer without the engine turned on. Other problems might include the engine having trouble starting up or certain electrical systems not working properly. The battery is a critical part of the car and if you are unsure about its well-being then have it checked by a professional.
Engine oil and filters
The engine is made to work quite hard during a long trip and while most engines are built to work under such conditions, some of their components may need replacing. Dusty December conditions are notorious for clogging the filters and reducing the life of the engine oil quite considerably. Other fluids like the brake fluid and hydraulics fluid might also need replacing. “At the very least, get the filters and the engine oil replaced,” advises Smit. “The other fluids might also need to be topped off and usually there will be tell-tale signs of this. If the brakes feel spongy or the steering feels off then have it checked by a professional mechanic.”
The suspension and brakes
Depending on the type of terrain the car was driven on during the long drive, the suspension of the car might also get pushed too hard. “This something that only a qualified maintenance personnel can find. It is a good idea to have the car thoroughly checked by such a person,” says Smit.
The brake pads might also need replacing. Do a couple of panic braking manoeuvres and see if the car is able to stop in a straight line. If it doesn’t, then the callipers might need adjusting or the brake pads might need replacing altogether.
Many of these repairs and maintenance costs would be covered by a service plan. A service plan offers a convenient way of budgeting and helps ensure you keep up with the recommended scheduled services.