Is your car as ready as you are for the holiday road ahead?
Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA)

Families all over the country are looking forward to spending the festive season together. If you’ll be driving, make sure your vehicle is as prepared as you are so that the trip is safe and incident-free, advises the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).

MIWA chairperson Dewald Ranft says drivers have a big responsibility when getting behind the wheel but it is important to remember that no amount of driver preparedness will make up for your vehicle letting you down due to a mechanical or other fault.

“The driver needs to get enough sleep beforehand, plan the route, check the weather, make sure their phone is fully charged, etc. These things are essential but to ensure total peace of mind you must know that your vehicle is up to the trip,” he says.

“It is careless to leave vehicle maintenance to chance, especially in South Africa where our roads are unsafe and poorly maintained, making even daytime driving hazardous.

“Performing a vehicle inspection should be part of anyone’s road trip planning process. Many accidents are caused by poor vehicle maintenance, which is why it is so important to take extra precautions before embarking on your journey.”

MIWA suggests all the below vehicle checks are carried out at an accredited workshop before you hit the road this December:

  1. Car insurance and licence disc – Are they up to date? Relook your insurance policy to familiarise yourself with the coverage you have.
  2. Lights and indicators - Check that all your lights are working correctly. This is a simple but very important test. Check headlights (including bright beam bulbs), fog lights, indicators and brake lights.
  3. Brakes – Brakes are essential for safe driving, so make sure that they are in good working order. Check for any signs of wear or damage, and if necessary, have the brakes checked by a professional, including the handbrake. Any uneven wear, strange noises or vibrations from your vehicle’s braking system should be checked and fixed as soon as possible.
  4. Safety equipment - Like emergency triangles and tyre kit – Also include things like a torch, reflective vest or tape, extra water and a first aid kit.
  5. Tyres - Inflate tyres to the recommended pressure (find this on the inside door panel on the driver’s side or near the fuel tank) and ensure tyre tread is checked too. SA regulation stipulates that tyre tread depth must measure at a minimum of one millimetre across the circumference of the tyre. Always have the spare tyre checked too. It may be “out of sight, out of mind” but the spare can be your saving grace in an emergency.
  6. Radiator - Don’t ignore any fluid leaks or overheating in the summer months. There could be a problem with the cooling systems, such as an air conditioning unit not working properly, a leaky radiator or a defective temperature control device. If you notice a green, orange or yellow liquid under your vehicle, it means there is a cooling liquid leak. Before driving for an extended period, you must have this repaired.
  7. Fluid levels - Checking the engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and windshield washer fluid levels might help avoid accidents or unnecessary breakdowns. Ranft says it is important to know where the various fluid reservoirs are housed. Older cars may still have a dip stick, but newer cars have an internal electronic oil measuring facility which will show either on the cluster or the consol. For this reason it is worth initially consulting the owner’s manual. Finally, it is worth remembering to keep an extra bottle of water in your vehicle at all times for emergencies.
  8. Wiper blades and windscreen – December is rainy season, so make sure your wiper blades are up to the job. They should not squeak, streak or screech. Check your windscreen for any cracks as these may deteriorate on your trip and impact visibility.
  9. Battery - Ensure that the battery connection points and cables are all tightly fastened. Also, check that the battery voltage is still at an optimal level. Should you see any warning signs such as dimming of lights while idling or clicking when starting ignition, it may be time to get the battery changed.
  10. Inspect electronic components - Check all the electronic components, including your air conditioning, radio, GPS and sensors. These systems are responsible for providing information and warnings about your car’s performance so it is important to make sure that they are working correctly.

“Your vehicle needs to be able to handle whatever is thrown at it on a long trip, as do you as the driver. Take the time to get the above checks done at an accredited workshop under the guidance of an expert technician well in advance of leaving.

“To drivers, we strongly urge obeying the rules of the road, not drinking and driving or drinking and texting, don’t speed and take regular breaks. We wish everyone safe and happy travels,” Ranft concludes.

Find an accredited MIWA workshop at www.miwa.org.za