Planning a road trip? We bet you’re already busy mapping out your pit stops and making your accompanying playlists. But if you’re planning a long trip in your car – even if it’s a new car – there are some other important things you’ll need to consider before you head off.
Having your vehicle serviced before you head off, and checking over certain components of your car, will ensure your trip is a safe and smooth one. To help you out, we’ve put together a checklist for you to run over before hitting the road.
If the battery in your car is more than a couple of years old, check that the terminals are corrosion-free and the positive and negative leads are tight. If your starter sounds sluggish, it’s either corrosion or a dying battery.
Don’t wait to be stranded with a dead battery. If there is corrosion – white chalky stuff on the terminals – clean it off with a wire cable-brush. Secure the leads tightly.
Your Engine Oil
Make sure you check your oil levels and the date you’re due for an oil change, preferably in your driveway before you embark on that first leg. If you’re close to the manufacturer-recommended oil-change interval listed in your manual, then change it. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, see a mechanic.
A professional mechanic can also give you advice on which oil will be best to use for your journey – sometimes synthetic engine oils are recommended for use in hot weather, or if you’re towing a caravan or trailer on your trip, to give you extra protection against thermal breakdown.
The rubber hoses in your car are continually exposed to extreme temperatures, putting them under regular pressure. Sometime these hoses can crack, releasing hot water.
Before your trip, take a look at where both the input and output radiator hoses attach to the engine and to the radiator. Often extra stress on the hose from the pipe collar and hose clamp means they typically crack and fail in that spot, so be sure to check there. If your hoses have cracks or blisters, replace them.
Your Engine Coolant
If your car is less than four years old, check that the coolant reservoir – usually a clear plastic bottle that says “engine coolant” on the cap – is topped up. Not all coolants are the same, and they don’t want to be mixed. Be sure to use the same coolant type as is already in the engine.
If you have an older vehicle, check both the coolant reservoir and the radiator. If your coolant is rust-coloured or looks like mucky pond water, it’s time for a change.
Tyres are your contact with the road, so driving on poor tyres can be risky business – don’t take that risk.
Most people think the appropriate tyre pressure is listed on the tyre itself. But in fact, the number on the tyre is the maximum amount of pressure the tyre can hold and, if combined with extreme heat and speeds, could lead to a blowout. Be safe. Check tyre pressure before you leave for your road trip at your local petrol station.
Safe journey and happy road tripping!