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SMG Aug 22

7 Essential Checks you shouldn’t forget before your next road trip.

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Before going on a road trip it’s important to check your car to make sure it’s in good condition and running well. If you spend a little time preparing and checking your vehicle for a trip beforehand, you can avoid any problems or inconvenience that might ruin your much anticipated trip.

The following are our list of 7 essential checks to carry out before hitting the road.

1. Check the brakes – Stopping Power

Often, we neglect our brakes because we simply don’t see them on a daily basis. It’s essential to check your brakes as this can be the difference between a small accident and a fatal one.

While driving and using your brakes, ensure your vehicle comes safely to a stop with every push of the pedal. Be sure to listen to the sound the brakes make as they engage.
Depending on the type of wheel your vehicle is fitted with,  the brake pad can be seen through the wheel. To check the life of the brake pad, you need to determine its thickness. You might need a torch to get a good look at the brake pad. If the pads look thin, less than 7mm, it might be a good idea to get them replaced before your trip.

2. Check that all lights are working and are set to the correct height

Similar to brakes, your vehicle’s lights aren’t visible while you are driving, so they are often overlooked.

Bright bulbs light up the road ahead and make sure you’re seen by other drivers.  For your safety and other road users, it’s important to have working lights.

This includes:

  • Side and taillights
  • Headlights (main and dipped beams)
  • Direction indicators
  • Brake lights
  • Rear number-plate light
  • Reverse lights
  • Fog lights (front and rear)
  • Daytime running lights (DRL)
  • Long-range driving lights
  • Hazard lights.

How to check your lights?

The easiest way to check if your lights are working is to turn the engine on and be sure to leave the handbrake on. Turn each light on and walk around the car to visually check them. You may consider enrolling some help to check your brake lights as these need to be engaged to test they are functional.

If you discover a faulty bulb, it’s best to check your owners’ manual for the correct replacement (different manufacturers have different recommendations). If you don’t feel confident enough to replace the bulb yourself, it’s recommended you get a mechanic to carry out the change to avoid damaging anything.

3. Check tyre tread and air

We forget that the only part of a vehicle touching the road is our tyres. Bearing this in mind, it’s crucial that these be checked more often than just before you head off on a road trip.

Check to see that all tyres have enough tread, and remember to check the spare too. The tread should not be less than 1.6mm deep all around the tyre’s circumference.

Refer to the owner’s manual of your vehicle, or check on the inside of the drivers’ door, to determine the correct PSI (measurement of pressure) for your tyres. Pay careful attention to the load.

Too little pressure means more contact and friction between the tyres and the road, wearing the rubber faster, making the engine work harder and use more fuel too.

Too much air on the other hand, makes the tyres too hard causing them to have less grip and wear unevenly. This also poses a higher risk of a tyre blowout if you happen to hit a hole on your travels

4. Check the hitch

Performing a hitch/tow bar safety check should be a top priority, if you’re going to be towing a trailer, boat or caravan.

Check that the adjustment screw is set correctly and that there are no signs of metal fatigue, cracks, corrosion or rust.  Also check that safety chains are in working order and attached correctly and that all moving parts are well lubricated.

Ensure you check the towbar plug functionality by plugging it in and testing all the lights work according to the signal.

5. Check wiper condition and performance

While it may seem very obvious, seeing clearly is likely the most important of all in order to allow you to drive defensively.

Depending on when and where you are going, it’s a good idea to check your wipers before you hit the road. Make sure they’re not cracked or dried out and that they fully push water off your windshield.

When you’re excited to get to your destination, there’s nothing worse than having to pull off the road and wait for the rain to clear. Wipers are fairly inexpensive to replace and can be done in minutes.

6. Check that your car is equipped with breakdown essentials

The last thing anyone wants or needs is to have a breakdown and have no tools to make a quick fix.

While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to get dirty and replace a tyre, if you don’t have the tools, you can’t even ask a good samaritan passing by to assist you.

Breakdowns happen to the best of us, and usually at the most inconvenient times.  Make sure that you have a jack, a wheel spanner and jumper cables so you can make simple fixes on the road. Remember, as mentioned in point 3, ensure that your spare wheel is inflated correctly.

Other suggested tools to consider adding:

  • Torch
  • Screw driver (star & straight)
  • Insulation tape
  • Pliers
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Shifting spanner

7. Check all oils and fluids

Last, but certainly not least, check your car’s engine oil, wiper fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, antifreeze and brake fluid.  Petrol attendants at your local filling station are usually happy to help with these checks, just ensure you know the correct lubricant or liquid for the application.

If any of these levels are low, be sure to top up before you leave to ensure that your ride will handle smoothly on the journey.

By carrying out these checks before embarking on a road trip, you can save yourself a lot of hassle, time and money.

Keep in mind that these checks should be done in addition to, and never in place of your vehicle’s scheduled services. For peace of mind and quality workmanship, book your next service with Seamans.

We hope your next trip will be one for the books and wish you safe and pleasant travels.

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7 Essential Checks you shouldn’t forget before your next road trip.

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