Road trip maintenance tips
Every holiday season millions of Australians jump in their cars and take to the highways in search of fun, sun and adventure, but unfortunately for some it is cut short due to neglected preventative maintenance. This can result in much more than just a repair bill.
Towing, lodging and possibly even rental car charges may be involved if a pre-vacation inspection is not undertaken by either the owner or a qualified automotive technician. So take some time to make sure that when you’re about to embark on a trip to paradise, that your vehicle is going to get you there without incident.Here is a list of things to consider before leaving for that long journey:.
Check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels. This includes engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Most new cars have transparent reservoir tanks and in many cases, you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.
Refer to the owners’ manual for the proper procedures for checking and adding fluids to your vehicle. In particular, when checking the brake fluid level. If in doubt about fluid colour or odour, refer it to your nearest automotive technician.
Belts & Hoses
Check all the drive belts and hoses for any signs of wear and deterioration. Belts that are frayed, glazed, cracked, cut or have chunks missing should be replaced immediately.
With the engine switched off and cold, look at each hose and see if there are leaks, bulges, cracks, or swelling. If they look good, give them a squeeze test. Good hoses are firm but flexible. Any hoses or belts that feel spongy, soft, or brittle should be replaced.
One of the leading causes of roadside problems is the battery. Check that the battery electrolyte is up to the proper level by removing the battery caps and looking inside.
Maintenance free batteries have sealed caps and require no checking. But some batteries say maintenance free but do have removable caps. These should be checked in the usual manner. Finally, check the battery to see that there are no cracks or holes in the battery casing itself. If the battery is three or four years old, consider replacing it.
If you hear any grinding noises or feel unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes, or if the vehicle pulls to one side, take the vehicle in for a comprehensive check-up.
It would be a good idea just to have your brakes looked at to be sure they won’t need replacing 1,000 kilometres into your trip regardless of whether they need it or not.
Sustained highway speed driving and hot summer days combine to put a lot of stress on an engine’s cooling system. If your vehicle is using conventional coolant and hasn’t been flushed for two years, now is an excellent time to do it.
If it has extended life coolant go with the manufacturers recommended change intervals. If this interval occurs during the trip, do it now. The cooling system should be refilled with the correct coolant. Don’t refill with just straight water.
Make sure your car’s heating and A/C is working properly. Run it for a while in each of its operating modes and check that the airflow is coming from all appropriate vents.
If the A/C system takes an inordinately long time to cool the inside of the car, or if the air never gets cold enough, the system probably needs to be checked for leaks and recharged.
Maintain correct tyre pressures, not only does this make the vehicle ride correctly on the road but also improves braking and increases fuel economy.
Ultimately, ideal tyre pressure depends on the weight of the car. The best thing to do is to read the manufactures suggested pressure which varies by tyre brand and make. If you do, then you can be sure that the tyre will not “burst with excessive force” and your fuel economy will be improved.
Don’t forget to book your service in advance so you have adequate time to get the parts you might need too.