The end of the year is fast approaching, and many will soon be heading off to holiday destinations, or travelling long distances to see family.
Before joining millions of other holidaymakers on South Africa’s traditionally congested roads, it’s a good idea to give your car a basic check, along with any needed maintenance.
Car tyres take the brunt when it comes to wear and tear. For safety reasons, it’s important to check their condition before heading out on a long trip.
If there’s not sufficient tread, or the tyres are not properly inflated, it could compromise your control of the vehicle. Overlook a nail or slow puncture and there’s a risk of a blowout.
You can avoid disaster by carefully examining your car’s tyres for any blemishes, foreign objects or cracks. Make sure there’s adequate tread by slipping a small coin into one of the grooves. If more than half the coin is visible, it’s probably time to invest in a new tyre or set of tyres.
Tyres that have not been rotated, or have done plenty of mileage, are more likely to fail. General rules of thumb are to:
- rotate your tyres at around 10,000 km
- replace tyres at the 40,000 km mark (earlier if required).
Check that you have a properly inflated spare tyre in good condition stored in an accessible area of the car. Make sure the wheel jack and spanner are in working order, and stashed somewhere close at hand.
Oil is the lubricant that keeps all the working components of the car functioning optimally. Run out of oil, and the engine will seize.
If your vehicle’s oil is black or gritty, it’s time for an oil change. If not, check the fluid level on the dipstick, and top up if required.
If your car uses a lot of oil, it may suggest that the vehicle needs a proper service – or that there’s a more serious problem. As an interim measure, you may choose to travel with a couple of litres in the car, especially if you’ll be driving long stretches in remote areas.
Check the water levels in both the radiator and reserve tank, and fill up where required. Also examine the radiator hoses – make sure everything is connected and intact.
The fan belt connects various engine components together, and transfers rotational power from one part of the engine to another. Without a fan belt, the car simply will not run.
If the belt is worn or makes a screeching noise when the engine is turned on, it’s time to replace the belt with a new one. It’s not a bad idea to have an extra fan belt as a spare, especially if you’re doing an extended road trip.
The easiest way to check the condition of the brakes is by testing them on a quiet stretch of road.
If you stop smoothly and quickly, and there are no grinding or metallic sounds, it suggests the brakes are in good working order.
If you engage the brakes and it takes a while to bring the car to a stop, the brakes feel spongy underfoot or they make a noise, take your car to a qualified mechanic or brake specialist for a thorough inspection.
Use quality replacement parts
When replacing worn or faulty car parts or components, it’s important to use a reputable supplier. “Dodgy” or pirated parts could compromise your and your family’s safety, and are unlikely to last long enough to justify any savings.