Most South African drivers worry about travelling long distances with their cars, especially if their cars are getting on in years or mileage. The truth is that long distance trips are actually easier on your car than every day commuting — but a breakdown far from home can really spoil your long awaited holiday. A few simple checks could prevent many common problems. As with most things, it’s best to start early.
So we have created this checklist to save you from a dreadful road trip.
Preparing for The Holidays : Two to four weeks before you go
- Any major car repairs should be done two to four weeks before you start your journey. This should give you more than enough time to prepare or discover if you require car repairs. We don’t like nasty surprises.
- Ensure that your tires are checked and that they are inflated to the proper pressure. Follow your car manual or mechanics instructions as to what the tire pressure should be. Also ensure that your tire tread depth is still adequate for far travel. If not, then it will be best to replace your tires. Your tyres must have at least a 1 millimetre tread and if it falls below that figure you could receive a hefty fine from the SAP.
- If you are travelling to a warm or cold place ensure that you have checked your coolant. Have your car service center check your coolants mixture of antifreeze and water to ensure that your car is protected. Ask your mechanic to check your coolant to see if it requires replacement. If it does then get it done.
- Ensure that your spare tire is properly inflated and that the jack, wrench, and other tire-changing bits are in the boot. If your car has wheel locks, make sure you have the adapter for the lock-nut.
- Check for the owner’s manual and registration. If your manual is missing, consider ordering a replacement before you go or search on the automakers website if they have manuals in PDF format or on their web sites. Also ensure that your registration won’t expire during your holiday.
Preparing for The Holidays : One week before you go
- Check the tires again especially if you travel or commute a lot while working. The tire pressures should be more or less the same as they were last time you did your check. Also try using the tip of a match stick. if you can see the tip of the match stick then its time to replace your tyres.
- Get any scheduled car maintenance done. If you think your car is up for an oil change or other maintenance during your trip, then you need to get it done as soon as possible.
- The more you pack the more fuel you burn. Clean mercilessly and pack only what you need. Plan what is required. If it is a long holiday then perhaps it will be best to hire a trailer. You do not want to struggle to pack and squeeze items on the day that you will travel. If you and the family are going camping, does your wife really need that beauty bag, or that mammoth beauty case? Are you going to play golf? If not then leave the golf set at home. Just remember all the braai tools.
- Check the air filter. A dirty and clogged air filter will reduce your fuel economy. They’re inexpensive and easy to change. If your car has not been for a car service and you have gone over 10000km to 15000km then its time to replace.
- Buy a road atlas or use Google maps to plan your path. Plan your trip and the route you will take. Also check if there are any road works. Have a look at i-traffic.co.za to see any live forecasts on road works in South Africa.
- Check that you have a tow in service. If your car breaks ensure that you have the numbers stored and that you can call if anything unplanned happens. Usually your car insurance company can offer this service.
Preparing for The Holidays : One day before you go
- Who wants to travel in a dirty car? Wash and vacuum your car.
- Check and change the tire pressures. Yep — tire pressures again! Many cars have two recommended ratings, one for light loads and one for heavy loads and/or high speeds. If you’re taking the whole family, visit your local gas station and inflate the tires to the higher setting. You will find this information in the owners manual or on a sticker in the door jamb or fuel filler flap. Remember: Set the pressures when the tires are cold.
- Fill the gas tank.
Preparing for The Holidays : The day of your trip
- Look at what you’ve packed. Check your suitcase and decide if you need everything? If there’s anything you can do without, then leave it at home. Also check if the beauty bag has creeped in. If there are no planned golf trips, then ensure that the golf bag is left at home.
- If you are carrying heavy objects such as tents, gas bottles then try to load evenly and carefully.
- Cars don’t have unlimited carrying capacity, so don’t overload.
- Relax! If you have planned and followed these basic principals then you should be fine.