How to get your car road trip ready

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

AS the long-awaited hol­i­day sea­son looms and those fan­tasies of sip­ping cock­tails on a beach­front ve­randa draw ever closer to re­al­ity, it’s time to start mak­ing sure that the ride to your des­ti­na­tion will be a smooth one.

If you’re plan­ning to drive to your hol­i­day spot, it’s es­sen­tial that you make sure your car is up to the chal­lenge, so that your jour­ney will be safe and stress-free.

While send­ing your ve­hi­cle in for a mul­ti­point-check is al­ways the best course of ac­tion, there are, depend­ing on your level of au­to­mo­tive knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence, var­i­ous checks that you can per­form your­self. Your road trip check­list

Wheels and tyres - Though the le­gal limit is 1mm, make sure that your tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm as any­thing below that leaves you par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to aqua­plan­ing.

- Make sure your tyres are cor­rectly in­flated and mon­i­tor the pres­sure as you go along as low pres­sure due to a slow punc­ture could cause a blowout.

- Also make sure that the wear on your tyres in not un­even as that could point to worn sus­pen­sion or steer­ing com­po­nents or faulty wheel align­ment.

- Your spare wheel should be in tip-top con­di­tion and cor­rectly in­flated. Also dou­ble check that your jack, wheel span­ners and unique wheel nut sock­ets (if you have them) are in place.

Emer­gency equip­ment - While do­ing that, check that your warn­ing tri­an­gle is in place and that you have a torch and a ba­sic med­i­cal kit in place. - Have some emer­gency numbers on hand.

Lights - Get some­one to help you check that the head­lights as well as the tail­lights, brake lights, in­di­ca­tors and haz­ard lights are all work­ing as they should be. If you’re on your own, a light­coloured wall in dark spot at night will al­low you to do your own tests.

- Also en­sure that your head­lights are cor­rectly ad­justed. Do a rough test by mak­ing sure that the dipped light beam is no higher than the bon­net of the car.

- Given that most ac­ci­dents hap­pen at night, though, try your best to plan your trip in such a way that most or all of the long-dis­tance driv­ing hap­pens dur­ing the day.

Wind­screen - En­sure that your wipers are in good work­ing or­der and that the wiper blades them­selves are in de­cent con­di­tion and not crack­ing apart.

- Make sure your demist­ing sys­tem is still work­ing cor­rectly as a sud­den mist-up at high speed can be dan­ger­ous.

- Check for chips and cracks on your wind­screen and get these re­paired as a dam­aged wind­screen won’t pro­tect you prop­erly in an ac­ci­dent.

Brakes - Give your brake discs, drums and pads a thor­ough in­spec­tion, look­ing out for any un­even wear. That, along with any strange noises or vi­bra­tions, war­rants a visit to a brak­ing spe­cial­ist.

- Make sure your brake fluid is topped up to the cor­rect level.

- Per­form your own emer­gency brak­ing test, when the coast is clear, to be dou­ble sure that your brak­ing sys­tem still op­er­ates cor­rectly.

Sus­pen­sion - Given how your shock ab­sorbers can af­fect the way your car han­dles emer­gency ma­noeu­vres, it’s al­ways a good idea to have them checked by pro­fes­sion­als if pos­si­ble.

- Yet there are some ob­ser­va­tions you can make on your own. If your car tips ab­nor­mally when cor­ner­ing, rides harder than usual or is tak­ing a longer dis­tance to stop, you may need to re­place sus­pen­sion pars like shocks or struts.

Un­der the bon­net - While the en­gine is cold check that your coolant level is at least close to the ‘max’ mark­ing and that the fluid is clean. If not, fill with wa­ter or, if you want the best for your car, a 50:50 mix of an­tifreeze and dis­tilled wa­ter.

-Check that your ra­di­a­tor cap is seal­ing prop­erly.

- Make sure that all belts and chains con­nected to the cam, al­ter­na­tor and fan are in good shape.

- Use the dip­stick to check that your oil level is within the two mark­ings, but as close to the top mark­ing as pos­si­ble with­out over­fill­ing. Check the oil again five days later and if you see a dif­fer­ence then con­sult a me­chanic.

- Check that the wind­screen washer bot­tle is full. Trust us on this one.

- En­sure that your air, fuel and oil fil­ters are clean and if you change the lat­ter, be sure to drain all the old oil from your en­gine and re­place it with new oil of the cor­rect grade.

- In­spect the oil, air and fuel sys­tems, in­clud­ing hoses and pipes, for leaks.

- Make sure that your oil and fuel caps are se­curely fas­tened. — IOL

Give your brake discs, drums and pads a thor­ough in­spec­tion, look­ing out for any un­even wear.

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