We Kiwis love a good road trip. Whether you’re making the weekend drive to the bach or setting out for a holiday roadie to enjoy all that NZ has to offer, here are the top 10 car service tasks to do before you head off on your road trip.
Check the engine oil
First things first, check the engine oil before you set off. This includes checking the oil level as well as the condition or cleanliness of the oil, and it’s something you can do with a dipstick.
The dipstick will have levels marked, either L and H (low and high), MIN and MAX, or simply an area marked with lines. If the top of the oil streak is between the marks, your car’s oil level is fine. If the oil level is below the low or minimum mark, it’s time to either top up or change your oil.
When you remove the dipstick, drag it along a cloth and look at the colour. It should be brown or black. If it’s a lighter, milky colour, this may be an indication that coolant is leaking into the engine.
Check the tyre pressure and condition
Check what pressure the tyre manufacturer recommends for the tyres on your vehicle. Tyre pressure is expressed as PSI, which stands for pounds per square inch. You may see a PSI number on the sidewall of the tyre, but often this is the maximum PSI for the tyre. Check your owner’s manual or look for a sticker inside the driver’s door for the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle.
Visually inspect all of the tyres before you set off. This includes the spare tyre. Look for cracks, damage or low tread depth. A good tip when examining the four tyres on the car is to have another person help – once you’ve checked the tyres, you’ll need to move the car forward a bit to then examine the portion of the tyres that was in contact with the road surface on your first check. So have your helper tell you when to stop so you’re sure you’re checking the full surface of the tyres.
Check the brakes
Using your helper again, make sure your brake lights work. This includes the brake light at the top of your read window if you have one. And don’t forget to check the brake lights on the trailer or boat if you’re towing one.
Make sure your brakes are responsive in dry and in wet conditions. If there is any shaking, juddering or slow response time, have your brakes checked by your mechanic before your trip. It may be something as easy as replacing brake pads.
Check the battery
There are a few different ways to check that your car battery is fully charged. The easiest way is to do what we call the “light and load test”.
Put the key in the ignition and turn the car lights on – without starting the engine – and leave the lights on for 10 to 15 minutes. After that time has passed, start the engine and pay attention to the brightness of the headlights.
If the headlights dim noticeably when the engine starts, the battery doesn’t pass the load test. A “healthy” or full-charged battery should be able to handle the load of the lights and the engine. If the lights dim, then the battery is not handling the load as it should.
Check fluid levels – coolant, transmission, brakes, power steering and windshield washer fluids
Newer model vehicles may have built-in monitoring and warning signals that tell you when any of the fluids are running low. But older model cars may require a bit more attention.
Most fluid reservoirs make it easy for you to check fluid levels. They usually have markings on the side of the reservoir showing low/high marks. Or you can check the levels using a dipstick, as is often the case with power steering fluid.
Check the air filters (engine air filter and cabin air filter)
It’s good to check your vehicle’s air filters at least once per year. You can often tell just by looking at an air filter whether it’s time to change it. If your air filter looks black or dirty, it’s probably time to change it.
A good idea is to look at your air filter when it’s new, so you know what a clean air filter looks like. Then take a look at it over time, say every 5,000 kilometres, so you can see how it gradually loses that new appearance and gets dirtier over time. In this way, you can identify what looks “normal” and see how gradual or severe the dirt build-up is.
Check the belts and hoses
Take a look under the bonnet for any sign of damaged or cracked belts or hoses. Often this is due to wear and tear or the age of the components. It may not mean anything serious is wrong with the vehicle, but a larger problem may be looming if you ignore the issue.
If you’re not entirely confident checking under the bonnet, get in touch with us, and we can help you out.
Check the headlights, taillights, turn signals
Don’t underestimate the importance of your taillights and turn signals in keeping you out of an accident. You’ll need to get your helper here again to help you check the lights.
One of you stand outside the vehicle and check the lights work as your buddy turns them on and off. Again, don’t forget to check the lights on the boat or trailer if needed.
Check the wiper blades
Before you set off on your road trip, top up your wiper fluid. You never know how much you’ll use or need throughout the trip, and it’s such an easy thing to do.
Test the wipers, making sure the blades leave no smudges or marks that can hinder your visibility.
Check the spare tyre and jack
Make sure you have a spare tyre and jack in the vehicle. You don’t want to find out that someone has lent out the jack or the spare has been used, and then head off without either of these.
You might even want to refresh your memory about how to change a tyre – check the owner’s manual or find a good YouTube video that you can watch before you go. The best scenario is that you won’t need to use this knowledge on your trip, but if you do, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind by the side of the road having done some prep work.
If you’d like to have your vehicle checked before you head out on a road trip, get in touch with the experts at Mt Roskill Collision Centre to book an appointment.