Nobody likes breaking down. Especially not when you’re travelling to your holiday destination of choice. So to help you avoid standing on the shoulder of the N1 highway in the broiling Karoo heat we’re bringing you this handy 37-point checklist of things to, uh, check on your car before hitting the road. You’re welcome.
Lights and electrical system:
- Ensure that all bulbs on your vehicle are in working order to ensure that you can see, be seen and heard and clearly indicate your intentions.
- Make sure that headlamps are adjusted correctly – ensuring that light beams offer adequate viewing distance, but without being adjusted too far upwards, causing visibility problems for oncoming motorists.
- Check all instruments to make sure that they give correct readings of speed, fluid levels etc
- Check controls and switches, like those for lights, wipers, mirrors, defoggers etc.
Windows and wipers:
- Check to make sure that all windows are in a good condition and that any cracks or chips are repaired.
- A damaged windscreen not only reduces visibility, but also limits the windscreen’s ability to protect you in adverse conditions or in an accident.
- Make sure that wiper blades are performing well and making a clean sweep every time.
Wheels and tyres:
- Ensure that all the wheels are securely fastened.
- Ensure that each tyre has adequate tread. The South African legal limit is 1mm of tread, but anything below 3mm limits the tyre’s ability to function effectively.
- Check to see if your vehicle’s tyres are wearing evenly. Uneven wear may indicate a worn steering or suspension component, an over or under inflated tyre or bad wheel alignment / -balancing.
- Make sure that your vehicle is equipped with a spare wheel in good condition, that you have the correct jack and other tools to remove a damaged wheel and tyre.
- Check your vehicle’s brake fluid level and top it up if necessary.
- Check that the handbrake fluid level is good and that the brake is working optimally.
- Ensure that all brake discs, drums and pads are in good condition; performing well and wearing evenly. Perform an emergency stop test to make double sure.
- Any uneven wear, strange noises or vibrations from the braking system should be investigated and fixed.
- Make sure that your vehicle’s shock absorbers and other suspension systems are keeping the tyres firmly on the ground.
- If your vehicle’s ride quality is harder than it normally is. For instance rolling a lot when turning into corners or needs a longer distance to stop, then worn or damaged suspension parts like shocks or struts may need to be replaced.
- Test your vehicle’s battery to make sure that it’s delivering the correct charge and if necessary, the battery water is topped up.
- Have the alternator checked to make sure that it keeps the battery charged.
Belts and chains:
- Check to make sure that all belts and chains connected to the cam, alternator, fan and other components are in a good condition. Broken belts and chains can cause major engine damage.
- Make sure that your vehicle’s cooling system – especially the radiator and water pump – is functioning correctly.
- Also ensure that the radiator cap seals properly and that the coolant fluid is clean and topped up to the correct level.
Filters and fluids:
- Make sure that all major filters – oil, air and fuel filters – are clean and functioning well.
- When you change the oil filter, make sure that you drain all old oil from your vehicle and replace it with new oil that matches the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.
- Make sure that all fluids are at their recommended levels.
- Inspect all oil, air and fuel systems (including hoses and pipes) for leaks and fix them before leaving on your journey.
- Make sure that all fuel and oil caps are securely fastened.
- Give the exhaust system a good once over to check for any leaks.
- A damaged exhaust system won’t only cause vehicle performance- and fuel consumption issues, but also poses a serious health risk.
Body panels, mountings and accessories:
- Make sure that all body panels, mountings and accessories – including tow bars and the trailers etc. attached to them, are properly fastened and secured. The same applies to any load your vehicle may be carrying.
- Check all catches, latches and hinges to make sure that they are secure and functioning correctly
- Check for damage or rust that could compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity
- Make sure that your vehicle isn’t overloaded.
- Check seatbelts and clips, as well as airbag settings (in some vehicles certain airbags can be disabled).
- Be sure to have a reflective triangle or flashlight handy to warn oncoming motorists when your car has broken down.
- Many drivers rely on their vehicles’ emergency indicators only, but these may not be visible under certain conditions or may not work in the case of an electrical fault / battery trouble.
- Ensure that you have adequate car insurance in place, and all support and emergency numbers at hand. – Virseker & Thomas Falkiner