Going on a road trip is a great excuse to visit parts of the country you normally don’t get to see. Not only that, but you get to enjoy quality time with friends or family, soak in the beautiful scenery, and let your troubles go in the gentle breeze. It’s a truly liberating experience!
Of course, there are many risks that come with going on a road trip. When you’re out on the open road, you can be potentially miles away from the nearest town. On top of this, phone reception can be spotty, and – even if your bars are full – you could be left waiting for hours on end for roadside assistance.
To avoid having your trip ruined by a sudden breakdown, preparation is key. That means either you, or a certified radiator mechanic, should carry out a thorough inspection of your car. This way, you can identify any potential issues and resolve them before they have a chance to cause problems.
By following this maintenance checklist, you can relax knowing your car will safely get you from A to B with no troubles.
Check your fluid levels
When checking your fluid levels, park the car on a flat surface, and wait for the engine to cool down. Then, check the following types of fluid, and ensure the levels are correct and the fluid itself is in good condition:
Depending on the age of your care, you should replace your engine oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Refer to your owner’s manual to determine the frequency of your oil change routine.
If you’re close to the recommended change date, change the oil before your trip.
Why is this important? Because older oil can gradually reduce the performance of your engine. Over time, the oil collects dirt, metal parts, and other contaminants, which slowly wear away parts of the engine.
Worse still, the amount of wear-and-tear can be accelerated when the engine is operating under extreme temperatures, especially in the scorching heat.
Driving with very little coolant can increase the risk of your engine overheating. To avoid this, make sure your coolant level is at the correct level.
Ideally, the fluid should be as close as possible to the ‘Max’ reading on the coolant tank. Make sure the coolant you use – be it red, green, or orange – is consistent with what is already in the tank. If you’re unsure, refer to your owner’s manual for clarification.
If you’ve noticed your coolant level is low, there’s a chance you may have a leak. Have a radiator mechanic inspect your engine, so they can identify and resolve the source of the leak, before it causes major damage to your engine.
Windscreen wiper fluid
Having a dirty windshield can greatly reduce visibility. By having a fresh supply of windscreen wiper fluid, this will help remove dirt, grime, and bugs more quickly and therefore make it easier to see.
Regularly topping up your brake fluid is important. Doing so prevents the risk of moisture-saturated brake fluid being left in the brake system, which can cause the brake lines, callipers, and hoses to become rusted and swollen.
Check the brake fluid reservoir, and then top up the reservoir until it reaches the ‘Full’ level.
How do you know if your brake fluid needs replacing? You’ll know if the current brake fluid is considerably darker than new brake fluid, or the texture itself is sludgy. If you’re unsure how to flush and replace the brake fluid yourself, take your vehicle to a local radiator specialist so they can perform this service for you.
Have you noticed your car is becoming harder to steer than usual? That’s a good sign you should check the power steering fluid. You can find the power steering fluid reservoir clearly labelled as such on the cap.
Depending on your engine type, there are one of two ways you can measure the reservoir: use the provided dipstick (similar to how you check your engine oil), or simply read the level marked on the outside.
Either way, if the level is low, top it up with the appropriate type of power steering fluid. Refer to your owner’s manual to see what type of power steering fluid your car takes.
Aside from checking your fluid levels, there are many other components you should check as well, including:
- Wiper blades: Test your wiper blades. Do they struggle to glide smoothly across the windshield? Are they leaving behind streaks (even after you clean the rubber blades)? If you said ‘Yes’ to either, the rubber on the blades may be damaged, and the blades will need to be replaced.
- Lights: If you sustained any kind of front-end panel damage, no matter how minor, it’s very likely your headlights could be affected. With help from a friend or family member, test all of the lights in your car – including the head lights, tail lights, brake lights, blinkers, reverse light, and interior lights. Be sure to replace any bulbs that appear dim or aren’t working at all.
- Tire pressure and tread: To check the tire pressure level, refer to your owner’s manual. This’ll tell you what the recommended PSI level is for both your front and rear tires. Then, take your car to a local petrol station, and use their air compressors station to top up each of the tires. To check your tire tread, grab an Australian 20c coin and place it into one of the circumferential grooves in the tire. If the tread cannot reach the bill of the platypus, this means there’s less than 3mm of tread left. In this case, replace the tires immediately.
- Battery: To test the voltage of your car, you’ll need a multimeter. Ideally, your battery should produce a reading of around 12.5 volts. If the reading is around 12.3 volts, then the battery is only 75 percent charged. Any lower, and you should have the battery inspected and possibly replaced by a licensed mechanic.
What supplies to bring
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, the truth is, you never know what could happen on the open road. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be prepared, and that means having the right supplies. This will also enable you to help out a fellow motorist in need as well!
Before you hit the road, prepare yourself with the following supplies:
- Spare tire
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
- Fresh towels – i.e. for cleaning wiper blades, spills, and dirty windshields
- Sun protectors for side and back windows
- Container of fresh water
- Protective sheet to cover the headlights and front of the car from bug clogs and other damage.
- Tire iron and jack
Have a fun and fulfilling road trip
Road trips are the perfect opportunity to get away from it all, and go on a memorable journey. By making sure your car is in great condition, you’re far more likely to have a pleasant and stress-free journey.
If you’re unsure at all about the condition of your car, book a service with your local mechanic. They can perform a thorough inspection of your car, carry out the necessary repairs, and ensure your car is ready for the long trip ahead.
Best of all? You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your trip will be one to remember – and for the right reasons too!