Dream or Nightmare Road Trip? Pre-Trip Vehicle Check Can Make the Difference

Road Trip!!! These two words promises adventure and fun. ‘Car breakdown’ on the other hand are two words that will kill that excitement in a heartbeat. A breakdown on the highway will turn your long-awaited vacation into the mechanic’s “pay-cation” and leave you with bad memories.

While vehicles need maintenance year-round, driving long distances can be especially strenuous. Performing a pre-trip vehicle inspection gives you a peace of mind by reducing the chance of unplanned, costly car trouble and providing an opportunity to have any repairs performed by a trusted workshop before hitting the road.

Right in your own carpark, conduct a 10-minute vehicle check by yourself and you can determine if your car is ready for the long drive. Another way is to send your car to your regular workshop to get a more thorough pre-trip vehicle inspection if you are not keen to do a DIY.  The workshop will be able to advise if any services or repairs are needed and can straight away get them done before the road trip to ensure a safe drive.

#1 – Check the Tyres

Make sure that your tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure in your owner’s manual. Under-inflated tyres reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy and over-inflated tyres can explode, which is not the kind of road trip excitement you had in mind. Uneven tyre wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tyres should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. Check the tyre tread and replace if the tread is below the safe limit.

Take a look at the spare too, and know where your jack is while you’re at it. If your tyres are in good shape, make sure they’re inflated to the correct levels — the right amount of pressure should be listed in your owner’s manual.


(Photo: findyouradvantage)

#2 – Look Under the Hood

Check every fluid – engine oil, power steering, brake, transmission and coolant. Windshield washer fluid too, you’ll want to wipe away the bird droppings, dust spots, etc.

While you’re under the hood, examine the hoses and belts as they can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.

And don’t forget the battery; it’s marked with the month and year it was installed in the vehicle. If that date was more than three years ago, go ahead and get a new one: Its days are numbered. If you’re due for an oil change, have it done before you leave, and get a new air filter while you’re at it.

#3 – Test Your Car’s Safety Features

Before vacation starts, check some of your vehicle’s features that keep you and the family safe. Make sure the seat belts unreel and retract as they should after you buckle them. Debris can get caught in the seat belt retractor and keep the restraint from functioning properly. Check for excessive fraying too, a seat belt that snaps on impact will endanger your life.

Speaking of impact, test your brakes. This can be fun: In a deserted or low-traffic area, accelerate to about 80 km/h, and then slam on the brakes. If it takes you more than 30-metres to stop, or you feel your steering wheel vibrate, or if you notice strange noises or grinding sounds, get a mechanic to look at it. You don’t want your vacation stopped short because of a car that won’t stop safely.


(Photo: Fleet Point)

#4 – Check the Electrical System

Check that all interior and exterior lightings are working properly, check the horn, inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving in the rain. You don’t want to waste valuable vacation time looking for an auto parts store. Get someone to stand outside of the car while you try out the brake lights. A ticket is not a vacation souvenir you’ll cherish.

Make sure the air-conditioning is working at peak performance, and take the vehicle to the workshop if it seems to be a little sluggish. That road trip will seem much longer if you’re sweltering on the highway.

#5 – Keep a Roadside Emergency Kit

Being stuck by the side of the road is a helpless feeling. Before leaving home, put together an emergency kit with items that at the very least will get your vehicle patched up until you can get to the nearest mechanic. You can create the kit from scratch yourself, or you can buy one at an auto parts store and spruce it up with a few more necessities.

Here are some basics:

  • Jumper cables
  • Reflective warning triangle
  • 2-3 litres of engine oil
  • 1 can of tyre inflator
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Toolkit containing screwdriver, awl and wire cutters
  • Bottled water
  • Paper towels

ETHOZ also recommends that motorists restock their emergency kit, consider a pre-trip tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy. Here at ETHOZ, we have our Premium Care Service Packages, (entitled to a free pre-trip inspection) where we provide preventive maintenance services, with our 38-Point-Check. Call 6654 7888 or email for enquiries.

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