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The sun is up. The coast is waiting. The outback is calling. The question is, is your car ready to hit the road on your next road trip?
What if you were to hit a bump in your tracks and your engine went kerplunk? That would be a veritable nightmare. There’s nothing more frightening than breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prepare your car for long-distance travel.
Make sure your car is in good shape before setting off on your cross-country adventure. Tick off the items on our checklist below to get your car road-trip ready, so you can rest assured that you’ll get from A to B with no nasty surprises.
Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is a bright yellow or green liquid that mixes with the water in vehicles to regulate temperature. Made from either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, coolant prevents radiators from freezing or overheating. Beware of coolant leaks. You can usually smell it while your car is running, and the engine is warm. If it smells noticeably sweet, you might have a leak. If you’re unsure, you can also check your engine-oil dipstick for traces of yellow or green streaks.
Oil is critical for engine health. It’s used to lubricate internal combustion engines. This reduces friction and wear on moving parts, minimising the risk of physical damage. Motor oil also cleans the engine from sludge (one of the functions of dispersants) and varnish (detergents). The rule of thumb is that oil should be changed every 5,000 – 10,000kms travelled, or every 6 months. If you can’t remember the last time you changed yours, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Provided you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, pick up a bottle at your nearest service station and change the oil yourself. Otherwise, enlist the help of your trusty mechanic.
Common sense really, but important to note, nonetheless. Save yourself the headache and fill your tank to the max before heading off. Keep an eye out for service stations. If you’re about to pass the last one for a few kilometres, don’t take any chances and stop while you can. You do not want to be the person who has to call AA and tell them you’ve run out of gas.
For a smooth ride during your next road trip, check the condition of your belt, hoses and timing belt. The heater hose and radiator hose carry liquid coolant to and from the engine, radiator, and heater core. The timing belt is responsible for maintaining engine precision by synchronizing the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft, which move the engine's valves and pistons. Basically, they’re super important. Watch out for trouble signs, such as visible cracks in your belt or fluid leaking from the hose. If there’s something wrong with your car, she’ll usually let you know. Be sure to listen.
Your battery is what gives your car energy. It provides the zap of electricity needed to kickstart your car’s internal components. It converts chemical energy into the electrical energy that powers your car and delivers voltage (i.e. energy supply) to its starter. It also stabilises the voltage that keeps your engine running. When it comes to battery health, there’s not much leeway. Spare yourself the phone call to roadside assistance and make sure yours is in tip-top condition.
Roads can get dusty, so make sure your car is prepared. Air filters prevent harmful debris, dirt and other airborne contaminants from getting into your engine. More importantly, they prevent them from getting into your body. Unfortunately, these filters can become clogged over time. Get them checked when your car is being serviced, and replace them if needs be.
Road trips are about experiencing the journey, not reaching the destination. They are an excuse to take the scenic route, taking in the beauty of the surrounding natural scenery. To do this properly, your windshield will need to be crystal clear. Clean and wipe the surface and make sure you’re well supplied with washer fluid.
Leave this one to the professionals. Have your brakes checked by a mechanic regularly, including the master cylinder, callipers, wheel cylinders and brake lines. Brakes weaken over time, and are a common cause of road accidents. Typically, brakes fail when your brake fluid is too low, or your pads are too worn. Avoid any disasters and make sure yours are in good nick.
Tyres are crucially important when it comes to car functionality. Make sure they are pumped (but not over-pumped) for a smooth, safe and economically efficient ride. If you’ve had your tyres for a while, it might be time to change them. If they are too worn, they are more susceptible to punctures. Which reminds us: always keep a spare in your boot just in case of such an emergency.
Functioning lights allow you to reach your destination safely. They allow you to see others and vice versa. Don’t go anywhere unless yours are working perfectly. On top of putting yourself and other drivers at risk, broken lights will likely earn you a hefty fine.
In addition to these checks, it’s a good idea to pack a car survival kit so you’re prepared for any eventuality. Suggested items include:
Know your limits before embarking on your adventure. If you’ve only ever driven 300km, don’t push it to 600km. You don’t want to run the risk of becoming fatigued. Pull over and rest if you need to. Have some podcasts and music downloaded to keep you entertained during the long stretches. Be sensible with your speed, even if the road is empty. Also, be mindful of large trucks – it’s best to keep your distance when possible.
Most accidents and issues are easily prevented. While maintaining your car may take time, effort and cash, it’s worth it in the long run. If you don’t make small investments regularly, you’re going to end up spending a fortune to fix the damage that will inevitably build up. When it comes to your car, prevention is better (and cheaper) than the cure. Use our list to make sure your car is always ready for road. Not only will you survive your trip, but you might actually enjoy it too!
Here at Motor Matcher, we help people like you make informed decisions when buying and selling cars online. We offer a faster and simpler way of browsing and comparing both new and used cars from the comfort of your own home. Everything we do is modelled around providing customers with the right tools and empowering them with the right information. We provide a safe and secure marketplace for all car buyers and sellers to conduct business.
From new to used cars, Motormatcher has a wide array of cars to choose from. Find your next dream car for the ultimate road trip Click here.