The year is winding down and families are looking forward to getting together over the festive season. If travelling, you need to make sure your vehicle is in sound condition, says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).
He says car problems can put a serious spoke in the wheel for motorists on a road trip.
“To ensure you reach your destination safely and are not a hazard to other road users, it is very important to check several components on your car before locking up the house and hitting the road.”
Ranft says the risk of road accidents increases over the festive season, with the most common causes being speeding, distracted driving, reckless driving, driving while tired and driving under the influence.
“Add to these a car which has smooth tyres, broken wipers or mechanical problems and there is real cause for concern.
“We urge all motorists to take responsibility for their own and other road users’ safety this festive season by adhering to the rules of the road and having any car issues attended to before undertaking their trip.”
These are the 5 most important pre-trip checks to do:
1. Tyres. It is not enough to inflate your tyres to the correct pressure; tread is very important. Worn tyres mean you have less grip on the road, which is particularly dangerous in wet weather. It is a good idea to also have your wheel alignment checked if you take your car in for a tyre change as the tyres may need to be rotated. It is also important to ensure your spare wheel is inflated to the correct pressure, together with all the necessary tools for a emergency tyre change.
2. Brakes. Brake maintenance is essential to car safety, so your brakes should be the first thing you check. Before you go on any long journey, ensure that your brakes, calipers, brake pads, discs and brake fluid are all in optimal condition.
3. Lights. This must include every light on the vehicle – indicators, hazards, brakes, parking, reverse, headlights, fog lights, etc. This is simple to check yourself or with someone else. While the vehicle is in a parked position, assess all lights by turning each one on and stepping outside the vehicle to make sure they are visible and properly working.
4. Fluid levels. Makes and models of cars differ on the types of fluids that need to be checked. Most drivers check the oil level on the dipstick but often neglect to check the colour of the oil. If it is dark and dirty it needs to be replaced. Also check the levels and colour of wiper fluid, engine coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid. The ideal is to have these checked by a professional and importantly, when checking the engine coolant levels, you need to do so when the engine is cold.
5. Wipers. Driving through a storm with broken wiper blades is dangerous to you and other motorists. The chance of an accident increases drastically when you cannot see the road. A general inspection of the windshield wipers will show if the material is wearing out and should be replaced.
Ranft reminds motorists to have two emergency triangles in the boot, the contact number of their insurance for roadside assistance and to keep an emergency kit in the car, with things like jumper cables, thermal blankets, first aid supplies, bottled water and a flashlight.
“Also, let your loved ones know when you leave, where you are going and when you arrive safely. No matter whether it is a long or short trip, expect the unexpected when travelling. It is always better to be safe than sorry and be prepared for any type of emergency.
“A reliable car starts with regular maintenance at an accredited workshop. Most offer free holiday checks and now would be a good time to book your car in for one,” he concludes.