Before you go on a long drive, it’s smart to give a bit of love and attention to the vehicle that’s going to take you there. Breaking down on the side of the road is never anyone’s goal, so make sure you do everything you can to prevent this and service your car before a long drive.
Each car has a different recommended tyre pressure, as it depends on its weight, the weight of the load and the type of tyres on its wheels. Make sure you check your tyre pressure and adjust it so that it has the right pressure before you go. Often the right pressure can be found on the inside of the driver’s door or in the car manual. A pressure gauge which, you can get as analogue or digital, can be useful when travelling really long distances as it allows you to check your pressure is still at the right amount. Every good service station should have an air compressor handy, so if you need some air, you don’t need to buy your own compressor.
Coolant is important for making sure your engine temperature doesn’t get too hot and overheats. The coolant reservoir will have two notches on it saying “Max” and “Min” which refers to how much coolant should be in there. Old coolant isn’t as effective as new coolant so if it hasn’t been changed for a long time, it might be a good idea to change all of the fluid. Some coolants are premixes, so check the label to see whether you need to add water or not. It’s also a good idea to check your engine temperature while you’re driving every so often, so that if your engine gets too hot you can pull over straight away and let it cool down.
Always wait 10 minutes from turning the engine off, before checking the oil. To check the oil, get a clean rag and wipe the oiled end of the dipstick. The dipstick is located differently for different cars, so if you’re not sure where it is, use your car manual to locate it. Put the dipstick back in again completely, then draw it out and check the oil level. This is done because while driving around the oil may have splashed or something may have happened to cause an inaccurate reading on the dipstick. Now pull the dipstick out again and look at the film of oil on the end of the stick. Down the bottom of the stick there will be two areas marked – “Add” and “Full”. Look at where the oil is and see whether the oil needs topping up or not. Also check the condition of the oil. If it is dirty or there are impurities, it would be a good idea to change it.
Wiper blades do wear out over time, and although it can seem like you don’t always need them, it can actually get quite dangerous if you don’t replace them. When you’re driving in heavy rain and your wipers aren’t working effectively, sight of the road is impaired which can lead to road accidents that might not just affect yourself, but other road users as well. Making sure they’re working well is important. It’s also important to fill up the reservoir of water (and add a good quality windscreen washer fluid). Especially in summer months, swarms of bugs are common in non-built up areas, which will quickly reduce visibility through your windshield as they splatter against it. Having the water/windscreen washer fluid mix in a spray bottle and a window wiper can allow you to clean your windshield on the go, so a stop at the service station isn’t required. The water reservoir is usually found near the coolant.
If you want your engine to start, you need your battery to work. Especially in cold weather, you want your car’s battery to be fully charged, and you can check this using a voltmeter. A car battery is typically 12.66V. Make sure the engine is off, as well as all electrical appliances. Connect the red positive test lead to the positive terminal on your car battery, and connect the black negative test lead to the negative terminal. This will give you a reading of your battery, and if it is below 12.45V, it needs to be charged. Also make sure that your terminals are secured before driving anywhere.
On the subject of charging, jump leads are another essential to have, all the time, but especially if you’re going on a long drive. For whatever reason that your car might not start, if another driver comes past you’ll be able to give your vehicle a jump start and even charge your battery if you have jump leads. To do so, have both engines off. Connect the red lead to the positive terminal of the working car, and the black lead to the negative terminal. Then do the same with the other end to the car that won’t start. Start the engine of the working car, and after a few minutes turn the key of the other vehicle as well. It should start.
The spare tyre has saved many a car trip, and is an essential if going for a long drive. For various reasons, tyres blow or get damaged, so it’s important to have a spare one with you in case you haven’t blown one in the parking lot of Bob Jane T-Marts. It’s important to look closely at the spare tyre you have, as often there will be a speed limit on the spare, such as 80km/h. It’s also important to check its tyre pressure, and make sure you have all the tools required to change a tyre. This includes a jack and the large socket wrench that will fit the size of the lug nuts holding the wheel in place. There should also be a bar that you can attach to the wrench to give you a mechanical advantage in loosening the nuts. When changing your tyre over, try to have your car sitting over a hard bit of ground, so that the jack won’t sink while trying to lift the car.