So, you’re planning to embark on a road trip. Before your trip, be sure to check your vehicle over to make sure you can have a safe drive and avoid any mechanical issues. Here are 9 things you should check on your car before going on a road trip:
Dashboard warning lights
Engine oil, changing it if needed.
Engine’s cooling system
Tyres and wheel alignment
Signs of worn brakes
Steering and suspension
As soon as you notice a warning light on the dashboard for one of the safety systems, you should get it checked immediately. In fact, any warning light on the dash warrants immediate checking by a professional.
When you turn on the ignition, watch that all the warning lights flash on momentarily. If a warning light doesn’t flash on at all, it can be a sign that there is an issue with the electrical systems and that you may not get a warning that part of your car needs attention.
Make sure to check the various fluid levels in your car and ensure they are all topped off, including the oil, coolant, windscreen wash levels, and brake fluids. This is an efficient way to avoid unnecessary breakdowns that could lead to possible accidents on the road.
Check your oil level and the date that you may need an oil change. If it is almost time to change your oil, then do it. Remember, a long trip can create more stress on your vehicle.
ATTENTION: Adding extra oil will not work as changing the oil because the sludge from your old oil cannot be cleared. If possible, the oil filter should also be changed at the same time as the oil.
Watch out for slow cranking when you start the car. This may indicate that the battery is on its last legs. You can usually expect three years of life out of a battery – and some will go much longer than that – but always be wary once it reaches that three-year threshold.
Usually, the first sign of cooling system problems will come from the temperature gauge indicating an engine running consistently warmer or cooler than normal. Again, this goes back to always watching your gauges both when the car turns on and when you’re driving.
If the vehicle starts pulling to one side – or after a hard impact with a curb – most drivers suspect that the wheels might be out of alignment. Other good signs that your vehicle’s alignment is off is irregular tyre wear, vibration, and odd handling characteristics.
Some sure signs your brakes need some TLC include shuddering through the pedal and squealing noises when the friction has worn away the brake pads and is now grinding metal-on-metal. You should also check the braking system’s hydraulic fluid reservoir, and it should be flushed at regular intervals as water can build up. If water builds up, the brake pedal will feel spongy or will potentially travel too far.
If you’re hauling the steering wheel in one direction to keep the car tracking in a straight line, or the steering wheel is vibrating more than usual, your steering geometry may need an alignment. It could also mean incorrect inflation or incorrect balance for one or more tyres. Note any knocking or unusual play in the wheel, which can be signs of worn steering bushes or wheel bearings.
Place both hands on the car’s bodywork above a wheel and about half a metre apart. Taking care not to slip and hurt yourself, lean your body weight onto the car, pause, and then push away. If the car body bounces back quickly on the spring, instead of rising smoothly to its original position, it indicates the damper is worn and may need replacing. Worn dampers are a safety concern as they can lead to reduced road holding under brakes or while cornering.
Listen for knocking noises that could indicate worn joints in the drive shafts to the wheels or a badly worn differential. Also, note automatic transmissions that are reluctant to shift from neutral into gear.
Your car’s transmission fluid is a critical part of the system. As it goes about its job of lubricating a vehicle’s transmission, it picks up grit and grime. It also starts to break down as it gets older. Old, dirty transmission fluid doesn’t flow properly, and this puts your transmission at risk. You will need to flush the transmission to remove the dirty fluid and add fresh, clean fluid from time to time. While you should be regularly checking your vehicle’s transmission fluid, there are clear signs indicative of old, dirty transmission fluid. Here’s what you should be watching for:
Gears That Slip
Inability to Move in Reverse
Engine Is Running Too Hot
Dirty Transmission Fluid Leaks
By doing these checks before leaving you can ensure a safe and fun road trip with no accidents or unforeseen events. Putting in the effort before leaving means you can make sure your car works just as hard for you as you do for it. Lastly, always remember that after the road trip, you’ll want to check your machinery buddy over again to keep it running in top-notch shape!