Hitting the road when you are on holiday is almost a requirement. After all, who wants to sit in their living room when you are free from work? Unfortunately, hitting the road is not as simple as turning the key and leaving. If you neglect your car, it may turn on you at the worst possible time.
There is no way to predict or prevent every issue that can occur while you are motoring through the countryside, but there are several maintenance items or car parts that you can take care of before leaving. Performing the maintenance tips listed below could be the difference between a relaxing holiday and two weeks spent in a boring town waiting for your car to be repaired.
Checking your motor oil is one of the easiest items on our list. First up, look to see when it was last changed. If you are due or nearly so; then, by all means, do so. If not, at least check the level. In general, it’s best to follow the manufacturers recommendations as to what oil to use, but there are exceptions. If you plan to travel in extremely hot conditions or will be pulling a trailer or boat, a fully synthetic engine oil may be better for you. Full synthetic oils offer better thermal protection.
Gearbox and Differential Fluids
Have you ever changed the gearbox filter and fluid? You should check your owner’s manual for the right change intervals, but if your gearbox is shifting hard, you may want to have the service performed before leaving on holiday. While you are crawling around under your vehicle, look at the grease points. They are often neglected, but need to be filled at least once a year.
Pop the bonnet and get to work. The first thing to do is look at all of the hoses. They are regularly exposed to temperatures near the boiling point, so they can easily wear out. If the high temperature doesn’t get them, dry rot can. Look for cracks or bulges. The most vulnerable spots are where the hoses connect to the engine and radiator. Be sure to check the heater hoses that run from the thermostat to the firewall as well. If you are going on an extremely long trip, going where there are few towns, or into hot temperatures; you may want to take spare hoses with you.
In most modern cars, there is a single belt that drives everything. The exception being some newer Toyota Prius’ that do not have a belt of any kind under the bonnet. That aside, look for fraying or cracks. If any are present, change your belt before leaving. If you hear a loud screech as you pull from a stop, your belt is probably loose. Pop the bonnet and press on the belt. If it moves more than a few millimeters when you press with two fingers between two pulleys, then tighten the belt.
Newer cars are equipped with engine coolant designed to last for at least 100,000 km. If your car is less than four years old, be sure to check that the coolant reservoir is topped up. If you are relying on an older ride, test the coolant to be sure it is still capable of handling high temperatures.
While you are under the bonnet, look at the battery. Be sure the terminals are corrosion-free and that all connections are tight. If it’s not a maintenance-free battery, have the electrolytes tested. If it is sealed, check the output voltage.
You are looking for two issues with your tires. The first is the condition of the tread and sidewalls. New tires have approximately 4 mm of tread depth. If yours have less than 2 mm, then you should buy new. As you are looking at the sidewalls of your tires, look for deep cracks or bulges. If either are present, buy new.
Even with new tires, you have to make sure the pressure is right. The correct pressure is usually listed in the owner’s manual, driver’s side door, or on the fuel filler door. Incorrect tire pressure will waste petrol and cause your tires to wear. Also, keep in mind where you are driving. If it is very hot, you may want to have a lower pressure to allow for the air to expand without overfilling the tire. The opposite is true if you will be headed into higher altitudes.
Well, you have the car in top rolling condition, now you have to stop it. First, look for obvious leaks, then pop the reservoir. Brake fluid attracts moisture, so look at the color of the fluid. If it looks like maple syrup, the system needs to be flushed. The brake system becomes even more critical if you are pulling a trailer. The extra heat from the added weight could overheat old fluid. Overheated fluid causes a spongy pedal and lots of excitement if you are headed downhill.