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About this season every year, when the Jacarandas start to bloom, and the big retailers begin rolling out their festive season trees and décor, I compile an article on getting your car road trip ready.
By now most of you know the drill. Take your car for a service, inspect the tyres, check your fluid levels and so on. The reason I tend to harp on about these things is because I have seen first-hand, during our annual pilgrimage to the coast, any number of holidays and lives cut short, due to accidents or breakdowns.
Not every accident is avoidable, but many are. A high-speed tyre blow-out could end in tragedy, as could impaired visibility due to insufficient windscreen wipers, or even the lack of running lights because a R2 fuse or globe has gone.
Breakdowns too. Some are avoidable by simply servicing and maintaining your vehicle as the manufacturer suggests. Look at our crumbling cities and infrastructure because those in power have failed to maintain what they had. A car is no different. Failing to carry out the necessary servicing and maintenance will result in costly issues.
Other types of breakdowns are unavoidable and couldn’t be foreseen. A clamp may snap on one of your hoses. A screw may work itself loose. A fuse may blow. A critical fluid may begin to leak. A fire may break out. The only solution here is to carry the necessary tools and spares, which should such a situation occur, you are not off the road for longer than necessary.
So instead of another long and boring sermon, I will just stick to a quick checklist. Here are the things to check before you head off - plus essential items to carry with you in case trouble does strike.
Before you head off on your great adventure, run through these basic checks to make sure your car is in good working order. If you find any issues, call your mechanic – better to be safe than sorry.
✓ Make sure you have enough fuel, oil and radiator coolant.
✓ Make sure all your tyres are properly inflated and they have enough tread.
✓ Clean your windscreen and make sure the wipers and washers are operating and cleaning correctly.
✓ Make sure your fuel gauge and temperature gauge are operating correctly.
✓ Check that the spare wheel is secured and in good condition.
✓ Check under your vehicle for obvious leaks when parked for a period of time.
✓ Make sure all your lights and indicators are working.
✓ If towing a trailer or caravan, make sure you understand your vehicle's towing capacity before checking the chains, couplings, sway bars, shackles, and lights and ensure that all doors and add-ons are locked in place
✓ Check you have the correct level of roadside assistance and insurance cover
✓ Make sure your car has had a service with a comprehensive safety check within a reasonable time frame prior to setting off
✓ Find your car's spare key and keep it with you in case you lose the one you are using.
When you're off the beaten track, help might not be readily available. By off the beaten track I don’t necessarily mean that 4x4 only trail through the Namib. Being a large country with large distances between major centres, you can be on a national highway and still be, mechanically speaking, off the beaten track. Think about that stretch between Kuruman and Upington, or Beaufort West and Laingsburg, or the very scenic road from Port St Johns to East London. All great roads, but not a good place for your radiator cap to fail.
Having the right tools in your car can help you get back on the road, whether it's you or a passer-by who has the know-how.
Not all country mechanics have quick access to replacement parts, either so if you carry some basic spare parts like hose clamps or an accessory drive belt it's a huge help to get moving again. Another part worth keeping in your car is the aforementioned radiator cap.
Hop onto Startmycar.co.za and input your make, model, year to find the correct belts and radiator cap for your vehicle. It may cost you a R100, but it will be the best R100 you have ever spent, when your car has broken down outside Hogsback, the wife is screaming, the very capable mechanic would love to help but the belt is only available from Volvo agents 200km away, and you losing R200/hour on your peak season holiday accommodation in Gonubie. And of course, you are missing being on that pristine white beach with the azure lagoon you have spent the last 50 weeks in the office dreaming about.
General equipment such as a cable ties, a shovel, torch, ropes, drop sheets, a battery charger, and fuel are also a helpful assortment of tools to have in your car for a variety of situations.
Your basic toolkit should include the following, all of which are available on Startmycar, and on special this week, because your safety is of our utmost importance:
✓ Adjustable wrenches (large and small)
✓ Screwdrivers (straight blade, large and small)
✓ Screwdrivers (Phillips’s head, set of three)
✓ Tyre repair outfit, including valve key
✓ Wheel brace and tyre levers
✓ Tow rope
One more thing to add, being the father of three kids now, is that your road trip is only enjoyable if the kids and wife are happy. While you may enjoy hurling down the open roads, overtaking lorries and taking on the ‘twisties’ like a racing driver, the kids in the back want to be fed, comfortable and entertained. In terms of that, here a few items I would suggest. Again, you will find great deals on these items this week on our sale page
In summary, as a parent or even a responsible adult, I am sure you usewhat if” scenarios to help you prepare for the unexpected: What if the house catches fire? What if your baby starts choking? What if your laptop gets stolen?While you certainly hope these situations never happen, you may have practiced a fire escape route, know the Heimlich manoeuvre or have a daily backup to Onedrive.
It is no different with a road trip. Planning ahead and being proactive does not mean anything will happen—it only means that you will be well prepared to handle whatever this road trip may throw your way.
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