So you are heading off on a road trip. No matter how long you are going for, before you hit the road it’s really worth your while to take 15 minutes to do eight quick car checks. Why? Because there is nothing worse than breaking down and having to be towed – just because you ignored checking your car with eight car checks before you hit the road. Here’s my suggested eight quick car checks before hitting the road on any Australian Road Trip.
Check the Oil Level
Oil is required in your car engine to keep all the parts lubricated and moving smoothly without overheating. Over time, the oil can break down and wear out – and so becomes less effective at keeping parts lubricated and cool. If you don’t have enough oil, parts can heat up and worse, seize up and stop working. So a simple check of the oil level can help your car keep going.
It is easy to check the oil. Lift the bonnet, take the top off the oil and take the level out. Wipe the level with a cloth or tissue and place the level back in the oil, wait a second or two, take the level back out and see how much oil is present. Read the reading – it should be above ‘minimum’. If you need more, put more in.
Every car needs oil and the type of oil needed for your car can be found in the owners handbook. If you are buying or hiring a car, the owners handbook is essential reading.
Check the Water and Coolant Level
The water and coolant in your engine keep the engine cool. If the engine became too hot it would stop. While water does help to keep your engine cool, it works way better with coolant. Why? Because water boils faster and at a lower temperature than coolant. You need the right level of coolant so it keeps your engine cool and keeps it from overheating.
To check the water and coolant level, look at the markings on the side of the plastic overflow bottle connected to the cooling system. The level should be between the ‘low’ and ‘high’ markings on the side. If the coolant level is low, add the appropriate amount of coolant.
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Check the Water Level in the Washer Bottle for your Windscreen
While driving, you need a clear and unimpeded view through your windscreen. If you have a windscreen that is streaked with bugs, bird poo, mud, road grime or other gunk, you might miss seeing something dangerous. Having the appropriate level of water and washer fluid in your windscreen wiper bottle is imperative to wash your windows while driving.
Check the level and fill if required. Don’t overfill though. When your engine is going the water heats up and can overflow.
Check your Tyre Pressures and Tread
Having the right tyre pressure helps you to brake properly and aids in fuel efficiency. If your tyre pressure is too low, it can distort your tyre’s footprint. Meaning, when your car’s tyre contacts the road the wear and tear on the tyre can increase dramatically – which means you will need to get new tyres more regularly.
On the other hand if your tyre pressure is too high, it can keep your tyres from having enough grip on the road – which can lead to the car ‘moving’ when it passes over bumps and potholes. To ensure a smooth ride, have the appropriate tyre pressure.
To check the tyre pressure, firstly find out what it is from the handbook and then get a tyre pressure reading. If it is too high, let some pressure out and if too low, simply put some air in.
TIP: Best to check the oil, water, coolant and tyres when the car is cool. Also, check and inflate your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold. You get a more accurate reading if you do. And don’t forget to check your spare tyre.
Also check the tyre tread. New tyres usually have a tread of 8-12 mm. The more tread you have, the better your tyre grips the road. In Australia the minimum standard amount of tread your tyres should have is 1.5mm. If it gets to this low you need new tyres and if you drive a car without any tread – apart from being plain dangerous – you can be fined.
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Check luggage, racks, trailers and other towables are secure
There is nothing worse than driving off and something falls off or out of your vehicle. Before you take off, ensure everything is secure – luggage, roof racks or boxes, bike racks and anything you are towing.
Check your lights and indicators
Driving without lights and indicators is just plain dangerous – and illegal. If driving at night ,you need to see the road. And without indicators other drivers don’t know what you are doing. So a quick check of these should be added to your check list.
Check your Emergency Road Side Tool Kit
Lastly, but not least, check your emergency road side kit. If you don’t have any, I would suggest you get some. Though you can’t pre-empt what might happen during your road trip, it is wise to have some tools that will enable you to fix minor problems. And even if you don’t know how to use them, hopefully someone may stop and help you.
Get Australia-wide Road Side Assistance
Joining, or updating roadside assistance is a good idea. Each Australian state has their own but usually offer Australia-wide assistance. Check you have your Australia-wide road side assistance details in your wallet.
Finally, I cannot recommend enough doing these eight quick car checks before hitting the road. Of course, they do not replace a full car service but they can help to keep your car in good condition for your road trip. I do them before any road trip I undertake and I hope you do too. I would hate to see you on the side of the road somewhere! Happy road tripping.
Hi. I’m Sharyn. I have travelled most of my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. I love coffee, chocolate, eating in pubs and living, working and playing in Australia. I currently call Melbourne home. Read More.