Vehicle Safety Check
With the holiday season fast approaching I thought we should take a look at the basic items on a vehicle safety check. I strongly suggest having a qualified mechanic carry out a full service and tune-up before contemplating any long trips and that combined with these few basic tips should see you get to your destination without any mechanical dramas.
- The first item on the list is a check of the lights - headlight, both high and low beam, the indicators front and rear, parking lights front and rear, number plate lights and with the help of an assistant check your brake lights including the eye-level brake light if fitted.
- Number Two is your wiper blades. There is nothing worse than getting caught in a rain shower with crappy wiper blades and usually they get overlooked until this happens! Throw a bit of water on the windscreen, operate the wipers and look for a nice streak-free finish. A handy tip that I allways use is get yourself a bottle of Rain-X and periodically wipe your windscreen with a cloth wet with the Rain-X. This stuff is awesome at beading any water that hits the screen and the water is blown off by the wind. Car polish is also useful for this.
- Washer Fluid and Washer Jets. Another forgotten item until they are needed! Top up the fluid bottle with water and an approved detergent. Operate the washers and if any are blocked a poke with a sewing pin usually gets them working again. Also check the jets alignment, no use using your water to wash the guys windscreen behind you! You can re-align the jet by sticking the sewing pin into the jet and gently moving it in the direction you need it to go.
- Tyres, please check your tyres before heading off anywhere. Check for adequate tread depth across the entire tread surface of the tyre. If there is major wear on one side of the tyre only I suggest you have a wheel alignment carried out before going anywhere as there may be problems that need to be corrected sooner rather than later.
- Tyre Pressures. Most service stations have facilities for checking tyre pressures if you don’t have a guage or compressor at home. 32-34psi for passenger car tyres and 40psi for 4×4 and Light Truck tyres is a good operating pressure. If you are carrying a reasonable size load on your trip away increase the rear tyre pressure by around 4psi to cater for this extra load. Having correctly inflated tyres not only prolongs tyre life, it also helps reduce fuel consumption. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre!
- Fan Belts, mostly referred to these days as drive belts. Check your fan belts for any signs or cracks or deterioration. If in any doubt have a mechanic check and/or replace them. Ask for the old ones to be returned and keep them as spares. You never know when they may come in handy. Tieing up annoying relatives, you know, that sort of thing.
- Radiator and Heater hoses. Check all the water carrying hoses for splits and deterioration, once again if in doubt have a mechanic take a look.
- All under-bonnet fluid levels. Engine oil level and condition, Transmission fluid level and condition, Coollant level and condition including the overflow bottle, Battery electrolyte level, Brake Fluid level and condition. As above, if anything looks suspect have a mechanic take a look before you head out.
- Differential Oil level and condition. This one may be too adventurous for some people so ask your mechanic to make sure that they check it when you have a service done. You would be surprised at how many mechanics don’t check these basic things when servicing cars.
- Another point to note - we had quite a few cars at our workshop that has stopped due to dirty fuel filters. With an efi engine it doesn’t take much of a fuel pressure drop to cause problems and the fuel filter is often over-looked when servicing a car. If you are unsure of when yours was last changed, change it yourself or have a mechanic do it for you, just to be sure. It is a small price to pay when you consider what a breakdown could cost you.
As I said these are only basic items that anyone can check and there is certainly more to consider in a vehicle safety check so please have your mechanic carry out a service and tune-up before heading off on a long trip. It is money worth spending when you consider the possible costs involved in a breakdown.Remember to take plenty of breaks along the way and if you are travelling with small children I wish you the best of luck. Have plenty of games to keep them occupied or at least a bottle of Phenergan and a large rubber mallet for those trying times!