When the travel bug bites you, there’s nothing to do but hit the road. For some of us, the wanderers, planes and trains and cruises just won’t do. Because there’s nothing quite like filling up your gas tank, starting the engine, and driving off into the sunset. However, before you leave, always have a proper car check – because there’s nothing that kills the fun on holiday like having your car stop. Being towed and dealing with mechanics on vacation is definitely no fun, having an accident even less so. But fret not, we bring you this handy list of new car safety features to check before you set off, so you can enjoy your trip without car trouble.
10. Pack smart
You might not be familiar with it, but every car has a maximum load – the weight it can carry with no problems. This includes both the cargo and the passengers. Following this guideline for your car means you won’t be compromising your safety or your fuel economy. Cars usually have this information on a sticker on the door frame, listed as Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
9. First aid kit
In case of an accident, you might need a first aid kit to treat injuries, or even a fire extinguisher if there is a flame. Even without a traffic accident, you never know when a first aid kit could come in handy. Even seemingly harmless injuries are better off treated properly.
8. Jumper cables
Your comfort and safety while driving largely depend on being prepared and not allowing any unforeseen circumstances to spring up on you. Of course, even the best-laid plans sometimes don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean you should be caught unaware. There are certain things you should have in your vehicle at all times, because you never really know when you’ll need them. Your car might stop for any number of reasons, which is why you should always have jumper cables to try to start it.
Wipers may seem trivial, but try driving in the pouring rain without them and you’ll see how important they are. The blades on the wipers need to be replaced occasionally, as they commonly wear down due to use. If you’re going to a dusty or muddy area, windshield fluid is also indispensable. There’s nothing worse than wipers that just spread out the water across your windshield in the pouring rain; always opt for a reputable brand like Bosch.
Taking care of your battery might mean the difference between a reliable vehicle, and being left stranded when your car won’t start. The important things to check are the charge, the electrolyte levels, the cables (there shouldn’t be any corrosion), and the terminals. Once everything is checked and clean, recharge if necessary.
Lights are another feature of the car that is mostly safety-related, and as such they need to be in perfect working order at all times. The problem with lights is that, unless you are told by another driver, a lot of the times it’s hard to notice if some of them fail. Every car has headlights, high-beams, reverse and brake lights, as well as indicators. Always keep a set of spare bulbs in the car and check your user manual for instructions on how to change lights that aren’t working.
Brakes are one of the most essential parts of your car, and certainly the most vital safety feature. It goes without saying that making sure they are in working order is non-negotiable before a long drive. Apart from checking and possibly changing the brake fluid, ask your mechanic to inspect the brake pads for wear. The thickness of less than a quarter of an inch definitely warrants a replacement. If your brakes stop working mid-drive, try not to panic (this is definitely one of the scariest driving scenarios). Gradually slow down by shifting to a lower gear, then slowly pull the hand brake bit by bit to prevent skidding.
3. Coolant fluid
Coolant fluid is just one of the fluids that need to be checked fairly often. It’s easy to deduce from the name that coolant is used to cool your engine. If a car overheats, it won’t run, so you need to make sure your coolant levels are always satisfactory. Don’t use water instead of coolant, as it will speed up corrosive processes and shorten the life of your engine.
Think of the engine oil as the blood to the engine’s heart. Engine oil is actually a critical element in the process – it lubricates the engine, lowering friction and allowing everything to run smoothly, by preventing the metal parts to grind against each other. This way, the oil not only allows you to drive, but also helps preserve your engine in good condition. During this process, the oil gradually picks up sludge and dirt, which is why it needs to be replaced regularly, normally every 10000 kilometers.
1. Tires and spare tire
A flat tire is probably one of the most common, if not the most common malfunction every driver is likely to encounter every once in a while. Having all had an episode or two that included a flat tire, we are likely to dismiss it as relatively harmless. However, it can actually be a pretty dangerous situation if you have a blow-out while driving, especially at high speed. To prevent tire-related accidents, it’s best to have an expert inspect your tires for damage, wear and tread depth. Don’t forget to ask them to take a look at the spare, just in case you need it. If you do happen to get a flat tire, always follow the proper procedure when changing it.
The best vacation is the one on which no unexpected problems arise. For a carefree experience, it’s always good to do what you can before you even leave, so that you have no unpleasant surprises. Sometimes, of course, some things are beyond our control. But having a reliable car in good working condition will surely ease your mind and maximize your safety.