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Tips For A Safe Road Trip This Summer

Going on a road trip with your besties this holiday? Make sure your car is up to the task and gets you there safely by doing a quick check of these important things.

Your car battery

It’s essential to check that your battery is in good working condition. It provides power for starting your vehicle, as well as the lights, windscreen wipers, car radio, and aircon. 

Driving your car keeps the battery recharged, so if you’ve been working from home a lot and driving less, your battery may not be in optimal condition. Batteries are meant to last between three to five years, but driving less frequently, or only short distances, can cause its lifespan to be shortened. 

“Keep your battery charged by taking your car out at least once a week for a longer drive – an hour if you’re driving in town or 30 minutes on the highway – so the alternator has time to fully recharge the battery,” advises Keletso Mpisane, Head of car insurer, MiWay Blink.

If your car lights seem dim or your car has been sluggish to start, pop in at a battery center to have the battery checked out before you leave on your trip. While you’re there, ask them to make sure the battery is properly secured properly and isn’t moving around under your car bonnet.

“You should aim to check your battery regularly, and not just when you’re about to take a long journey, or when it starts causing you problems,” adds Mpisane. “Like all aspects of motoring, it’s safer and more affordable to stay on top of things.  If you routinely check your car, you can prevent problems long in advance.”

The car tyres

Your tyres need to be in tip-top shape, especially if you’re driving a far distance. If the tread is worn, the tyres need to be replaced. Worn or balding tyres can cause a blowout, which is very dangerous, especially if you’re driving at a higher speed on the open road, warns Mpisane. “They also reduce the amount of traction your car has on the road when it’s raining, which can lead to your car skidding.”

Inspect your tyres for any damage that is noticeable, such as cracks, tears, bulges, or blisters, and if you’re at all unsure, get a professional to check them out. Even if your tyres are in good condition, get your tyre pressure checked at a garage the day before you leave on your trip. 

“While you’re at it, check that your spare tyre is in good condition and properly inflated, and that there is a jack and spanner packed in your boot in case you have a flat tyre out in the middle of nowhere,” says Mpisane.

Wiper blades that work

Whether you’re in a rainy part of the country this summer holiday or not, your wiper blades should be in good condition. They’re one of the most forgotten things to check on a car, but they are vital to ensure visibility and driving safety in wet weather. Apart from making sure the wiper arm itself works well, inspect the rubber on the wiper blades and replace them if they’re worn out. A good maintenance tip is to regularly remove any dirt and soil from the wiper blades by giving them a gentle wipe with a damp cloth, says Mpisane. And, resist the temptation to use your wipers to clean dirt and dust off the windscreen, as it can scratch the glass. 

Brakes
 
Brakes that aren’t in good working order are a big safety risk. Don’t even consider starting out on a long journey if you suspect you have worn brakes, cautions Mpisane. “If the brakes fail you won’t be able to control your vehicle, and your car won’t have proper stopping power, which can have dire consequences for you, your passengers and other motorists on the road.”

Warning signs that your brakes need to be checked are if your car pulls to one side or shakes when you apply brakes, if there is a squealing or grinding sound as you brake, or if the brakes feel spongy and soft when you push on the brake pedal.

Fluids, lights and clean windows

All your exterior lights need to be functioning and lighting up as they should, such as indicators, brights, brake lights, and hazards. Faulty lights are a real risk, as they fail to signal your driving intentions to other motorists and pedestrians, says Mpisane. “It’s an unwanted safety risk that can lead to road accidents, and also cause you to get a fine if you’re stopped by traffic officers,” she adds.

Check up, too, on your car’s fluids before you set out on your trip. The day before you leave, pop in at a garage and ask to have your car’s oil and water levels checked. Remember to top up the water for your windscreen wipers, and clean all the windows and mirrors, especially if you’ll be driving at night. Dirty windows reduce visibility and increase windshield glare in your eyes from oncoming cars’ headlights, and grimy mirrors will intensify the light from cars behind you.

Don’t overload your car

Last of all, make sure your car isn’t overloaded with people and baggage. Every car has a maximum weight capacity and exceeding that can make your car difficult to steer and less stable on the road. It will also make your car sluggish if you need to overtake other vehicles, as well as making it slower to stop.

Do the above checks on your car well ahead of leaving to save you from a breakdown or worse, concludes Mpisane. “The only memories of your holiday road trip should be the good parts – snacks, playlists and good conversation – not breakdowns or accidents. Don’t let a faulty car component mar the excitement of getting to your destination.“

Make sure your car is insured!

The aim for holidaymakers is to explore and enjoy without worrying about normal, everyday things that would be at the top of their minds during any other time of the year – however it is important to prepare properly in order to enjoy a stress-free holiday, whenever going away.

One of the more important things to remember if you’re planning a road trip this year-end period is car insurance – failure to do so could result in potential financial loss, should an invalid claim be filed as a result of a lack of awareness.