The Easter long-weekend is upon us and while road trips can be fun they should also come with a fair share of admin.
The JAX Tyres & Auto Road Safety Report 2021 conducted by YouGov reveals that only about half of the Australians – 54 per cent – say they always carry out specific vehicle checks before a long drive.
Alarmingly, one third of Aussie drivers say an orange or red light on car dashboard would not stop them from going on a long road trip.
But, there are various other imperative checks to undertake before you hit the open road. So, while you're packing your bags or getting the kids prepared, don't forget to give your car some attention too.
With the help of some experts we've put together a car care checklist.
Check your battery health
"As a general rule, it’s best to take the car out for a run every two or three weeks. If your car has a newer battery, a month between drives should be fine, but a car with an older battery, let’s say three years, needs starting and running at least once a week. You don’t have to go for a long drive, a 10-minute run to the supermarket and back should suffice before your trip to test and warm up the battery.
"The battery works best when its terminals are clean and tight. It is common to find corrosion. Clean the terminals by disconnecting the battery (negative or earth lead first), and wash with a solution of warm water and baking soda. Spruce up terminals with a wire brush, smear with petroleum jelly to prevent build-up and reconnect battery (negative or earth lead last)," says RACV Senior Motoring Journalist, Tim Nicholson.
Check your levels
"Check all the key fluid levels like oil, coolant (radiator and overflow where applicable), brake fluid and power steering (where applicable). Not only should we be checking these but also inspecting the condition of these oils and fluids. If top-ups are required be sure to use the recommended grade and/or same fluid as what is in there. Do NOT mix with just anything," Matthew Guastella, Technician and Junior Manager at Ralph Guastella Motors explains.
Check for any leaks
Tim Nicholson advices the following:
"Check [the oil] when the car is parked on a level surface, and the engine has been off for at least a minute. If oil is low, top it up – it should take about half a litre. The handbook will tell you which grade to use.
"[Coolant] is best checked when the engine is cold. Check the handbook for any warnings/procedures pertinent to your vehicle. If a top-up is needed, undo the caps indicated in the handbook, and check with a service centre for possible causes.
"Automatic transmission fluid is checked via a dipstick – follow the instructions in the car’s handbook. If the level is significantly down, needs frequent topping-up, is a dark colour or has a burnt smell, get it checked by a mechanic."
Conduct a warm-up run
Mr Nicholson says "Items such as batteries, brake rotors and pads and tyres will benefit from a drive that’s long enough to warm everything up to operating temperature. A 10-minute trip to the shops to collect your groceries will be enough to give your car a workout."
Check your tread and top up your tyre pressure
"Definitely check the tyre pressures and if going on a long trip make sure to read the tyre placard and increase the pressures for fully loaded conditions. Don't forget to do the spare tyre too!
"A visual inspection of the tyres can prevent failures. How are the sidewalls? Are there any chunks taken out of them from hitting curbs? Are there any deformations or bubbles? Get down on the ground and pay attention to the tread. Is there enough left? Are they wearing evenly and smoothly? Check the edges of the tread for cracking which indicates the rubber is perished and has gone hard. A great rule of thumb is to replace the tyres after around five years regardless of how much tread is remaining," says Mr Guastella.
Take warning lights seriously
"If any warning light comes on while you’re driving you should pull over, when safe to do so, and contact your mechanic or phone a roadside assistance service, such as RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance.
"Failure to do so could cause major or even irreparable damage to your vehicle. For the price of a phone call you could save yourself thousands of dollars in repair bills." Mr Nicholson remarks.
Check your brake lights and headlights
"Checking that your lights work is probably the easiest of all. All you need is a willing helper that can stand in front and behind the car while you run through all the lights with them. Many new cars will inform you on the dashboard if there is a light out too.
"Another thing to get checked is your headlight alignment, especially if you're heading to the country and driving at night where there are no regular streetlights," Mr Guastella says.
Check for any debris
"While you're under the bonnet clear out any debris such as leaves and small sticks from the plenum chamber. inspect the engine bay in cars that have been sitting for anything that may have made a home in the engine bay. A great way to prolong the life of your wiper blades and windscreen is to lift the wiper arms and clean the blades and where they rest on the windscreen. Things such as sand or grit can damage the wiper blade and scratch the screen," Mr Guastella says.
Check your spare
A spare can save you in moments that you may not have planned for. Check it visually before you set off for any damage like cracks. Also check the tread on your spare.
"If you manage to get your car to a local mechanic get them to check your spare too as it's important to have one if you're driving long distances. The last thing you want is to be worried about is breaking down – nothing can ruin a holiday quicker," says Peter Khoury, Media Manager for NRMA.
Check your brake disks
"Do they operate smoothly or do they grind and squeal? Does the pedal pulsate when slowing down? If the car has been sitting outside for a while look at the brake discs to check for surface rust. If they have a fine layer of rust on them this is usually okay but if they are rough to touch then you need to seek the assistance of a professional. I can't stress enough how important it is not to take risks with brakes. I see this everyday," Mr Guastella says.
Other things to keep are mind are to listen for any strange noises, watch how your car performs and it's always a great idea to give your vehicle a deep clean prior to departure.
What's more, as we are living through a very unsettling time it's worth keeping on top of any coronavirus travel restrictions before hitting the road.
Here is the breakdown of anything you need to know state by state:
The Queensland border is open to all Australian states and territories. You don't need a border pass to enter Queensland. You are able to enter Queensland from any Australian state or territory. Brisbane's three-day lockdown ended at 5pm on Thursday 1 April 2021.
Victoria's border is open, however, all entrants must have a valid permit under the state's Victorian Travel Permit system. Currently, the Greater Brisbane area is a red zone for travel permits – anyone who was in these areas since 12 March 2021 must isolate and get tested.
New South Wales:
There are no restrictions around travelling to NSW and the border is open. Those from the greater Brisbane area, however, must not enter the state.
All interstate arrivals into WA must complete a G2G Pass to enter the state. WA's border is open to all states except Queensland. Queenslanders wishing to enter may only do so with an exemption through the G2G Pass system. If permitted you must self-quarantine at a suitable premises for 14 days.
South Australia's border is open without restrictions to everyone except for those living or visiting the Greater Brisbane area during a specified time.
The Northern Territory currently has an open border, with some restrictions for Brisbane residents.
Australian Capital Territory:
The ACT has an open border, with some restrictions in place for arriving travellers from the greater Brisbane region.
Tasmania has an open border, with some restrictions in place for arriving travellers from the greater Brisbane region.
Wish you all a very Happy Easter from our team here at CarAdvice and stay safe on the roads this long weekend.