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The essential pre-holiday car checklist

Special Features

For many South African drivers the summer holidays can involve the longest journeys of the year, and Afrikaans insurance brand Virseker is offering some helpful tips to ensure safe travels for December road trippers.

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Picture: Supplied

“Roads during the holidays are notoriously dangerous and extra precautions need to be taken," says Virseker's Elmarie Twilley. "It’s therefore essential to have a multi-check on your vehicle to identify potential hazards, and prevent additional damage before it happens, at least two weeks before you leave to go on holiday”.

Should you hear or feel any suspicious noises or vibrations coming from your engine, steering, transmission, wheels, brakes or any other system, it’s essential to have it evaluated by a qualified, reputable professional. It's also wise to do some essential vehicle checks yourself ahead of any trips.

Here are some of the vital checks:

Lights and electrical system

* Ensure that all bulbs on your vehicle are in working order to ensure that you can see and be seen.

* Make sure that headlamps are adjusted correctly – ensuring that light beams offer adequate viewing distance, but without being adjusted too far upwards, causing visibility problems for oncoming motorists.

* Check instruments to make sure that they give correct readings of speed, and fluid level warnings.

* Check controls and switches for lights, wipers, mirrors and demisters.

Windows and wipers

* Check to make sure that all windows are in a good condition and that any cracks or chips are repaired.

* A damaged windscreen not only reduces visibility, but also limits the windscreen’s ability to protect you in an accident.

* Make sure that wiper blades are performing well and making a clean sweep every time.

Wheels and tyres

* Ensure that all the wheels are securely tightened with all wheel nuts or bolts.

* Ensure that each tyre has adequate tread. The South African legal limit is 1mm, but anything below 3mm limits the tyre’s ability to function effectively.

* Check to see if your vehicle’s tyres are wearing evenly. Uneven wear may indicate a worn steering or suspension component, an over or under inflated tyre, or bad wheel alignment.

* Make sure that your vehicle is equipped with a spare wheel in good condition, and that you have the correct jack and other tools to remove a damaged wheel and tyre.

Brakes

* Check your vehicle’s brake fluid level and top it up if necessary.

* Check that the handbrake is working ocorrectly.

* Ensure that all brake discs, drums and pads are in good condition; performing well and wearing evenly. Perform an emergency stop test in a safe place to make double sure.

* Any uneven wear, strange noises or vibrations from the braking system should be investigated and fixed.

Suspension

* Make sure that your vehicle’s shock absorbers and other suspension systems are keeping the tyres firmly on the ground.

Battery

* Test your vehicle’s battery to make sure it’s delivering the correct output and if necessary, the battery water is topped up.

* Have the alternator checked to make sure it's charging the battery correctly.

Belts and chains

* Check to make sure that all belts and chains connected to the cam, alternator, fan and other components are in a good condition. Broken belts and chains can cause major engine damage.

Cooling system

* Make sure that your vehicle’s cooling system – especially the radiator and water pump – is functioning correctly.

* Also ensure that the radiator cap seals properly and that the coolant fluid is clean and topped up to the correct level.

Filters and fluids

* Make sure that all major filters – oil, air and fuel filters – are clean and functioning well.

* When you change the oil filter, be sure to drain all old oil from your vehicle and replace it with new oil that matches manufacturer specifications.

* Make sure that all fluids are at their recommended levels.

* Inspect all oil, air and fuel systems (including hoses and pipes) for leaks and fix them before leaving on your journey.

* Make sure that all fuel and oil caps are securely fastened.

Exhaust system

* Give the exhaust system a good once over to check for any leaks. A damaged exhaust system won’t only affect vehicle performance and fuel consumption issues, but also poses a serious health risk.

Body panels, mountings and accessories

* Make sure that all body panels, mountings and accessories – including tow bars and the trailers attached to them, are properly fastened and secured. The same applies to any load your vehicle may be carrying.

* Check all catches, latches and hinges to make sure that they are secure and functioning correctly.

* Check for damage or rust that could compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity.

* Make sure that your vehicle isn’t overloaded.

Safety equipment

* Check all seatbelts, as well as airbag settings (in some vehicles certain airbags can be disabled).

* Be sure to have a reflective triangle or flashlight handy to warn other motorists if your car has broken down.

Insurance

* Ensure that you have adequate car insurance in place, and all support and emergency numbers at hand.

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