With the December holidays already a memory for some Raymond Abraham, Shell South Africa’s Commercial Technical Manager, shares some important tips to help you prepare your vehicle for your trip home:
Because your family’s safety is your number one priority when driving home after the holidays, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle is in the best possible condition before you leave. “I strongly recommend checking all engine fluids including transmission and windscreen fluid, anti-freeze or coolant and your brake fluid. If you haven’t had an oil change in a while, this would also be a good time to have your nearest service station check your oil for you too,” says Abraham.
He adds that when checking or topping up your oil, it’s important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations: “Most of the new vehicles on the road are making use of the latest generation synthetic oils. These offer extended oil change intervals and incorporate the latest lubricant technology. In the case of Shell Helix Ultra for example, its Active Cleansing Technology means that it removes up to five times more dirt and sludge than many mineral oils, and reduces twice as much engine wear. As such, it cleans your engine, minimises friction and combats wear as you drive – helping you to get the best out of your vehicle on every journey.”
Abraham notes that changing your oil filter is as important as changing the oil, as this collects particles from the road or formed in the oil, preventing them from reaching the engine. “Without the oil filter, dirty oil would run through your engine like liquid sandpaper, increasing engine wear.”
As the roads will be busy and on-road callouts expensive, Abraham recommends also checking the following:
Tyres: check your tyre pressure, as well as the depth of tread and general tyre condition. Because your tyres will behave differently depending on the weather, road surface and speed you’re travelling at, make sure yours are in good condition. Don’t forget to check your spare tyre as well.
Brake fluid: make sure that this is at the right level.
Wiper blades: ensure your wiper blades are correctly fitted and work properly. This is especially important in driving rain. If there are patches of the windscreen they don’t clean, rather replace them before you leave.  
Lights and indicators: double-check these are all working properly and make sure you have spare bulbs and/or fuses just in case – especially if you are driving through  rural areas where you may not be able to replace them easily.
Abraham also suggests putting together a general checklist so that you remember everything you might need in the event of a roadside emergency. “Make a note of things you’re likely to forget in the excitement of packing for the trip. This should include a clean cloth for inside your vehicle to wipe the windscreen if necessary; a big bottle of fresh water; a high-visibility jacket; a torch and a basic first aid kit. Ensure that you have a good map (print version or GPS), relevant emergency numbers and that your phone is charged in case you need to call for assistance.”
Drivers are also advised not only to take “pit stops” every two hours, but to take action immediately if you feel your vehicle is behaving strangely or making unusual sounds. “A noise could be anything from debris under the vehicle to a more serious problem in the engine. Always err on the side of caution and rather stop when it’s safe to do so than try to push on if your vehicle is behaving unusually,” says Abraham. “This will ensure that you arrive home safely.”
This article was sponsored by Shell