How to get your car ready for the December road trip

Published Dec 14, 2022


Johannesburg – It’s that time of year again and many South Africans will be hitting the roads this festive season to see loved ones or simply to enjoy some much deserved relaxation.

But before you embark on that journey, it’s vital that you make sure your car is up to the job.

Long-distance journeys can place a great deal of strain on certain engine, cooling, braking and suspension components and it’s important to ensure that all of the safety-critical items are in good working order.

It’s always a good idea to have a professional inspection done. This summer, Best Drive branches are offering comprehensive safety checks that cover tyres, shocks, brakes, battery, exhaust and wiper blades.

While a professional inspection is always first prize, there are certain checks that you can perform yourself.



Tread and condition: Although the legal limit is 1mm, make sure that your tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm as anything below that leaves you particularly vulnerable to aquaplaning. Tyres should also be regularly checked for other signs of damage like bubbles or surface cuts. Driving with a bubble significantly increases your risk of a blowout, which could prove deadly.

Pressure: Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated and monitor the pressure as you go along as low pressure due to a slow puncture could cause a blowout.

Wear: Also make sure that the wear on your tyres in not uneven as that could point to worn suspension or steering components or faulty wheel alignment.

Spare: Your spare wheel should be in tip-top condition and correctly inflated. Also double check that your jack and wheel spanners are present and in working order, as well as any unique sockets you might need for theft-preventing wheel nuts (if you have them installed).


Essential kit: While doing that, check that your warning triangle is in place and that you have a torch and a basic medical kit. A basic toolkit could also prove invaluable for performing emergency car repairs. Also have the 112 emergency number saved on your phone.


The basics: Get someone to help you check that the headlights as well as the tail lights, brake lights, indicators and hazard lights are all working. If you're on your own, a light-coloured wall in a dark spot at night will allow you to do your own tests. It is always best to do long-distance trips during the day, however, as night driving is significantly riskier.


Wipers: Ensure that your wipers are in good working order and that the wiper blades themselves are in decent condition and not cracking. Before setting out, use the windscreen washers to spray the windscreen and then check if the wipers are doing their job by clearing the water from the windscreen or if they are leaving lines of water that impair your vision.

Demisting: Make sure your demisting system is still working correctly as a sudden mist-up while driving can be dangerous.

Damage: Check for chips and cracks in your windscreen and get these repaired as a damaged windscreen won't protect you properly in an accident.


Inspection: Give your brake discs, drums and pads a thorough inspection, looking out for any uneven wear. That, along with any strange noises or vibrations, warrants a visit to a brake specialist.

Fluids: Make sure your brake fluid is topped up to the correct level.


Go to the pros: Given how your shock absorbers can affect the way your car handles emergency manoeuvres, it's always a good idea to have them checked by professionals.

Basic observations: There are some observations you can make on your own. If your car leans abnormally when cornering, rides harder than usual or is taking a longer distance to stop, you may need to replace the shock absorbers.


Coolant: While the engine is cold, check that your coolant level is at least close to the maximum mark and that the fluid is clean. If not, fill it with a 50:50 mix of coolant and water. Don't use only water, as it doesn't have the anti-freeze and corrosion inhibiting properties of coolant.

Oil: Use the dipstick to check that your oil level is within the two markings, but as close to the top marking as possible without overfilling. Check the oil again five days later and if you see a difference then consult a mechanic.

Cam: Make sure that all belts and chains connected to the cam, alternator and fan are in good shape.

Washer: Check that the windscreen washer bottle is full. Trust us on this one.

Filters: Ensure that your air, fuel and oil filters are clean and if you change the latter, be sure to drain all the old oil from your engine and replace it with new oil of the correct grade.

Plumbing: Inspect the oil, air and fuel systems, including hoses and pipes, for leaks.

Caps: Make sure that your oil and fuel caps are securely fastened.

Information sources: Ford SA, Continental, Dial Direct, Virseker Insurance, Automobile Association & Battery Centre