JOHANNESBURG - Amid all the last-minute running around at this time of year, it’s advised to slow down and give your vehicle a thorough once-over, particularly if you plan on taking an extended road trip.

At least two weeks before the time, check that everything is in working order. While most people do the basic checks, such as making sure they’re topped up with fuel, tyres are inflated, balanced and aligned, and the battery is in no danger of running flat, there are seven key components checks you should undertake:

Drive belt

A drive belt can last a long time, so we tend to neglect it. However, a worn belt could cause your car to overheat, the alternator to stop charging the battery, the air conditioner to stop working and, worse, it could mean serious damage to the engine or its system.

Steering mechanism

Without proper steering, you risk having an accident. The ability to retain control of a vehicle in dangerous situations is a lifesaver. While you might be a skilled and experienced driver, how is your steering system performing?

Steering is also affected by wheel alignment, which will cause irregular wear and tear on your tyres. Rather than having to replace them soon after the holidays, have your wheel alignment checked.

Fluid levels

Motor oil is important because it lubricates the moving parts of the engine which causes heat and friction to build. Without sufficient and clean oil, overheating can result and engine components can be severely damaged or the engine could seize.

Engine oil, brake fluid and coolant are the main fluids to check for leaks and top up if low, but also check transmission, power steering,and windshield wiper fluid.

Tail and Headlights

While all vehicle lights are critical, never underestimate the importance of the rear and headlights. More than simply lighting our way, lights are an important safety and communication tool. Tail and headlights, especially in any low-light conditions, allow a vehicle to be visible to other road users and help avoid an accident. Make sure your lights are switched on at least from sunset to sunrise, but better yet, every time you’re driving.

Foot & Hand Brakes

While brakes can consist of a disc, calliper and pad, the braking system’s pads are typically the first to wear, so if nothing else, it’s advised to check and ensure a minimum of 5mm thickness.

The handbrake can act as back-up brakes in emergency situations, so it’s worth checking. To do this, pull away while applying the brake slowly and count the clicks. There should be between five and eight clicks before it is fully engaged, and the car should come to a full stop.

Tyres

While drivers almost always check for inflation pressure and, to a degree, wheel alignment and balancing, they tend to ignore tyre-tread depth. Worn tyres have difficulty gripping the road in adverse conditions like wet surfaces. Tread depth should be at least 3mm and have even all-round wear. Check there is no cracking or other damage.

Windscreen wipers

These are one of the least-considered parts of a car when going on a road trip - until it rains. Due to harsh weather, particularly the sun, wiper blades become worn and cracked. Your engine could be purring along, but when the rain comes battering down, ineffective wipers will probably put a halt to your journey, or at the least, scratch your windscreen.

Cover all bases and start your road trip on a good footing with a vehicle maintenance checklist. You can also visit a specialist workshop such as Supa Quick. Reputable service centres will check your lights, windscreen and wipers, tyres, shocks, battery, brakes, exhaust, cooling system and safety equipment. Safe travels.

Drive360