It’s been a dreadful year for most and we are all probably heartily sick of it. Life is put on hold and holidays are cancelled, but some of us at least may be able to get away for a few days for a family break in the UK. That’s a cheering thought. Anyway, we are probably all fed up with talking about it, so let’s get down instead to the important topic of car maintenance. With all the other things going on our motors have probably taken a back seat.
Many of our family cars have been laid up for a while and are not doing high mileage. Cars work best if they are used and they need maintenance, possibly more so after the MOT extension. Most of us take car ownership for granted and there’s a danger in the belief that day in day out a car will start, run and proceed as usual. Taking a car for granted is a recipe for disaster. That’s why, before any spur-of-the-moment road trips, it pays to give the car a good once-over. If in any doubt, the nation’s car servicing garages are open for business. Here then are our suggestions for ensuring the family vehicle is up to the job.
If someone thinks that their eyes need attention, they go to the optician, yet it surprising how many people peer through smeared glass and grow to accept blurry driving vision as a matter of course. In car terms, wipers cost a negligible amount and it pays to change them regularly.
A turn of the key, a push of the button and the car starts, until the day it doesn’t. Fuel has to be delivered to the business end of the car and it comes through filters and pipes. Filters get blocked and pipes can fray or be damaged and this in turn could cause dangerous leaks. This isn’t routine but it something a professional garage will be checking at service.
The Timing Belt
When the engine is on, the timing belt is in constant, timed motion, making the connection between the crankshaft and the camshaft. Many drivers are unaware of its very existence. They are then confounded when the car comes to a grinding and sometimes lively halt when the belt breaks. Most cars will need this changed at least once in their lifetime. It’s all in the service manual and a garage must change this at a specific mileage interval. It isn’t an especially cheap job, but the cost of the consequences are far worse. It is probably fine for your road trip but for peace of mind get it checked.
Suspension and steering
This is the equipment that, along with the wheels, keeps the car off the ground and actively and safely going around corners. Worn steering can be felt by way of a certain vagueness and, if the car corners like a cross-channel ferry, it may well be the ball-joints or shock absorbers that need attention. Be aware of how car feels in use.
All internal combustion cars will seize up if the engine runs short of oil and if the brake fluid runs out or is exhausted. That’s the harsh reality. The fluids and liquids in a car are its lifeblood. Checking them is usually a simple DIY operation but if in doubt you know who to call.
We should all know the score by now. Worn or damaged tyres can be lethal and they must be changed when the tread gets too low. Obviously it is an expense and we want to get value for money, but there’s a limit and that’s 1.6 millimetres. Don’t wait that long and buy the best affordable.
Alloy wheels are lighter than the steel versions of old and that makes for better economy. They look good too, so it pays to keep them looking their best. While cleaning, check them over for damage. Any damage at all weakens structure which may prove costly down the road. They also need to run true so any kerb strikes may knock them out of kilter. Your local garage can check alignment.
See and be seen; that’s the motto for safer motoring. Dusk can be a difficult time, especially on unfamiliar road trip travels. Make sure all side, head and main beam lights are functioning as they should and that includes the brake and indicator lights too. It doesn’t take a minute to check.
A Clean Car
All this work on maintenance is always going to be worth it, but why stop there? A clean car looks better and is a pleasure to drive. A road trip in this country could possibly present glaring sun, pouring rain, snow and wind, sometimes on the same day. Headlights especially get dirty and thus distance vision could be impaired, certainly at night.
So there you have it: A pretty exhaustive list of what to do before a road trip. Much of it is just automotive common sense but the underside of the car has mechanicals that we don’t see and tend to take for granted. Your local car servicing garage is there to help.