Road trip safety

Road Trip Vehicle Check

You have your itinerary and route planned, figured out how to entertain the kids along the way, the only real task now is fitting everything in the car!

Talking of ‘the car’ … Have you done your Road Trip Vehicle Check?

By vehicle check we mean ensuring your vehicle is safe for the trip you plan to undertake, and you have the required equipment to stay safe on the road.

Do you know what to check and why you are checking this?

Do you understand the importance of getting a mechanic to conduct a ‘Road Trip Vehicle Check’?

We are very passionate about supporting the safety of our family travellers, so with the help of our expert partnered mechanics – Top Notch Automotive, we have put together the below information to help keep you safe on the roads.

When to conduct this Road Trip Vehicle Check:

Conduct a check around 3 weeks prior to departure so any issues can be resolved in good time.

The Checklist

1. When was your last service?

Why?

Servicing guidelines are there to ensure your vehicle has regular checks for safety and defects, and to ensure the engine is sufficiently lubricated.

Before you embark on your road trip, check to see when your next service is due. If you are due for a service then great – all of the below standard checks will be conducted.

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2. Tyres

What are you checking?

Tread depth, condition and pressure. This includes the spare tyre.

Why are you checking this?

Tread depth is required for adequate grip on the road.

The correct pressure in the tyre is required to prevent blowouts and also avoids the tyre over-heating.

Premature wear is also a characteristic when driving with incorrect pressure.

The minimum legal tread depth you need is 1.5mm in Australia. When the tread gets to 3mm it’s highly recommended you change your tyres.

The correct pressure for your tyre will be marked on it. It may also be found in the vehicle manual or on the tyre placard which is located either on your door pillar, inside the fuel cap, or in the boot.

What do you use to check?

Depth gauge and tyre / pressure gauge.

What are the warning signs?

Visual warning signs include a flat tyre. With a really flat tyre, the steering will pull towards a particular side.

Also look out for cracks and bulges in the side wall of the tyre.

What if you don’t check?

You are at risk of blowouts and / or premature tyre wear.

Your vehicle will be less economical to run and you will use more fuel per KM.

You may find it harder to brake.

FACT:

Dangerously bald tyres are one of the most common problems seen in the workshop, according to 80% of RAC Auto-services technicians.

It is the grip which allows you to accelerate, steer and brake safely.

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3. Car jack and appropriate tools

Why?

To safely and effectively change a tyre.

Where are the jack and tools located?

Typically, they are located close to the spare tyre. Your car owner’s manual should have details of where the tyre change equipment is located and the correct procedure.

What if you don’t have the tools?

Getting stuck in a remote area with no ability to change a flat tyre is not something you want to add to your collection of memories! Add on the risk of being in an area with limited or no mobile phone coverage.

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4. Check oil level

Why?

To prevent engine failure

How?

Ensure the engine is turned off, let the engine sit for couple of minutes, pop the bonnet of your vehicle and remove the dipstick.

Wipe the end of the dipstick, re-dip and check the oil level. The level needs to be within the min / max line.

If the oil requires topping up, ensure it is topped up with the correct oil as per the owner’s manual.

Where?

It is located within the engine bay and more than often has a yellow coloured handle.

What are the warning signs?

An illuminated light on the dashboard.

Be mindful that this illuminated warning light could indicate it is too late and damage may have been caused.

What happens if you run dry?

Engine damage or failure.

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5. Coolant level

Why?

To prevent engine overheating

How to check?

Conduct this check when the engine is cold.

Coolant level should be within the min / max line.

Avoid checking at the radiator cap itself, as it may be too warm and may spit out water.

What to fill with?

It is safe to fill with distilled water.

Filling up with the wrong coolant can cause more damage to the system.

Mixing different coolants together can cause a reaction and increase the risk of corrosion.

Where?
It is usually a clear plastic bottle located close to the radiator.

Always refer to the owners’ manual for correct identification and location if you are unsure.

What are the warning signs?
The temperature gauge on the dashboard indicates hotter than usual.

There is a leakage which may indicate coolant loss.

What if you run dry?

Engine can overheat if the coolant level is too low.

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6. Check all lights, wipers, washers & horn are operational. (This includes a trailer)

Why?

For visibility on roads during low light / night time driving / adverse weather conditions

To remove build-up of dirt from the windscreen

To effectively alert other drivers to your intended course of action.

How?

Checking the lights requires two persons.

First person to sit in the driver’s seat and operate the lights (side lights, headlights, main beam, hazard lights, brake lights, fog lights, indicators).

Second person to ensure all lights are operational – driver side / passenger side, front and rear.

The wipers, washers and horn can easily be checked with one person.

Ensure washer fluid is topped up.

Remember, car horn etiquette does not include hitting it in frustration at other people’s driving methods – although we have all been there! It is to warn others of your approach or presence, or to call attention to a hazard.

What if they don’t work?

High risk of causing an accident!

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7. Wash vehicle (Inside and out)

Why?

Having a clean vehicle before you embark on a road trip should not be considered a ‘nice to have’. This is an essential safety aspect for the following reasons:

Maintain clear visibility out of all of the windows.

Ensuring all lights are free of debris and clearly visible to other road users.

Ensuring all wheels and  tyres are clear of debris.

Ensuring no debris inside your vehicle rolls into the driver footwell.

What if you don’t wash your car?

An obstructed view of the road due to dirty windows and / or debris stuck in the wheels / tyres, will raise your risk of being involved in an accident.

If loose debris rolls into the driver footwell, this can cause an obstruction underneath the pedals and increase the risk of an accident.

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8. First aid kit

Although this is not part of the vehicle itself, a First Aid Kit is an essential piece of equipment for a road trip, which should be kept inside the vehicle and appropriately stocked.

Why?
When on a road trip, having a well-stocked first aid kit could be a lifesaver. Especially if you are planning on going off-road and / or you are a reasonable distance to professional medical assistance.

Remember, always replace items you have used and check the best before date.

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What if you are not confident enough to conduct these standard checks?

Not a problem. A mechanic will be happy to conduct these checks for you.

In fact, we encourage you to take your car to a mechanic for a professional ‘Road Trip Vehicle Health Check’, especially if you are taking your own car on a lengthy adventurous tour of WA.

Why?

Even though it is great (and very sensible), to be familiar with the standard safety checks for your vehicle, there are some additional checks a mechanic carries out which require training and expertise.

What additional checks?

  • An underbonnet check will include checking the fanbelts.
  • An underside check will include checking the brakes and suspension.
  • A test drive will be undertaken to rule out any issues which are not evident to the untrained ears and / or eyes.

Are your 100% confident your vehicle is safe enough for a road trip?

If the answer is yes, what are you waiting for; go and make some amazing memories! If the answer is no and you still have some questions, please reach out to us.

This information has been completed with the professional support and expertise of Top Notch Automotive, O’Connor, Western Australia.

As an official Travel Partner of The Family Travel Company, together we are dedicated to your safety on WA roads.

Road trip vehicle checklist

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