Everyone wants to enjoy the summer, so the one thing you don’t want is a vehicle that breaks down, or worse still, suffers a mechanical failure that might put you, your passengers or even other road users at risk.
While modern cars are usually exceptionally reliable, they won’t stay that way on their own. As with any piece of equipment or machinery, maintain and care for your vehicle and it will generally return the favour. And, like any mechanical device, it’s most likely to fail when it’s highly stressed. The Motor Trade Association (MTA) says there are lots of things owners can do to reduce the chances of being let down by your car this summer.
Vehicle failure or problems often come when a vehicle is under stress. In summer that usually revolves around heat – either as a result of high ambient temperatures, a heavily loaded vehicle or stop-start driving when stuck in a queue. Not surprisingly, summer often sees some motorists caught up in all three at the same time.
If there is a minor problem with your vehicle, there’s a much higher probability that it will develop into something more major when the temperature rises.
A car engine usually operates at around 95°C, depending on the make and model of course. When that same vehicle is loaded with people and camping gear, is caught in a long line of stop-start traffic, and is crawling its way up a steep hill in 30°C plus heat – if problems are going to occur, it will often be at a time like this.
So, when you head out for your few days away this summer, make sure that your vehicle is fully prepared for those warmer temperatures. Some simple steps can help save you time, money and headaches during your trip:
- Consider a pre-trip inspection by an MTA technician; repairs can be more costly on the road. Ask them to check things like the air conditioning, cooling system, drive belts, hoses and clamps, brakes, along with the fundamentals like fluids, oil and water.
- High temperatures can be hard on your battery – get it checked to ensure it will last the distance.
- Check the condition and air pressure in all tyres, including the spare, to make sure they are roadworthy. Remember, heat is a tyre’s biggest enemy.
- Replace ragged wiper blades, and make sure the wash reservoir tank is full and you’ve added proper cleaning agents – not dishwashing liquid.
- Check all your lights are working. In the summer you may not use your lights very much, so that blown bulb can go unnoticed – until you need it.
- Make sure your sun visors are doing the job; glare from the sun, either directly or from other vehicles, can blind you temporarily.
- Be aware that you might need access to your spare at the most inconvenient time – so if you need to get to it, plan the stowage of luggage and gear to minimise any problems – and remember, it might not always be dry when you are trying to change your tyre.
- If you are towing, ensure your towbar and braking capability is up to the load you are hauling. Because of the strain towing can place on your car, it’s vital your cooling and lubrication systems are in top condition.
It’s also a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car, just in case you need it. It should include:
- jumper cables
- a jack and wheel-brace
- water for both the radiator and yourself (around two litres)
- blanket and towel
- emergency reflectors.
Summer is often the time people choose to try roads that are off the beaten track. By all means, enjoy the journey and take time to appreciate New Zealand’s scenery. Keep in mind though, that if you are trying to avoid those queues of fellow holidaymakers, the scenic route may not be the quickest, and if you do strike a problem, there may not be too many passers-by and your cell phone may not work – so plan your trip accordingly.
Heat and long days can lead to some drivers being on the road for longer than they should. Here are some tips to help avoid becoming drowsy while driving.
- Take breaks every two hours and if you feel tired, have difficulty focusing or just want to stretch your legs – pull over and have a walk around.
- If you can, share the driving with someone. Passengers can help look out for early warning signs of fatigue.
- Take a 15-to-20-minute nap. More than this can make you groggy for at least five minutes after awakening.
- Consume the equivalent of two cups of coffee (e.g. soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea) but caffeine takes about 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream and will not greatly affect those who regularly consume it. And remember, stimulants are just that, they are not a substitute for proper rest.
- Don’t drive if you’re sleep deprived. Less than six hours sleep can triple your risk of driver fatigue.
- Don’t drive when you would normally be asleep – avoid driving through the night.
During the summer break, everyone wants to take advantage of the great weather. This means the roads are busier than ever so drivers need to be even more aware of the risks. By driving to the conditions, planning your journey and having patience with other road users, everyone can stay safe on the roads this summer.