How to Make Sure Your Car is Ready for the Festive Season

Fri, Nov 03,2017

The festive season is around the corner, which means millions of South African motorists will take to the highways to get to their favourite holiday destinations.

With so many people on the roads it is important to stay safe when driving: obey the rules, get enough rest before you set off, stretch your legs every 200km, avoid distractions, and don’t rush. However, before you set off anywhere, you need to prepare your vehicle.

Qualified Ford Technician Liz Kruger, who has worked on cars for many years, advises that anybody who wants peace of mind before they travel this holiday should have their vehicle undergo a thorough safety inspection.

“Whether their car is old or new, it is important to make sure all critical components have been inspected and fixed before setting out on your holiday,” says Kruger.

What exactly do you need to check before you set off? Kruger highlights the following safety checks that form part of Ford’s own complimentary Pre-Holiday Inspection, which is currently being offered at Ford Dealers around the country:

  1. Fluids (Oil & Coolant)
  2. An under-the-bonnet check is first on the list. Kruger explains that Ford starts with the fluid levels, as it is one of the main concerns motorists need to be aware of, and don’t check often enough. If your coolant and oil levels are low, you might have a leak somewhere.

    Ford also checks the brake fluid, which is the hydraulic fluid that the system uses to apply pressure to your brakes. If this level is too low, your car is not safe to drive.

  3. Lights
  4. If your holiday involves driving at night or in wet and misty conditions, you want to be sure that all of your car’s lights are working correctly – especially if you are in an unfamiliar region of the country. This is a simple but important test.

    “We get a lot of clients that need new brake lights,” says Kruger. “Older brake light globes blow regularly because this is a globe that you are using constantly as it switches on and off under braking.”

    Ford’s complimentary Pre-Holiday Inspection checks that all the lights on the vehicle are working correctly. This includes the headlights, brights, daytime-running lights where applicable, brake lights, reverse lights, and all indicators.

  5. Wipers
  6. Summer is the rainy season in many parts of South Africa. If you are driving on holiday, you want to make sure that your wipers are in perfect condition.

    The test is simple – are the wipers clearing the water from the windscreen, or are they leaving lines of water that impair your vision. Before setting out, use the windscreen washers to spray you windscreen and then check if the wipers are doing their job.

  7. Wheels & Tyres
  8. Tyres are perhaps the most important part of your vehicle. They are what connects your car to the road, and if you are driving for hours at a time, they need to be in good condition.

    “Firstly, we will look at the tread depth,” says Kruger. “Most tyres have a tread depth indicator, and once the tyre is worn to that point, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible.”

    “Check the surface of the tyre for any notable damage, inflections, and look for bubbles,” she adds. “This is a very big safety concern. Bubbles on a tyre could lead to the tyre bursting and the driver losing control.”

    Kruger notes that while every inspection includes checking the inflation of each tyre, it is important for motorists to check their tyre pressure regularly, even if they are not on a road trip. If a tyre is over inflated, it will wear in the middle of the tyre, and if it is underinflated, it will wear on the sides and edges. Both kinds of wear can cause braking, noise, vibration, and wheel alignment concerns.

    Part of Ford’s complimentary Pre-Holiday Inspection also includes checking the wheel bearings. Worn wheel bearings can cause vibration in the wheels and cause wheel alignment issues – not something you want when traveling long distances.

    While checking underneath your vehicle, Kruger also examines the drive belt for any cracks. If your drive belt is damaged, worn, or breaks, you may have total engine shutdown and damage.

  9. Brake Pads
  10. Another critical component to consider is brake pad wear.

    “The brake pads are made up of a metal outer part and composite inner part,” explains Kruger. “The composite inner part needs to be above 5mm thick. Once the pad wears down below this, we will advise that the pad needs to be replaced. If it wears down to 1mm or 2mm, it becomes a safety critical concern and your braking ability will be impaired.

    The handbrake should also be check to see if it is working correctly. Kruger advises your handbrake should not click more than four times before it holds the car in place. Anything more than four clicks would not pass a roadworthy test.

  11. Leaks
  12. Following the under-the-hood checks of the fluid levels, it is a good idea to check for any leaks from various components and hoses underneath the vehicle. If you see oil spots or coolant, which has a shiny texture and looks similar to oil, on the floor of your garage, have your vehicle checked by a technician.

    “We check all of the coolant hoses for leaks, as well as the radiator and oil cooler,” says Kruger. “We also check the exhaust system, especially where all the joints are, for any signs of black marks or holes.”

  13. Drive Belts
  14. While checking underneath your vehicle, Kruger also examines the drive belt for any cracks. If your drive belt is damaged, worn, or breaks, you may have total engine shutdown and damage.

    “You will not be able to charge the battery, and your vehicle will start overheating because the water pump is run by the belt. This is very important – if anything happens to this belt, you will be stuck within a few kilometres,” says Kruger.

    Drive belts are usually resilient and can last over 100,000kms. However, Kruger notes that something can shoot up from the road surface and damage the belt. If you are planning to be on the road for a long time, and if you have covered many kilometres since your last service, now is a good time to check.

  15. Spare Wheel
  16. A simple yet essential check that you can do yourself before tackling any long journey is checking to see if your spare tyre, the jack, and spanner, are all present in your vehicle and if they are in working order.

    You also want to make sure that your spare wheel has a properly inflated tyre on it. Chances are you have not had to use it in a while, so check the pressure before setting off – you don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the Karoo with a flat spare wheel.

  17. Steering
  18. Some tests can only be done under driving conditions. Qualified technicians can pick up certain concerns that the everyday driver may miss. Things such as engine sounds, vibrations, and suspension.

    “For the steering check we will take the vehicle on the road and see whether the steering pulls in a certain direction – if the vehicle veers to the left or the right,” says Kruger. “This could indicate a wheel alignment problem. If this is present, we will raise the vehicle and check the wheels again or other components, such as the steering rack.”

  19. Brakes & Clutch
  20. While the brake pads are checked when the car is stationary, it is important to evaluate how the vehicle reacts to braking when driving – whether it pulls to either side under braking. It is unsafe to drive a vehicle that cannot be controlled under braking.

    Finally, Kruger will check to see whether the clutch is slipping or whether it is taking too high or too low and advise accordingly.

    Ask the Professional

    If you are ever in doubt, the best thing to do is have a qualified technician like Kruger do the check for you.

    Ford customers are encouraged to take their cars to any Ford dealer for a complimentary Pre-Holiday Inspection, which is available at Ford dealers around the country. Inspections like this are usually quick and easy – Ford will take about 90 minutes to check your vehicle, and you do not even need to make an appointment. To find you’re your nearest dealer visit

    “There is nothing better than a road trip with your family”, concludes Kruger. “We encourage everyone to set out on their holiday in the knowledge that they are safe and secure in their car.”

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