Most of us wash our cars before we head off on our annual holiday. For some people, that is the only time they clean it. We hope that our faithful friend will look after us and serve us well during the trip and that no mishap will befall us.
If you intend to go on a touring holiday this year, it is essential that you perform extra maintenance so that your car can cope with the journey.
There is more to the subject than you imagine, and it is a vital one to research. Luckily, a lot of the information you need is here. You will learn to perform basic maintenance, and take some common sense precautions to make your journey safe.
If you are traveling as a family, there will probably be lots of luggage to take along with you. Even if you have a large vehicle, it is difficult to fit everything you need in the boot unless you are an expert in packing. There are two choices; tow a small trailer, or fit a roof box. I am a fan of the latter. They come in many sizes, so there is something to suit every vehicle. When you buy one, it will not come with roof bars. You must purchase a suitable set for your car. Many vehicles have roof rails that the bars clamp on to. If yours doesn’t, you will probably have to get a set from your local dealership. They do not come as standard on all motors. They are usually extremely easy to install, and they make the car look good too. The bars clamp onto the rails and then the roof box clamps onto the bars. When you come to remove it, leave bars attached to the box and detach it from the rails. It only takes a minute or two to mount when you have experience.
The more time you spend on the road, the more likely you are to have an accident. You must reduce the chance of injury by making sure that the seat-belts are in top condition and installing the correct baby seat for the youngest member of the family. There are many on the market, and you must find the best one. Look for the safety ratings on the products to see if they meet and even exceed the minimum requirements. You will often find reviews of safety equipment on car news sites and in magazines. Research the subject well.
You are about to put your pride and joy through its paces, so prepare it well. Here’s some simple maintenance you should carry out to the engine.
- Water hoses: Inspect the water hoses for cracks or splits. If you spot a problem, there is no option, but to replace them. Luckily, the replacement parts are cheap to buy. Here is how to do it.
* Remove The filler cap from the radiator or top-up reservoir.
* Unscrew the drain plug at the bottom of the radiator and catch the water that comes out in a suitable receptacle.
* Unscrew the clips that fasten the hose to the engine and disconnect it.
* Fit the new hose and tighten the clips.
* Fill the engine back up with the correct mix of water and antifreeze.
* Run the engine and top up the reservoir one more. Sometimes it might develop an air lock. There is often a bleed screw on the top on the engine that you must unscrew to let the air out. When water starts to bubble out of it, tighten it once more.
- Spark Plugs: You should fit new spark plugs in a petrol engine. It is an easy job that anybody can do.
* Turn off the engine and locate the spark plugs. They are on the end of the thick wires (high-tension leads) that go to the top of it. Pull the lead off the first spark plug and use an appropriate spanner to remove it in an anti-clockwise direction.
* Take the new spark plug out of the box and set the gap on it to the correct specifications. You can find them in the owner’s or workshop manual. Us feeler gauges and tap the end of the plug to close the gap, or use a screwdriver to lever it open.
* When the gap is correct, screw the new plug into the engine and tighten it with a spanner. Push the high-tension lead back onto the end of it.
* Move on to the next plug and repeat the process.
- Engine Oil: An engine needs top quality oil to prevent wear and function well. You must change the oil and filter every twelve months and just before your holiday is the ideal time. The process is straightforward and if the engine runs well it could even reduce the fuel consumption.
* Lift the bonnet of your car and run the engine for a few minutes to warm the oil.
* Remove the filler cap from the top of the engine.
* Locate the drain plug on the sump at the bottom of the motor. You have to crawl under the car to find it.
* Undo the drain plug with a spanner and let the old oil flow out into a suitable container.
* When the engine is empty, replace the drain plug and tighten it.
* Remove the oil filter from the side of the engine. Use a cheap tool to loosen it and unscrew it in an anti-clockwise direction.
* Screw the new filter in place and tighten it with the tool.
* Fill the engine with the recommended volume and grade of oil. You will find the information in the vehicle handbook.
* Replace the filler cap and run the engine for a couple of minutes.
* Let the oil settle for ten minutes and check the level with the dipstick.
- Tyre Pressures: You can check the tyre pressures at home, but I find it easy to take the car to a garage and use their compressor. Look for the correct pressures in the owner’s manual and inflate them accordingly.
* Remove the dust cap from the tyre valve.
* Push the air nozzle onto the valve and pull the trigger until the gauge shows the correct reading.
* Remove the nozzle and refit the valve cover.You must also check the condition of the tyres and replace them if you spot any damage or if the tread is on the legal limit.
If you follow my advice, your trip should go without a hitch. Of course, there are always unforeseen breakdowns that you cannot prevent, but your sensible precautions should help. Bon voyage my friends; have a fantastic time.
* Photo by Craig Murphy.