If you are planning an extended road trip and would like to make sure that unforeseen mechanical issues do not ruin your holiday, it is a good idea to perform some basic checks and maintenance work on your vehicle before you depart. Below are what I consider to be 5 of the most essential tasks you should perform, based on my experiences, both good and bad, over the years. There may be many others that you can think of but if you start with these then you should at least be able to avoid any really major hassles whilst you are away.
1. Check your tyres – in my opinion, and many other peoples as well, tyres are one of the most important parts of your vehicles as far as safety is concerned. Worn rubber provides little grip, especially in wet or icy conditions, and tears or bulges in the surface can be a precursor to a catastrophic failure such as a high speed blowout. For these reasons, it really is essential inspect your tyres before a long trip and to replace them if they are found to be defective. Try to avoid buying second hand rubber unless absolutely necessary as you can never be sure how old it is.
2. Check the condition of your battery – you can either use a load tester or a multimeter to check that your battery is holding a charge. In either case, you connect the positive and negative probes / terminals to the corresponding terminals on the car battery and then take a reading. In the case of a load tester, it will have a self-explanatory gauge with coloured sections labelled ‘weak’ and ‘good’ for 12 volt batteries. Just make sure the needle is in the right area and you are good. If you use a multimeter, you are looking for a voltage reading that is close or equal to 12.6V.
3. Inspect the cooling system – it does not matter whether you do this yourself, assuming that you know how to, or take your vehicle to a local service centre to have it checked by a professional mechanic. What is important is that you make sure there are no leaks in your system and that the coolant is clean and in good condition. Cooling systems are the second most common reason for vehicle breakdowns, after tyres, so you can see why it is vital to check yours before setting off on your holiday. If you are planning to take advantage of one of inexpensive wohnwagen mieten deals that German motorists and those from other countries may find advertised locally, it is even more important to check the coolant, to ensure that your car will not overheat under the extra load.
4. Check the transmission fluid level if you have an automatic gearbox – transmission problems may not be as common as tyre and coolant issues but when they do occur they are almost always difficult, time-consuming and very expensive to fix. For this reason, it is important to make sure that your gearbox has sufficient transmission fluid and that it is not discoloured, bubbly, or giving off a strange odour. Any of these symptoms are not a good sign and if discovered, the fluid should be replaced at the earliest possible opportunity. In the event that the fluid is a milky brown colour or contains bubbles, the whole engine should be checked by an expert.
5. Inspect your exhaust system – a visual inspection of the whole system, to confirm that there are no unwanted cracks or holes through which exhaust gases are escaping, is an excellent idea if you are planning a long trip. Exhaust fumes contain the toxic gas carbon monoxide, which could lead to serious illness and even death if you or your passengers are exposed to sufficient quantities of it over a period of time.
If you decide to hire a car rather than drive your own, the company from which you hire it should ensure that it is properly serviced before giving you the keys. However, it may still be worth performing the above checks before you set off on your journey, just to be on the safe side.