Is your car ready for an Easter road trip?

The holiday period between Easter and ANZAC Day marks the first opportunity for many families to come up for air, after pedalling furiously for the first three months of the year. There’s a break in the school term, while mum and dad can string together a decent-sized sabbatical from the office, judiciously using annual leave days strung in between public holidays for a welcome change of pace.

And while international borders and travel restrictions continue to ease, it would appear travel during the upcoming Easter break will be focussed domestically, with Aussie families preferring a stay-cation over a quick jaunt overseas.

With that in mind, there’s a short list of things you’ll need to take into consideration if you’re planning on travelling throughout the Easter holiday period.

Obviously, you’ll need to budget extra travel time due to increased traffic on the roads, while some states will introduce harsher penalties for traffic infringements throughout the holiday period (NSW drivers can expect ‘Double Demerits’ from 14 to 18 April, 2022 and again from 22 to 25 April, 2022).

More practically, though, we’ve created a quick vehicle checklist to ensure road trip success and hassle-free motoring this Easter.

Whether it’s been belted by the wild weather lashing the eastern seaboard recently or the interior is piling up with coffee cups from the daily commute, the start of the year may have taken its toll on your vehicle. But, there are few things more cathartic or rewarding than dedicating some time to thoroughly cleaning your car – plus, everyone knows clean cars are nicer to drive!

A thorough interior clean won’t just make your car nicer to sit in as you soak up hours of highway miles, there’s some method to the madness too.

As well as clearing the car of dust build-up and allergens for your passengers, spend some time cleaning all the windows with a quality glass cleaner – clean glass is nicer to look out of when the weather is fine; however, it also dehumidifies quicker in the cold and is less likely to fog up if the weather turns inclement.

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Cleaning the exterior of your vehicle is just as important. While there are no prizes awarded for the shiniest car in the holiday traffic queues, washing the exterior is a great opportunity to clean the outside of your windows and inspect your windscreen for damage, thoroughly clean your lights, and the perfect time to perform a quick Tyre Health Check.

It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is new and serviced by your manufacturer, or a few years older and you maintain a disciplined maintenance schedule, it always pays to check your vehicle’s fluids before you hit the road and leave the daily commute behind.

Under the bonnet of your car, you’ll want to be checking your car’s vital fluids – engine oil and radiator coolant are the most important, followed closely by the reservoir for your windscreen washers and your power steering fluid.

Engine oil can be checked by parking the car on a level surface, turning the car off and pulling the oil dipstick (if you’re unsure where it’s hidden in your vehicle, consult your Owner’s Manual). The dipstick will be marked with high and low points, indicating if your oil level is low. If you’re comfortable doing so, add oil in the
manufacturer’s prescribed viscosity through the oil cap slowly until the oil is at a satisfactory level, being cautious not to overfill.

Radiator coolant levels can usually be checked easily by locating the coolant reservoir and observing the levels in relation to the high and low markers on the tank (most manufacturers will have different hot and cold levels). These separate reservoirs mean there’s no need to open the radiator cap; however, it’s still safest to check levels when the vehicle is cold.

Your windscreen washer and power steering fluid levels are the easiest and safest to check – your windscreen washer bottle will be lurking somewhere in the engine bay and can simply be filled with water (there’s no risk of overfilling it), while your power steering reservoir can be checked with the engine running (it’s not pressurised and doesn’t get hot). Simply fill to the level on the reservoir or dipstick.

For added road trip peace of mind, while you’re under the bonnet you can usually perform a quick battery health check using the clear bubble most car batteries are manufactured with these days.

If you find any of the above daunting, engage the services of your preferred automotive professional.

Check your tyre pressures

After the visual inspection you would have performed while washing your car, a quick check of your tyre pressures is one of the most important safety checks ahead of any road trip.

Tyre pressures are intrinsically linked to tyre performance and affect everything from emergency braking, wet-weather performance, steering and even fuel economy, so it’s important to keep your tyres maintained to the pressures stipulated by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

These can be found in your Owner’s Manual, or on the tyre placard (usually inside the driver’s or passenger’s door jamb). It’s important to check and adjust your tyre pressures with as little heat in the tyres as possible (so pick a service station or tyre retailer close by).

Tyre pressures become even more important when we start to load our vehicles. You’ll notice the vehicle’s manufacturer will provide separate tyre pressures for the rear axle if you’re towing a caravan or trailer, and it’s important to observe these.

Even if you manage to cram all your holiday paraphernalia into the cabin with your travel buddies, be aware that your car will be carrying significantly more weight than usual, meaning your tyre pressures will matter so much more. So remember to set your tyre pressures before you hitch up the trailer or start packing the car.

If you’re hooking up a trailer or caravan for the Easter holidays, make sure it’s ready to hit the road as well. Trailers and vans usually suffer from long periods of inactivity, so it’s important to check that the tyres are inflated (and depending on how long it’s been left idle, if they’re flat-spotted or showing signs of tyre rot), that your wheels and wheel bearings are spinning freely and that the trailer brakes are functioning correctly. A trip around the block is the safest way to test these systems and identify any repairs that need doing, without straying too far from home.

While you’ve got the trailer or van hooked up, enlist a partner to help you check that brake lights, indicators, parking and reverse lights are functioning correctly on your trailer and tow vehicle.

Balance, rotation and alignment

The last time any of us thought about our wheel balance, tyre rotation or wheel alignment was probably when we last had new tyres fitted, but all three are simple steps we can take before a road trip to ensure optimal tyre performance and even tyre wear.

Any number of environmental factors can cause our wheels to fall out of alignment or become unbalanced, so it’s important to have both checked by a professional regularly.

Any tyre retailer around the country will be able to assist with these specialised processes, including Bob Jane T-Marts whose national network of stores are open throughout the Easter period, and offer thorough complimentary vehicle safety checks to ensure you are road trip ready.

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