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The long weekends are upon us and it’s a time when South Africans take to the road in masses. With such a large volume of vehicles all using the roads at the same time, there are bound to be problems, ranging from potholes, blow-outs, road-rage to accidents, bumper bashings and more. We’ve compiled some hints and tips to make sure that your driving experience is safe and enjoyable over this time.
Prepping for a long journey:
Many people have concerns about taking their cars on long trips, especially if their cars are getting on in years or mileage. Truth is, long trips are actually easier on your car than day-to-day driving – but a breakdown far from home can really ruin your holiday. A few simple checks will stave off many common problems. As with most things, it’s best to start early.
Check the coolant
If the temperature of your destination is a lot warmer or cooler than home (e.g JHB to Durbs) check, or have your mechanic check, the coolant’s mixture of antifreeze and water to make sure the car is properly protected. If the coolant needs to be changed, have it done now.
Check the tyres
Make sure your tyres are inflated to the proper pressure. Low pressure can cause extra heat build-up that can lead to a blow-out at high speeds. Follow the instructions for checking tyre pressure in your owner’s manual. Also make sure to check the tyre tread. Have you done the quarter test? You should have at least 2mm of the coin be unseen when in the tread, this shows that the rubber isn’t worn out and the tyre is still good to go.
Check the spare tyre
Make sure the spare tyre is fully inflated and that the jack, wrench, and other tyre-changing bits are in the trunk. If your car has wheel locks, make sure you have the adapter for the lock-nut.
Get any scheduled maintenance done
If you think your car is going to be due for an oil change or other maintenance during your trip, get it done before you leave.
Check the tyres again if you haven’t had them checked in a week. The tyre pressures should be about the same as they were last time you checked them.
Check the air filter
A clogged air filter reduces fuel economy. They are inexpensive and easy to change. If your current air filter has been in the car for more than 15,000 KM, it’s time to clean it or change it.
Check and change the tyre pressures
Yep – tyre pressures again! Many cars have two recommended ratings, one for light loads and one for heavy loads and/or high speeds. If you’re taking the whole family, visit your local garage and inflate the tyres to the higher setting. You will find this information in the owner’s manual or on a sticker in the door jamb or fuel filler flap.
Check your shocks for wear and tear
Car shocks keep your tyres on the road, it is of great importance to have good shocks, if you don’t know how to check these, garages around the country can check for you, usually free of charge and we urge everyone to check these.
Fill the gas tank
You might as well get it out of the way now.
Get your rest!
A shocking amount of accidents are attributed to driver error and one of the biggest ones is falling asleep behind the wheel, a recent survey revealed as many as 103 million people in the United States alone fell asleep behind the wheel, attributing to 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and costing $12.5 billion. Get between 7-9 hours of rest before the drive; this will keep you more alert and ready to react.
Get a happy button
If you don’t already have some sort of roadside assistance program or you want a system that can help with ANY roadside problem, Cartrack’s Happy Button has you covered, from breakdowns, to accidents, lawyer SOS and even directions, it’s a one stop shop of roadside assistance!
For the day of your trip
Load evenly and carefully. If you’re carrying lots of heavy objects, position them forward in the boot and distribute the weight evenly side to side.
On the trip, make sure everyone is buckled up and if you have a child seat, ensure its installed correctly, stop often to allow your family and yourself some room, stretch the legs and refresh yourself with drinks and food, the journey is half the holiday, enjoy it, take it easy and don’t speed.
For road rage
It’s not personal so don’t make it so. Most road rage incidents are less about the situation and more about whatever else is happening in the person’s life. Don’t fan the flames by reacting aggressively. A simply apology if you’re in the wrong can solve the problem.
Take several deep breaths before reacting to a bad driver. Controlled breathing relaxes you, lowers your blood-pressure and leads to a rational decision. Forgive and enjoy your ride.
Mind your manners
Weaving between lanes, ‘racing’ fellow road users, rude gestures… this is aggressive behaviour that will spark rage in others. Avoid being on the receiving end of road rage by being courteous to fellow drivers.
Rules of the road
Possibly the most important is to obey the rules of our road to ensure a safe and happy holiday for all our road users, stay within your lane, check your blind-spots before switching lanes, indicate your intention, not your actions, avoid reckless overtaking and be vigilant over other drivers, they may not have read this article!
Most importantly enjoy the break!