20 December 2023

Check your car to make sure you don't get stranded these holidays

| Chris Roe
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man inflating tyre

TAFE NSW teacher Grant Oliver reckons it’s worth taking a few minutes to make sure your car is in good shape before you drive. Photo: Supplied.

Nothing puts a pin in your summer holiday bubble like car trouble.

Two years ago, while Christmasing with family in Wagga Wagga, we shredded not one but two tyres on Christmas Eve.

Almost every tyre shop in town was closed for the next five days over the festive week and the emergency tyre guy did not have a pair that would fit our vehicle.

Needless to say, our Boxing Day plans to drive north to see other friends and family were abandoned and we spent a few more unscheduled days in the Riverina with a borrowed car.

While it’s unlikely that we could have done much to prepare for the rogue paver that took out our Toyota, there’s plenty that you can do to avoid mechanical trouble this summer.

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With hot weather and potholes guaranteed no matter where you go, TAFE teacher Nathan Malmborg has served up a few tips.

“Often in the haste of trying to get on the road, it’s easy to forget to check the simple things,” he said.

“Making sure your vehicle is ready for the trip is essential and there are some straightforward things you can do that could be the difference between getting to your destination safely and sitting by the roadside waiting for help.”

He said regular servicing throughout the year was the best way to ensure your car was safe and reliable.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t get their cars serviced regularly,” he said. Regular servicing improves safety, boosts performance, and enhances fuel economy.”

man and woman with broken-down car on highway

Tyres are one of the key things to check to avoid being stranded during these holidays. Photo: stevanovicigor.

A recent NRMA report found the organisation had more than 130,000 roadside assistance calls in a single year for issues with wheels and tyres.

With decades of industry experience behind him, Nathan said the No. 1 piece of safety advice he could offer was to ensure that tyres weren’t too worn or inflated incorrectly.

“Follow your owner’s manual to ensure what the optimum inflation level is,” he said.

“Underinflated tyres are a leading cause of tyre blowout. This one’s important not only to prolong the life of the tyres but to make sure you and your family stay safe on the road.

“Also check the wear indicator on your tyres. The grooves in your tyres should be at least three millimetres deep.”

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Check the oil and water is a mantra that most of us have had drilled into us since we first got behind the wheel, but it’s too easy to put it off until the next servo stop.

Nathan explained that oil was an engine’s “lifeblood”, lubricating the moving parts while also cooling and cleaning them to keep the car running smoothly.

“To check your engine oil, locate your dipstick underneath the bonnet and make sure the oil level is between the two markers at the end of the dipstick,” he said.

“Top the oil up as needed.”

Another potential problem that most drivers overlook until it’s too late is the windscreen wipers.

It’s not until those first few drops of rain hit and you begin smearing bugs across the glass that you remember that they need replacing.

“An effective set of windscreen wipers ensures you can see the road clearly,” Nathan said.

“Check the blades for any splits in the rubber edge. New wiper blades cost only about $30 a pair and are simple to replace.”

Finally, Nathan said to make sure that all the lights are working, including on trailers and caravans.

“This is a pretty obvious one but do a quick check of all lights, including your indicators, before you set off.”

So there you have it: check the car, drive carefully and have a safe and happy holiday!

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