For many of us, the thought of a classic summer road trip has helped us through the long lockdown weeks. We imagine packing the car and hitting the road for a journey that takes us around rugged coastlines, through native forest and to campsites and baches around the country.
What we probably don't spare much thought for is the state of our vehicle and what needs to be done for a super smooth drive.
Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way in ensuring your big summer roadie goes without a hitch.
1. Update your WoF
With various lockdowns still underway, many Kiwis may have let their WoF lapse. (The lockdown amnesty on Wofs Cofs and Regos ended on Tuesday!) If you'll be away for a while, take your car in for a Warrant of Fitness so you don't pick up a fine during your travels.
2. Check your engine oil
Engine oil is crucial as it lubricates all the fast rotating parts of the engine. Check this by popping the hood, grabbing the car dipstick next to the engine, cleaning it with a drag and sliding it back in. After removing it, you'll be able to see whether the oil is low or gritty/black, in which case it needs to be topped up or replaced.
3. Check brake fluid
The other key fluid to check is your brake fluid; a hydraulic fluid that plays a crucial role in ensuring your car stops when you hit the brakes. Different car models recommend this be replaced at different intervals, however, this is usually around every two years. If the fluid is brown or black, you'll have to take it to a mechanic to be 'flushed'. Otherwise, you can top it up yourself.
4. Measure your tread
If you can't tell whether it's time to change your tyres by looking, find a spare 20 cent coin. Slot the coin into the tread of the tyre, and see if you can read the '20' on the coin. Since the '20' is 2mm from the coin's edge and the legal minimum depth for a WoF is 1.5mm, if the '20' is still partly covered, you know your tyre is good to go.
5. Grab some air
If the tread is up to scratch, the next job is checking the pressure. If it's been a few months since you stopped by a gas station, you'll be due a visit. The exact 'PSI' for a car can be found online, in the driver manual or the driver's door post. If all else fails, a general rule of thumb is 30-32psi for the back wheels and 32-34psi in the front.
6. Find your spare tyre (and learn how to change it)
Getting a flat tyre is never fun, especially when you don't know where your spare is (…or if you even have one). Check your car's spare tyre, or work out where it will be in your rental car, and familiarise yourself with how to change it.
7. Refresh your memory on jump starts
Give your memory a jumpstart on jumpstarts. The red lead goes on positive, the black lead goes on negative and wait for 3 minutes before turning on the working car's engine. Wait another minute, then turn on the flat car and allow both to run for around 10 minutes.
8. Don't overpack
Your car may be able to fit the 'essential' bikes and surfboards, beach tent and minifridge but the better question is, should it? Overpacking your vehicle can compromise suspension, brakes and steering so check your gross vehicle mass (GVM) or weight (GVW). This is usually found inside the driver's door when you open it.
9. Give it a clean
If you didn't spend a lockdown weekend giving your vehicle a deep clean, now is the time to pull out the vacuum and sponge. Whether you're embarking on a multi-day roadie or just taking a long drive to the bach, it will be far more fun in a freshly washed ride.
10. Consider cover
A simple road trip in New Zealand, what could go wrong? Well, a large number of things, especially if your car has clocked up a few kilometres or if you're travelling on busy roads. If your car isn't already covered under an insurance policy, consider signing up and make sure only covered drivers take the wheel.