10 important car checks every driver should know

Planning on taking a road trip soon – even if it’s just to the next town over? We all know to ensure our car insurance is up to date before getting behind the wheel, but did you know it’s just as important to check the road-worthiness of your vehicle too?
This post was published on 22 Feb, 2017

Whether you’re driving 50 kilometres or 500, conducting a vehicle safety check before you set out could help reduce your risk of breakdowns, accidents, or more serious incidents.

Take a look at our list of recommended vehicle checks below, and ensure every road trip you take with your family is a safe, stress-free one:

1. Tyres

When checking your tyres, you’ll need to look out for tread depth, pressure, and any potential cuts or slow punctures. If your tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm all the way around, you should be fine – any less than this and you should invest in a new set for safety’s sake. Have your tyre pressures checked at your nearest garage, remembering to compensate for a loaded vehicle, and if you see any visible cuts or holes, pay a visit to your local tyre fitter before taking your vehicle on holiday.

Safety tip: Make sure your car is fitted with a fully functional spare tyre, as well as a jack, handle and wheel brace for fitting it. There’s no such thing as being too prepared!

2. Coolant

Make sure to check your coolant levels, and top up with a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze when necessary. Remember to only ever check your coolant when your car’s engine is cold, and to have your antifreeze concentration checked in colder months in order to prevent your cooling system from corroding or freezing.

3. Brakes

When you’re travelling by car, you want to be absolutely sure your brakes will work when needed. If you’re unsure as to the integrity of your brake pads, have them checked at a service station before going away, for your peace of mind and your family’s safety.

4. Oil

We all know that our cars need oil, but did you know that without oil, a car’s engine will overheat and ultimately self-destruct? To prevent this from happening, check your car’s oil level with the dipstick provided, and top up if necessary. Ideally, you should check your oil level every two weeks, and always before a lengthy road journey.

5. Windscreen washers

On any road trip, bugs are usually attracted to your windscreen like a moth to a flame. If your windscreen washer reserves are low, your visibility could be compromised. Give yourself the best chance of seeing clearly by topping up your washer bottles regularly. Remember that a good screenwash will help clear oil and grime far better than ordinary water.

6. Lights

It’s easy enough to tell if your front lights are working – but what about your reverse lights, brake lights, indicator lights, dips, fog lights and so on? Having a fully functional set of vehicle lights is non-negotiable. Not just when taking a road trip but any time you get behind the wheel. Ask a family member to check that all your lights are working, and make sure to replace any bulbs as a priority before setting off.

7. Fan belt

Hearing any shrieks coming from under your bonnet? Your fan belt could be loose or slipping, so make sure to check the rubber ahead of going on holiday.

8. Hoses

An oil or water leak could be an indicator of a more serious vehicle problem, so if you notice any drips coming from your car, make sure to have a professional take a look and give you the all clear.

9. Windscreen and wipers

When was the last time you had your wiper blades changed? It’s a small thing, but one that could become a bigger problem, particularly if you run into a heavy rain or storms en route. Make sure that your wiper blades are in full working order, replacing them annually once they become worn. Additionally, any cracks in your windscreen should be repaired as they occur, in order to ensure they don’t worsen over time and weaken the integrity of the glass.

10. Map

There’s nothing worse than getting in your car and not knowing where you’re going – or even getting lost along the way. These days most smartphones come loaded with GPS apps, and there are plenty of free apps you can download too if you need any help with directions. Remember though, if you’re travelling to a remote area, you may struggle to find a GPS signal, so always make sure to take an actual paper map along too, just in case.

Aside from these all-important car checks, there are a number of other points to remember when taking a road trip. Make sure your car battery is charged. Ensure that your car license is valid. Make sure that you have enough first aid supplies and car snacks, and entertainment for bored kiddies. Lastly always remember to keep within the speed limit, and maintain a three to four second following distance between you and the vehicle in front.

All packed and ready to go? Then we wish you a safe journey! However there’s one last check we need to do before you leave. Make sure you have the right type of car insurance to look after your family and your vehicle on the road. Take a look at the range of car insurance options available from Old Mutual iWYZE. Call us for a car insurance quote on 0860 63 33 39, submit your details for a call back, or request a quick quote online. Because when it comes to your loved ones and your journey through life, you can never be too careful.


1. Van Der Post, J. “Planning an SA road trip? 20 vehicle checks you must do!”. http://www.wheels24.co.za/Road_Trip/planning-an-sa-road-trip-20-vehicle-checks-you-must-do-20151117. Accessed on 19 January 2016.

2. “Going on a long drive? 10 things to check before you leave from packing a spare tyre to testing for leaks”. http://www.mirror.co.uk/features/going-long-drive-10-things-4069344. Accessed on 19 January 2016.

3. “Ten vital car checks”. https://www.theaa.com/breakdown-cover/car-maintenance-tips.html. Accessed on 19 January 2016.

4. Barth, L. “Road trip prep: 10 things to check before you hit the road”. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2011/06/road-trip-prep-10-things-to-check-before-you-hit-the-road/index.htm. Accessed on 19 January 2016.

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