Pre Holiday Checks
I have written this as a guide for a general check over to perform before any big road trip. The vehicle hand book should be consulted in conjunction with this guide. If you find anything that doesnt look right or is unusual please, get it checkout by a profeesional.
Before checking the engine oil level, ensure the vehicle is parked on a level surface. To check the engine oil, remove the oil dipstick (your manual should show its location) and wipe it clean with a clean cloth, take note of the full and low marks. Re-insert and remove the dipstick again and check where the oil level is. It should be somewhere between the two marks. If you need to add oil only add small amounts and recheck each time. Also check the condition of the oil, new oil will have a honey colour, and used oil will be black. Be careful not to overfill. The oil filler cap should be on the top of the engine and will usually be marked as engine oil. Check your manual for its location and the correct grade of oil to use. In normal operation it is acceptable for an engine to use 1 - 2 litres of oil between services, if you find you are topping up the oil more frequently this can be a sign of either a worn engine or oil leaks.
Check the coolant level in the expansion bottle, this is usually located close to the radiator (check your owner's manual for the location).The expansion bottle will have a high and low (or hot and cold) mark. The level of coolant will fluctuate between these two marks depending on engine temperature but it should always be between these two marks. For topping up small amounts tap water will be fine, for larger amounts use the same coolant as what is already in the system. If it is unknown what coolant is in the system just use water and have the cooling system flushed and refilled with new coolant and a pressure test performed. Take note of what coolant was used and buy some for topping up using the instructions on the bottle. If you find you are topping up the coolant regularly then this may indicate a leak or more serious engine problems so have it checked out. While on the cooling system check the hoses for and leaks or cracking, also check them for any soft or abnormal looking spots which could be signs of impending trouble.
Checking the auto transmission fluid level is much the same as checking the engine oil level, with the only difference being the transmission is checked while the engine is running so caution with moving parts needs to exercised. Also have a look at the condition of the oil, it should be a transparent red colour for most vehicles. If yours is darker or has a burnt or sweet smell then it’s time for a transmission service. If you need to top it up it is critical you use the correct fluid for your vehicle, the manual will specify which fluid to use. If you need to top it up frequently then you probably have a leak somewhere that should be repaired. A small number of autos and most manual transmissions don’t have a dipstick, with these vehicles it is only possible to have the level checked during a service.
The power steering reservoir will either be clear plastic allowing you to check the level visually, or will have a dipstick in the cap which you just remove, wipe down, re-dip and check the level. Again if you need to top it up frequently then a leak is present that should be repaired.
Brake and Clutch Fluid
These will be in a clear reservoir mounted on the firewall. All is needed is a visual check of the level to make sure it is between the low and full marks. Again any abnormal loss of either brake or clutch fluid should be treated with great concern (as it could be a sign of an impending complete brake failure) will should be investigated at the earliest opportunity.
Check the level and refill with water. If you want to use a product in your windscreen washer we recommend a good quality dedicated washer additive. Stay away from household detergents as these can block up the pump and washer jets as they aren’t designed to be left for long periods in the extreme conditions present in the engine bay.
Check all tyres across the whole tread. In NSW the lowest legal limit for tread depth is 1.5mm on any part that contacts the roads, if your tyres are approaching this then think about replacing them soon. Check all tyre pressures including the spare, we recommend buying and using your own tyre pressure gauge as most of the ones you find at the service stations get abused and can be inaccurate and inconsistent. For tyre pressures consult the vehicle placard (Usually found on the inside of the drivers door or inside the glove box) or the owner’s manual.
Lights, Horn and Wipers
Check all lights, the horn and windscreen wipers and washers are operating, you may need an assistant to help with the brake lights. Consult your owner’s manual on how to replace any blown globes, and type/rating of any globes.
Have a glance at the belt/s. Some cars have more than one. Look for oil contamination, deterioration or cracking. A few cracks per inch is accepatable but any more and the belt/s should be replaced.