Vital pre-holiday checks for your car

Make sure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape before travelling on SA’s roads during the holidays…

It’s almost holiday time and while millions of drivers will take to the roads as they head away for the festive season, the National Dealer’s Association is urging drivers to carry out a pre-holiday vehicle check before going anywhere.

Getting your vehicle checked by an authorised dealer before the festive season is the best way to ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape.

“Dealers have trained technicians who check all safety-related items, and will make sure you are informed of any recommended repairs before your set off,” says Mark Dommisse, National Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association.

Further to this, here are some vital pre-holiday checks the NADA recommends you carry out:


Brakes are crucial to any journey, not only the long ones associated with holiday travel. Brake pads should be inspected by a qualified technician, but any squealing or scraping sounds are a dead giveaway that replacement is probably necessary. Vibrations in your pedal under braking is a sign of warped discs, which will either need skimming or replacement.


Tyre tread depth is an easy inspection that can be performed by anyone. The legal tread depth is a minimum of 1.6mm in South Africa, but a general rule of thumb is if you insert a R5 coin the tread should be at least as deep as the tip of the wildebeest’s tail. Remember to measure across the entire width of the tyre, as the outer tread may be deeper than the inner. Any uneven tread wear could indicate poor wheel alignment which should also be addressed by a professional.

Remember to check tyre pressures and adjust for heavy loads – but never to more than recommended manufacturer specifications which are usually found inside the filler flap door or on a sticker inside one of the front door jams. It’s also a good idea to check your spare wheel’s pressure and tread while you’re at it.


Your windshield wipers should clear a clean path in their travel. Any streaks or smears means they likely need replacement. Driving in a storm with worn wiper blades is an extremely dangerous and unnecessary risk. 


One of the most important (and cheapest to repair!) items in your pre-travel checklist should be your car’s lighting system. Have a friend or family member help ensure that all lights including headlights, taillights, brake lights and indicators work properly. Replacement globes on many vehicles can cost less than R10 so there’s no excuse to drive around with faulty lighting.

Also read: Safe driving tips for mountain passes

Also remember, headlights are not only for you to see at night; they’re also there to let other road users see you. Driving with headlights on at all times of day is a common practice overseas, and it should be adopted in South Africa as well.


Have your battery checked by an authorised dealer. This is a simple test, and while battery replacement can be relatively pricey, so could the cost of a tow truck needed to come to the rescue of stranded motorists.


Most modern cars make the inspection of fluid levels such as coolant, power steering and brake fluid quite easy for the average driver, but if you’re uncomfortable have them checked by your dealer. It’s also important to replenish fluids with the correct type – another reason why it’s important to visit an authorised dealer.

Remember to never check coolant levels when an engine is hot, as pressurised cooling systems can cause serious burns.

Most new vehicles in-warranty come with a comprehensive roadside assistance programme, designed to help give drivers peace of mind. Keep the contact number in an easy-to-locate place in the vehicle and be sure to save it on your mobile phone as well.

“In addition, we recommend that you keep a list of your brand’s authorised dealers on hand, be they in South Africa or across the borders, in case of any extraordinary or unexpected incident requiring their assistance,” says Dommisse.