A surprisingly large number of Australian drivers lack the basic skills to prepare their cars for the holidays, according to a new survey.
Many drivers, especially the young, claim not to perform safety checks before a long trip, with many not even knowing where to look, the research commissioned by JAX Tyres found.
Experts recommend at least a check of coolant, water, oil, tyre pressure and windscreen wiper fluid, but this would seem to be an impossible task for some drivers, even if they wanted to.
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all drivers admitted to not checking their water, oil and tyre pressure before a long drive, increasing to nearly half (41 per cent) of 18-24 year olds, the JAX-funded survey of 1,005 Australians reported.
Worse still, 16 per cent of all drivers did not actually know HOW to check the oil level in their car, with similarly disturbing levels of ignorance for radiator coolant checks (21 per cent) and windscreen wiper fluid checks (13 per cent).
Young drivers aged 18-24 were the most ignorant of the mysteries of oil checking (30 per cent), coolant replacement (44 per cent) and windscreen fluid top ups (30 per cent).
A spokesman for the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) confirmed the importance of a pre-trip check.
“This time of year, if you’re travelling long distances, it’s important to get your vehicle checked,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said.
“If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, most good mechanics will conduct a health check of the basic fundamentals so that you don’t spend your Christmas on the side of the road.”
But he urged drivers not to change a deflated tyre themselves, due to the very real risk of injury or death — especially on a busy highway or at night without a high visibility vest.
“We would prefer that drivers not change their tyres at all on the roads. It’s very difficult to do safely,” Mr Khoury said.
How to do the (very) basics
• Check your car’s handbook to find the correct oil to buy
• Park on level ground so the oil settles
• Turn off the engine and wait a few minutes for it to cool
• Open the bonnet and look for a brightly coloured pull-ring (called a dipstick)
• Pull the dipstick fully out of its tube (carefully noting the location of the tube, as it can be difficult to find later)
• Wipe the metal with a clean cloth or paper towel
• Reinsert the dipstick into the tube
• Remove it again and examine the metal’s two markings: the high mark and the low mark
• If the oil residue is near the high mark (closest to the plastic pull-ring), replace the dipstick and do nothing
• If the oil residue is at the low level, oil needs replacing
• Top up by removing the engine oil filler cap. It will be located on the top of the engine
• Consult your car’s handbook for the recommend coolant/water ratio
• Ensure your engine is cold, otherwise you risk being burnt
• The radiator tank will usually be a white plastic container with a screw cap
• Check the fluid level by unscrewing the cap or looking at the high/low mark on the side
• If the level is low, add the coolant recommended in the owner’s handbook