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In South Africa the number one cause of roadside breakdowns in the summer months is probably overheating.
Ours is a hot country at this time of the year and you are courting disaster if you venture on a long trip with a dodgy cooling system.
We have recently devoted a full article to the preparation of a car for summer, so let's look at a few other common causes of car problems that can so easily spoil a holiday.
"Electrics" rates as number two behind overheating. Components such as an alternator or starter motor can, unfortunately, pack up without any advance warning and there is no practical way to avoid that by preventive maintenance. Frequently, however, the problem lies not inside electrical components, but in the wiring and connections.
Check all wiring connections for tightness and cleanliness, paying particular attention to corrosion on battery clamps and earth connections. Check for loose or chafing wires and old, brittle wiring. Carefully inspect high tension wires for cracks in their insulation or corrosion at their connections.
Remember that spark plugs do last long these days, but they don't go on forever.
Tyres are number three in the line-up of culprits. Watch out for uneven tread wear indicating alignment problems, bald tyres, sidewall cuts, rims damaged by kerb impact, or a tyre showing an unnatural drop in pressure, indicative of a slow leak.
Increase pressures for long trips or heavy loads, as recommended by the manufacturer.
Always check pressures when the tyres are cold and never let out air during a trip. Ensure the spare tyre is serviceable and correctly inflated, and that the jack and wheel spanner are where they should be. If you have security wheel nuts, make sure you know where the key or removal tool is.
Losing car door keys will never happen to us. But it does happen, so get yourself a little tin with a tight-fitting lid, paint it matt black to make it unobtrusive, wrap a spare key in a zip-lock bag, stick it inside the tin, put two powerful button magnets inside the tin on the bottom surface, and place the tin, now strongly magnetic, on an out-of-sight steel part of the undercarriage where only you will find it. Jam it up tight against an edge so that it will not vibrate or move out of position. The day will come when you will be thankful for that little black tin.
Another thing to watch out for is running out of fuel. Beware of a gauge that doesn't drop steadily as the kilometres go by. And watch out for pump attendants putting the wrong fuel into your tank. Diesel in a petrol engine, and vice versa, is guaranteed to mess up your holiday. - Motoring Reporter