The Automobile Association of South Africa came up with an easy acronym to keep track of the different elements of the trip: FLOWER. FLOWER stands for:
Note: something that isn’t mentioned in the acronym is the importance of regularly servicing and maintaining your car. Your car should have had a service within the last six months before your trip, and preferably more recently.
Make a list of the different petrol stations along your route that you can fill up at. Determine how far you can travel on a single tank. Immediately before your trip. Make sure you fill up your tank and try to fill up as often as possible and don’t wait until your petrol light comes on – you never know if your route might change suddenly. If your car seems to be using more petrol than usual, use this fuel consumption calculator to determine exactly how what’s your car’s fuel consumption is. A week or two before you leave, record its fuel consumption for everyday driving and compare it to its fuel consumption on the open road – it should be significantly better over long distances, and if it’s not it could indicate a more serious problem.
In the days leading up to your trip, check that your headlights, indicators, brake and reverse lights are all working. Get someone to help you check your reverse and brake lights and your back indicators. Test them the day before you leave in case something has broken in the interim, so you have enough time to purchase the replacement bulbs or take the vehicle in to be serviced.
In the days leading up to your journey it’s important to check your oil level. Consult your car’s owner’s manual – some manufacturers recommend you check your oil while the car is at running temperature while others recommend checking when the oil is cold. Also consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to check and top up your steering and brake fluids.
Check the levels of your car’s coolant reservoir and your windscreen washer fluid level. Keep at least one 2L bottle of water in your car in case of an emergency. Make sure your wiper blades are functioning properly – the last thing you want is to be caught in a sudden downpour in an area you don’t know with no wipers.
A few days before leaving, perform checks on your car’s essential electrics, like the hooter and windscreen wipers, and inessential electrics like the radio – no one likes a road trip without tunes! Also make sure to check if any warning lights stay on once your car is running and make sure these aren’t indicating a problem.
Check your car’s tyre tread and pressure against the car manufacturer’s specifications depending on the load your vehicle is carrying. Tyres have to have a legal tread-depth of 1 mm but if you’re going to be travelling 1000s of kilometres, you should have at least double that.
Check out this great infographic to help you keep track of all the tracks you need to do before your trip:
Image credit: Automobile Association of South Africa
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