Summer is fast approaching, and that means the holiday season is almost here. Nothing’s more Australian than packing up the car and heading off on a road trip adventure, but before you load the kids and suitcases, there’s a few things you should check to make sure your car will get you there and back safely. At AME, we are Perth’s leading automotive mechanics offering affordable car service packages that will give you the confidence you need to take your vehicle anywhere you want to go this summer. From fluids and tyres to battery and brakes, here’s our guide for things to check to ensure your car is road-trip ready.
Even if your car has recently been serviced and the fluid levels have been checked, it’s wise to double check fluid levels are near-full. If you are going on a long road trip, especially to remote areas, it’s recommended to keep a backup supply of each on hand. Common fluids that are easy check yourself are:
Oil – critical for an engine, oil lubricates moving components like the pistons, crankshaft, and camshaft so they can move smoothly without friction. Oil should be changed every 5,000 to 10,000 kilometres or every six months, whichever comes first. Even if you have had a recent oil change, it’s still a good idea to check the oil condition and fill level before a long trip.
Radiator fluid – also known as coolant or antifreeze, radiator fluid works to extract heat from the engine and dissipate it through the radiator. A low coolant level will also likely result in overheating, so check your coolant and top it up if need be. The last thing you want is to be stuck on the side of the road in the blistering sun with an overheated car.
Brake fluid – brake fluid transfers the effort applied to the brake pedal by the driver’s foot to the components that stop the vehicle. Over time, brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, this reduces its boiling point and corrodes brake system components. To avoid any issues such as brake fade on your road trip, ensure you check the brake fluid before you head off, especially if it has not been changed within the last 12 months.
Windscreen washer fluid – while a low fluid level will not affect the engine or performance of your car, there’s nothing on the exterior of a car that’s more important to keep clean than the windscreen. After all, you have to be able to see where you’re going. Adding windscreen washer fluid is very simple – get a jug of water with a small amount of specific windscreen wash added, then simply use a funnel to fill up your reservoir if it is low.
Tyres are essential for safe driving as they are the only link between your vehicle and the road. Even if you routinely monitor the condition and pressure of your tyres, before setting off on a road trip make sure you check the following:
Air pressure – road trips are long, and that means using a lot of fuel to get you where you need to go. The best way to ensure optimum fuel efficiency, is to check your tyres are properly inflated. Check the air pressure before you head off, and continue to check your pressure every 2,500km. Incorrect air pressure not only causes greater fuel consumption, it can cause wear and damage to tyres which could impact the overall safety of the car.
Condition – check tyre tread and look for signs of strain, bulges, or other damage. Even if you think your tyres are in decent condition, it is best to get a professional opinion, especially if you haven’t rotated or replaced your tyres recently. Also remember to check the condition of your spare tyre, you would hate to have a puncture and then find out you can’t use your spare.
Other General Maintenance Before a Long Trip
Flush the radiator – high temperatures can cause your car to overheat so to ensure you don’t end up steaming on the side of the road consider having your radiator flushed and filled, especially if it’s been over a year since your last service.
Check the lights – brake lights, indicators, high and low beams — test them all in the dark. Properly working headlights and taillights will avoid you being unnecessarily pulled over by the police and, most importantly, improve safety while driving at night.
Check the battery – look for loose connections, frayed or broken cables, dirt and corrosion, as well as cracked cases or oozing liquid.
Replace the wiper blades – summer can bring rain, especially if you are road-tripping to the tropical north of the country so it’s a good idea to make sure your wiper blades still work efficiently and replace them if needed.
If you are planning a summer road trip, make it a priority to perform these simple checks before you head off. Don’t ruin your holiday by ending up on the side of the road or the back of a tow truck. Book your car in with the experts at AME Automotive before your summer holiday, we have a range of car service packages that will ensure the safety of you and your family on the road this holiday season. Call us today on (08) 9455 3225.
If you regularly tow, go 4W driving or load your ute up with heavy equipment, understanding the GVM of your vehicle is an important factor in keeping you safe on the road and ensuring that you are following all regulations with your vehicle. GVM (Goss Vehicle Mass) is the maximum weight allowed for a vehicle when it is fully loaded. At AME Automotive, we are Perth’s experts in GVM upgrades. Here is our guide to understanding GVM and GVM upgrades.
Complying to the GVM of Your Vehicle
To check if you comply with GVM requirements, you can calculate how much weight your vehicle is carrying. Start with the base weight of the vehicle, and then include added weight from any and all of the following:
Tray body (for cab-chassis models)
Tow-ball load exerted by caravans, boats, etc – if you’re towing a boat, you don’t have to add the actual weight of the boat. However, simply towing something behind your vehicle is going to exert more weight at the tow point and this extra weight must be taken into consideration.
GVM Requirements in Australia
All vehicles have their requisite GVM standards that the vehicle owner or driver is required by law to uphold. If you’re caught driving a vehicle loaded beyond its legal GVM, you could be sacrificing your safety, you could face serious fines and your insurance may not cover you. The good news is that you can upgrade your GVM and it is a relatively easy and affordable process.
Reaching Your Maximum GVM
Reaching or exceeding your GVM is actually quite easy to do. When your vehicle is fully loaded for a journey or if you are a tradesperson constantly carrying tools and equipment, your vehicle may be overloaded beyond its GVM and payload capacity and you may not even know it. A vehicle can reach its GVM when fitted with a steel tray and toolboxes or with two or more large adults riding in the vehicle. Knowing this, it is important to be aware of your GVM and the weight that you are carrying in your vehicle. A GVM upgrade will prevent you from unintentionally passing your maximum limit, and ensure the safety of your vehicle is not compromised.
What’s Involved in a GVM Upgrade?
Upgrading your GVM requires fitting a new, stronger suspension system to the vehicle. The brakes and axles should be in good condition – an approved engineer will need to check the compliance plate and individual axle weights on your vehicle before any modifications can be done. Once testing and inspection has been completed, a GVM upgrade kit can be fitted to your vehicle. When the GVM upgrade kit has been installed the vehicle will be inspected by an authorised automotive engineer in your state and you will be issued with a compliance certificate.
Is My Vehicle Warranty Affected When Fitting A GVM Upgrade?
Vehicle warranty is not affected when a GVM upgrade is fitted. Stringent testing procedures are performed after the upgrade to ensure equipment components are not compromised. All GVM modifications undertaken by AME Automotive are within theoretical service/safety factors to ensure the integrity and longevity of the parts associated with increasing the vehicles load carrying capabilities. If you’re unsure about the GVM of your vehicle or if you think that you are running your vehicle over the legal weight limit, contact the experts at AME Automotive today. We can inspect your vehicle to determine the overall weight and advise you if a GVM upgrade is the best option for your vehicle.
You can make a pretty good argument that tyres are the most important part of a car. Of course, the engine is essential to actually drive the car and your brakes are the most important safety feature. But your tyres are the only part of the car that actually touches the road. Without them, there’s really no car at all and if they’re in bad shape they will negatively affect the performance of every other system in your vehicle.
If someone offered you a free pair of gorgeous leather shoes with comfortable inner soles but with no grip at all, you’d probably turn them down. Because even though all those other things are great, the shoes aren’t much good if you’ll slip over all the time.
Tyre tread is much the same. It doesn’t matter if your tyres are top of the line and your car is luxurious. If the tyres don’t have enough tread, the car won’t be safe, especially in wet conditions. Tyre tread creates space for water to be funnelled away, thereby increasing the wheels’ effective contact patch. This increases traction, reduces stopping time and lowers the risk of aquaplaning. In fact, in Australia, there is a legal requirement that your tyres have at least 1.5mm of tread and penalties apply if your fail to comply.
Why ‘Just Enough’ Is Not Enough
In fact, you should consider new tyres before that 1.5mm minimum, because by the time your tyres are that worn your stopping distance in wet conditions will have increased by almost 20 metres. A study measuring the Volkswagen Golf V’s stopping time travelling at 80 km/h in wet conditions with premium Bridgestone tyres found that:
With 8mm of tread, it took 53.6 metres to stop
At 5mm that increased to 55.2 metres
With 3mm tread, 59.6 metres were required to stop
Once the tread got to 1.6mm stopping distance shot up to 70 metres
Check Your Tread Regularly
Most modern tyres feature built-in tread wear indicators that allow you to do a quick visual inspection of your tyres. There will be tread wear indicator bars running perpendicular to the direction of the tread. These are hidden at first but start to appear as the tread gets low. If you can see one or more of these starting to appear, use a tread depth indicator to double check. If the tread is 1.5mm or lower you need new tyres. If you drive regularly in wet conditions, it’s a good idea to make the cut-off point 2 or 3mm instead.
2. Cracked Sidewalls
Tyre tread is a major concern, but cracks in the sidewall of your tyres are no less of a problem. Over time, exposure to UV breaks down the oils and chemicals that keep the rubber in your tyre strong and flexible, leading to a tyre that is brittle like an old rubber band.
One of the first signs that this is happening will be the appearance of cracks in the tyres’ sidewalls – everything from hairline cracks to distinct valleys in the rubber. These cracks can lead to leaks but they can also result in sidewall collapse or the tread separating from the rest of the wheel. Both of these outcomes are catastrophically bad news for you as a driver, especially if they happen on the highway, in heavy traffic or both.
3. Bulges and Blisters Are Bad Business
Another bad sign for your tyres is blister-like bulges appearing on the surface. These are usually caused in one of two ways:
Uneven weakening of a tyre’s outer surface can lead to bulges because the pressure inside the tyre pushes out the weakened area. This is similar to an aneurysm in a blood vessel – an aneurysm can blow out an artery and one of these could blow out your tyre.
The rigid internal frame of the tyre may have been damaged, allowing air pressure to reach the more flexible outer layers of the tyre. This damage is usually caused by driving mistakes such as hitting potholes, mounting kerbs, or driving with low tyre pressure.
These bulges will significantly reduce a tyre’s structural integrity and each additional bulge only makes the problem worse. Even if your tyres look fine otherwise and have plenty of tread, you need to get them replaced. Continuing to drive on bulging tyres is a recipe for a gradual flat tyre at best and sudden tyre failure at worst.
4. Bad Vibrations
It’s inevitable that you will feel some vibration when you drive, simply due to the engine doing its work and the friction of your car against the road. But if your notice more than usual, you probably have a problem. Excessive vibration usually comes down to one of four causes:
One or more of the wheels could be bent or damaged, causing them to spin in an imperfect circle.
The tyre may have suffered internal damage leading to irregular spinning, despite the wheel being okay.
Poor wheel alignment will lead to vibrations and cause tyres to wear unevenly.
A variety of suspension problems can also lead to a lot of vibration.
If your tyres or wheels are damaged, you will most likely need to get them replaced. If the cause is alignment issues or problems with suspension, those problems will need to be fixed.
5. What’s That Noise?
You can gather valuable clues about the health of your vehicle’s engine, brakes, tyres and more from the sounds your car makes. When tyres produce strange noises such as whining, squeaking, or thumping, think of it like a pet trying to tell you they’re ill. It’s not easy to know exactly what the problem is, so you’ll need to get a professional involved, but strange sounds from your tyres always indicate a problem.
It could be that the tyre or wheel has become damaged from a bump or simply through the stresses of daily driving. The wheels could also be out of alignment, leading to strange sounds when braking or cornering. Squeaking or thumping sounds could also be early indications that the tread on your tyre has worn down too low.
6. You Can’t Teach an Old Tyre New Tricks
Tyres have an age limit after which they should be retired. The maximum service life for car tyres is generally agreed to be around a decade, but that’s an absolute maximum – you generally don’t want to leave tyres on your car for 10 years.
Most manufacturers and suppliers only provide a maximum of five years’ warranty. After that time, the rubber’s natural deterioration – caused by UV radiation, friction, heat, and oxidisation – make problems increasingly more likely. As such, it’s usually recommended that you replace your tyres every five to six years, even if they look okay in other ways. If you insist on keeping older tyres, make 10 years your absolute cut-off point; after that, you’re asking for trouble.
Find Your Tyre’s Birthday
It’s actually quite easy to work out the age of your tyres. On the sidewall of every tyre is a 10-11 digit Tyre Identification Number (TIN). This tells you a lot of information about the tyre including its week and year of manufacture. For tyres from the 1990s, the last three digits give this information, and for post-2000 tyres, it’s the last four digits. So, for example:
If the last three digits of your tyre are ‘278’ (with a triangular indentation next to them), then your tyre was manufactured in the 27th week of the year 1998. That means it celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2008. Replace it as soon as possible.
If the last four digits read 1315, then your tyre was manufactured in week 13 of 2015. They won’t need to be replaced until 2020-21 and will be officially past their used by date in 2025.
If your tyres have a three digit code at the end of their NIT, but there is no triangular indentation next to it, then your tyres come from the 1980s. Frankly, it’s a miracle they haven’t exploded or split in half – replace them today.
What about the Spare?
While spare tyres are under less stress and strain in your boot, the rubber will still deteriorate. Spare tyres that are older than six years should only be used in an emergency and spares ten years or older should be replaced.
7. Uneven Tread Wear
If the tread on your tyres is wearing down unevenly, this could mean a lot of things. If the wear is severe enough you’ll need new tyres even if the rest of the tread is fine – all it takes is one or two bald patches to cause problems in wet weather or during a sudden stop. There are a few reasons why your tyres might be wearing unevenly:
If the tyres are more worn on the outer or inner edge, the problem is probably misaligned wheels. If your wheels are angled in at the front, there will be more wear on the outer edges; if they point outwards there will be more wear on the inner edge.
Tyres that show a lot of wear straight down the centre are a sign that you’ve been overinflating your tyre.
If your tyres are worn at the edges, but not in the centre, you have been under inflating them. Get out of this habit right now – underinflated tyres don’t absorb bumps properly. They also result in more friction with the road, increasing the heat in your tyres and the chance of a blowout.
8. Tyre Landscapes
If your tyres have a ‘hill and valley’ pattern of wear – known as ‘cupping’ – they may need to be replaced. Your suspension will also need a check-up. Worn or damaged suspension can cause tyres to bounce as you’re driving, coming down harder on some parts of the tyre than others.
9. Feathering and Heel Toe-ing
Sometimes an incorrect toe setting on your car’s wheels can cause your tyres to spin in odd ways, creating an effect called ‘feathering’. This can also be caused by suspension problems.
Feathering is when your tread blocks end up shaped like ramps running sideways across your tyres. You’ll need to organise an alignment, suspension and have your tyres checked. If the wear is significant enough, you will also need new tyres.
Heel Toe Tyres
Heel-toe wear in tyres looks very similar to feathering, but it runs front to back along the tyres, not across them. If you find this wear profile on your tyres, get your car checked out – it could be the result of insufficient wheel rotations, misaligned wheels, damaged or worn suspension bushings, ball joints, or wheel bearings.
10. Dry Rot Is as Bad as It Sounds
Pervasive dry rot is a sign your tyres are no longer useable. If you’ve been checking for sidewall cracks and bulges, your tyres shouldn’t ever get to this stage, but if you’ve been negligent in examining your tyres, check them right now. If you find the following symptoms, drive very carefully and slowly to your nearest tyre service centre and get your tyres replaced.
Do you have pervasive cracks in both the sidewall and the tread?
Has the rubber turned from black to a dull grey?
Can you see fabric or metal through the cracks in your tyres?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably have dry rot. Your tyres are in a state of advanced decay. The rubber has lost most of its structural integrity and your tyres have become brittle and weak. Your tyres are now likely to fall apart, burst, or tear away from their steel belt any day now.
Contact AME Automotive mechanics in Canning Vale, Perth to get your car tyres checked if you’re experiencing any of these problems or before a long drive.
One of the worst things that can happen to any driver is for his or her car to break down, or threaten to break down through some unexpected signal or noise, while on the road. An article by Brian Turner in Driving.ca advises drivers to first get away from traffic if this is possible. If not, Turner says it is best to stay in the car if the traffic is light, or get out and stay along the side of the car if the traffic is heavy, with all the warning lights turned on.
The next thing you may try doing to avoid expensive towing services is to troubleshoot and try to get your car going again, at least until you reach the nearest garage and have Perth mechanics do proper repairs. Some of the most common roadside problems drivers encounter include failed batteries, flat tires, and electrical failures.
You may try charging a sputtering battery using a boost; if you don’t have one of your own, perhaps you can borrow from a nearby motorist. This is usually sufficient to breathe a short life into your battery until you can get it to a mechanic for a recharge or a replacement.
Every driver knows what to do with a flat tire, of course, and it will help to always have a spare and a jack handy. Electrical problems often come as a failure of the alternator or starter, and Turner has this to say about them:
The first symptom of failure is usually the battery warning symbol lighting up on the instrument panel. When this happens, if your vehicle is still running, turn off all unnecessary electrical accessories and head to the nearest repair centre, highway exit, or road-side stop.
Electrical problems, unfortunately, are harder to fix than other types of vehicle trouble, and would need to be serviced by reliable Perth auto electricians. This is especially true with the latest car models which have more complex electrical systems than older models. The most capable auto electricians may be found only in reputable auto service shops like AME Automotive.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to looking after your car. You need to check and maintain the levels of your oil, water and coolant and have it serviced regularly to ensure that it runs smoothly and doesn’t break down at an unexpected and unfortunate time. One aspect of your car that is very important is the tyres. Caring for them is a good way to avoid costly tyre repair services. Let’s check out a few basic tyre car tips.
When Should You Check Them?
You should be checking your tyres air pressure at least once a month – although once a fortnight is probably better. You don’t need to be an expert mechanic to do this. Just drive down to your local service station and make use of their free air machine.
Another tip is to check your tyres before a long road trip. There would be nothing worse than getting all packed and ready for a holiday away and having to stop and change a tyre halfway there.
How Long Will Your Tyres Last?
There’s no hard and fast rule about this. It is dependent upon a few different factors: the design of the tyre (Kumho is one good brand), exactly how you drive, the climate you’re in, the condition of the road and how well you care for them. Although, as a rule of thumb you should be replacing your tyres every 5 years.
The best way to care for your tyres is to check and regulate their air pressure – the optimum amount is different for each type of tyre and car. It is worth reading your vehicle’s manual or asking a tyre specialist in Perth about this. Keep an eye on the tread wear and tear, and try to rotate your tyres as well. This will make sure that they last a good long time. Always follow your vehicle manufacturer’s suggestions and advice.
The Risks of Underinflated Tyres
Under-inflation poses a significant risk of tyre failure. Low pressure means that too much of the tyre touches the road – which causes a great deal of friction. This friction leads to overheating, which causes premature wear, tread separation and potential blowouts.
So, When Should You Deflate You Tyres?
Deflating your tyres may be appropriate for certain off-road activities, such as driving through a sandy terrain. Reducing your tyre pressure by around 25% can increase your surface area, helping them to get a better grip.
Before you make any decisions about this, it’s best to talk to an expert. The type of tyres and the vehicle that you use will also play a role in safe off-road driving.
Driving in the wet weather can be risky business and one risk during the wet weather is aquaplaning. This is when wheels make contact with a body of water and lose traction, causing the vehicle to spin out of control and potentially cause an accident.
Today we’re going to look at several things that you can do to stay safe on the road while it’s wet.
Check Your Tyres
One of the most dangerous times to have worn, bald, or otherwise unsafe tyres is during wet weather. Your tyres provide your car with much-needed traction – and a wet and slippery road can be really difficult to grip. It’s worth ensuring that your tyres are in good condition and have the correct pressure – you can measure this yourself. All tyres have a little notch that shows the level of wear and tear. You can also check the pressure at your local service station. Alternatively, you could visit your local mechanic and they can help you out.
Get a Wheel Alignment
Correctly aligned wheels will ensure that your car is in the best shape it can be for wet weather driving. Having a professional wheel alignment performed is a good idea to help you stay safe. It can help to prevent aquaplaning and other weather-related road accidents.
Take it Easy
One very simple thing that you can do on wet and slippery roads is to take it easy. Try driving 10 km/h or so under the limit – especially if the rain is very heavy or visibility is limited by rain, fog or other weather.
Check Your Wipers
Worn or cracked windscreen wipers don’t work as well as they would if they were brand new. If they’re not working correctly you may struggle to see during a downpour. Make sure they’re in good shape before driving in the wet.
In Case of Aquaplaning
If you do aquaplane on a wet road, make sure to stay calm. If you panic you are more likely to lose control of your vehicle. If cruise control is on, switch it off by using the switch, not the brakes! However, you should not use cruise control in the wet anyway.
During an aquaplane, you have no control over your car. Don’t slam the brakes, as you will likely skid and lose control. Let your vehicle find its own path while gently easing your foot off the acceleration pedal. Then gently push the steering wheel where you want to go, and if you need to brake do so very gently in a light, delicate pumping fashion. If your car is equipped with ABS, you can brake normally.
Please stay safe on the road, and have your car serviced regularly. This not only reduces everyday risks, it could help you in harsh weather conditions, and prevent incidents such as aquaplaning.