I am planning to drive to Kuala Lumpur and perhaps to Penang for an extended weekend road trip. My car has not been on any long journeys for more than two years. What should I do to prepare for this drive?
Start with the safety aspects of your car. That means a thorough check of the tyres and brakes. Unless you have replaced these recently, it is strongly recommended that for long highway drives, both should be renewed if you are not sure how long you have had them or if they are more than 50 per cent worn. It is a small price to pay to enhance safety.
Ensure the wheels are properly balanced and aligned for a smooth drive at higher speeds. Check the spare tyre and have it inflated correctly. If your car has only a tyre repair kit, make sure the sealant is full and not expired, and that the electric pump works. You should ensure you are competent at using the jack, wheel-nut wrench and sealant kit.
Often forgotten but important nonetheless are the lights - headlights (low and high beams), brake lights and indicators (front and rear). You need to be seen by other road users - night or day and in bad weather. You also want to make sure you can see the others, so get a new set of wiper blades and top up the car's washer fluid reservoir.
Have your regular service centre check for oil or water leaks, worn coolant hoses and the condition of the battery and air filter. Any sign of leaks from the transmission, engine, power-steering or cooling system must be fixed.
Also, inspect the drive-belts of the power steering, alternator/water pump and air-conditioning compressor. Replace if there are even the slightest signs of fraying.
If you intend to have the car sent in for a routine oil-change servicing - which is a good idea before your trip - review its service record to see if the timing belt is close to its replacement interval. If so, have it changed too. On cars with timing chain, this exercise would not be necessary.
Enjoy your road trip.