Summer’s always a great time for Kiwis to get out on the open road and enjoy our glorious beaches, mountains and picturesque places just off the beaten track.
But to ensure that you get to your destination safe and sound and that your vehicle is equal to the conditions which New Zealand will throw at it, it’s important to be prepared - especially if you have imported your car from a country and haven't yet checked it against Kiwi conditions.
New Zealand might not be the hottest country in the world but if you’re driving from inland to the coast during summer, you and your vehicle can experience temperatures ranging from the low teens to the mid to high 30s – and, of course, because of New Zealand’s famed “four seasons in one day”, you’ll need to be prepared for anything from clear blue skies to driving rain.
1. Check your battery: All that air con use is going to put a stress on your battery life so it’s important to keep an eye on it.Warm weather can cause the liquid in your vehicle’s battery to evaporate which can then prevent it functioning properly. Some battery types can be topped up with distilled water – so check yours frequently during the summer to ensure the levels don’t dip. Dusty roads, sandy beaches or just dirt from long road trips can also build up around the battery’s terminals and drain power – so keep them clean.
2. Engine cooling system: Over summer, your vehicle’s cooling system is going to work harder than normal so check that it’s topped up with 50/50 coolant and distilled water. It’s also worth checking the hoses and belts for corrosion, cracks and leaks so you’re not stranded miles from home – and to clean down the radiator grill so that all those cicadas and flying insects don’t stop it working at its full potential.
3. Tyre pressures: Because the temperatures are higher in the summer, your vehicle’s tyre pressures will also be higher so when you’re checking air pressure (you should do this every month during summer) make sure you do it when the tyres are cold. And if you’re taking extra passengers and luggage, make sure the pressures are up a little.
4. Tyre wear: It’s easy to clock up some serious kilometres over summer so to make sure your tyres wear evenly, you should rotate them every 9500km.
5. Keep it neat and clean: You’re much more likely to drive off the sealed surfaces during summer, but all that dust, sand and dirt is not good for your vehicle’s paint job. As well as a weekly wash to keep the corrosive elements at bay, it’s worthwhile waxing or protecting the body every month.
6. Driving efficiently: All that extra luggage for camping trips, days out at the beach or other expeditions can put a serious dent in your fuel consumption – as can having the air con on all trip. Don’t drive around with unnecessary weight; load roof racks as low as possible or use roof boxes; don’t have the air con on while windows are open (open windows also create drag); and fit window and windscreen shades to prevent the car from heating up too much while it’s parked.
7. Don’t drive tired: Long journeys – especially on New Zealand’s winding coastal and mountain roads in the warm weather – can really sap a driver’s energy so it’s important to take breaks of at least 20 minutes, ideally every two hours.
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