9 signs your car might need a service before the December road trip

File picture: The Motor Ombudsman UK / Newspress.

File picture: The Motor Ombudsman UK / Newspress.

Published Nov 20, 2023


With the festive season in sight and fuel price cuts on the cards, many South Africans will be planning road trips to get to their December destinations.

However, that much anticipated breakaway can easily be ruined by an accident, breakdown or run-in with the law if your vehicle is in a compromised condition.

With that in mind, November is a good month to start making sure that all is in order with your car, including its tyre condition, and it’s also a very good idea to check that all necessary licences - including those for trailers and caravans - are up to date.

“The cost of servicing a vehicle means some drivers choose to rather take chances and to drive long distances with a car that has not been properly maintained or looked at by professionals,” the Automobile Association says.

“To save money, there is no harm in comparing costs across various service providers for an affordable and reliable service. But, it is essential that a vehicle is inspected and serviced, especially before a long trip,” the association added.

Here are nine things to look out for, according to the AA.

Signs that your car may need a service

1. The manual recommends it

The vehicle manual will tell you at which intervals you should service your car. Keeping a full-service history will also help your car retain its value when it is time to sell or trade it in.

2. Warning lights

Those warning lights on your dashboard are the most obvious physical sign that your car needs a service. Ignoring these can have serious consequences so be sure to book a service as soon as you can.

3. Braking problems

The braking systems in modern cars are ultra-responsive, so if you notice any issues like knocking or other noises, or oversensitivity, or resistance, you have a problem. Brake pads and fluid do not last forever.

4. Squeaks and squeals

Do you hear a high-pitched whine when you turn the ignition key? Squeaks on the move can mean your power steering fluid needs replacing or that your tyres may have become unbalanced.

5. Engine cutting out

If your car stalls when you pull away from traffic lights, even though you are in the right gear, then its time to head to the nearest repair centre. It might not be as big a problem as you think however as the most common causes of this are clogged fuel filters and faulty spark plugs, which are easy issues to put right.

6. Vibrations

Does your car shudder and vibrate even if you are on a smooth road surface? This could be something as simple as a loose piece of panelling or as serious as unbalanced tyres or a loose bearing. Keep in mind that tyres are vital pieces of safety equipment on vehicles and any issues with them should never be ignored but instead attended to immediately.

7. Ignition problems

If your car coughs each time it starts, your battery could be on the way out. Head to your nearest battery centre or call the AA’s come-to-your-home service.

8. Higher fuel consumption

While it’s normal for engines to lose some of their efficiency over time, the depreciation is usually minor over the lifespan of the vehicle. If you notice that your car is doing significantly fewer litres per kilometre, it could be a sign that your car needs servicing.

9. Gears grinding

If you hear your gears are griding, this is a sure sign that you need to get your car serviced as soon as possible, the AA says.

The AA recently launched an insurance product designed to protect vehicle owners from unexpected costs. The association also offers an app-based mobile armed response panic signal feature that could come in handy when travelling.