Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip: Your DIY Car Service Guide

Nothing says great adventure fun like a big road trip! Before you see the sights and feel the adventure you need to make sure your car is in good shape to get you there.

You don’t need to be a mechanic to catch some of the basic issues that can turn a great road trip into an expensive disaster. Even the most basic of DIY car service can catch some common problems before they become major issues.

With the NZTA providing guidelines on car safety, it’s easy to keep track of your car’s health. Let’s run down with a simple DIY car service checklist to make sure you’re ready for your next adventure! 

A Basic DIY Car Service Checklist

A checklist for your big trip is a great way to keep organized. Checking off all the items to pack and the details to manage gives you peace of mind so you can focus on having fun. You should do the same thing for your car before a big trip.

While there are many wonderful mechanics who can help check over your car, there are a lot of little details you can manage yourself! Use the below checklist before you hit the road! 

1. Tyre Pressure and Condition

Tyres are the foundation for your car. If they are low, have damage, or have worn treads, you can be in for some major problems on the road. A quick walk around the car can catch some of the obvious problems, but before a big trip, kneel down and take a closer look. 

A tyre pressure gauge is a handy tool to have around. If you need one, most hardware stores have them. If there is no damage to the tire, you can fix low pressure with an industrial air pump found at most gas stations.

When checking your treads, make sure that they are greater than 1.5mm in depth. Don’t forget about the spare tyre in the boot!

2. Lights and Signals

Whether it is a headlight or a turn signal, a light out makes it harder to see and be seen. This can put you and other drivers at greater risk of an accident. 

Grab a friend, partner or kid and check your headlights, both high beams and low beams, brake lights, and turn signals. If all of them show when you activate them, you are in the clear. If not, look first into replacing the bulbs. 

3. Fluid Levels

There are a number of fluids you need to top up and double-check before a long trip. The obvious one, petrol, is easy. The others will require a check under the bonnet. 

If you haven’t had an oil change in a while, now may be a good time to do so. You can even plan the timing on your trip after regular maintenance to ensure you have brand new oil in the car.

Don’t forget to check other levels, like brake fluid and coolant. Transmission fluid, power steering, and windshield fluid all should be fine outside of a major issue or neglect. 

4. WoF and Registration

Make sure your Warrant of Fitness and Vehicle Registration are current. You can check these by looking in the top left (WoF) and bottom right (Rego) corners of your windscreen.

If your WoF is expired, you can jump online at www.myautoshop.co.nz and book a time with a great mechanic. Your registration is even easier, simply pay the right amount on the NZTA website.

Keeping Your Roadtrip Fun and Safe

A basic DIY car service before a trip can go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe on the road. All of these items are easy to check on your own but don’t forget about the regular checks and tune-ups at your local mechanics. 

When your car hits major bumps that you can’t fix, you need to get someone with experience and expertise. We here at My Auto Shop pride ourselves on our network of quality garages and mechanics. Contact us today for more information! 

Should I drive differently in winter? 6 tips to get ready for winter driving

Winter is here, unfortunately bringing with it darker days, slippery roads and icy windscreens. Kiwi roads are often challenging at the best of times, but these factors just make it even tougher. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a new Audi or an old Honda, anyone can be caught out. Here are 6 tips to consider when tackling the winter in your car:

1. Check your car’s safe to be on the road

First and foremost, you need to check your equipment. A few basic checks on your car will go along way to keeping you safe:

  • Tyres – If they are looking bald, either all over, or on either edge, it could be time for some new ones.
  • Wiper Blades – Vision is crucial. If they don’t seem to wipe away all the water, grab a pair of new ones. They’re cheap and can be picked up from your local Repco or Super Cheap Auto, then replaced yourself.
  • Fog Lights – If your car has them, learn where to turn them on (I can never seem to find mine when I need them!)
  • Heater – Wouldn’t want anyone to catch a cold!

2. Check the road conditions/open status 

For a longer trip, you can jump onto NZTA’s website to see if there are any issues with the roads you are planning to travel on. This could be landslides, or snow and ice, that result in a closure.

3. Keep your lights on

With over 70% of cars produced being greyscale (white, black, grey, silver) it can be pretty hard to see oncoming or passing traffic against the road and rain. Keeping your lights on, during the day and night, can ensure that you’re seen. Just remember  to turn them off at the end of your trip!

4. Give a longer following distance

It’s not rocket science that it’s harder to stop in the wet. Make sure you allow for that incase you suddenly need to hit the brakes. Common rule of thumb is about 4 seconds between vehicles in the wet. Count it out next time you’re behind the wheel.

5. Be gentle with your movements

Rapid movements can quickly make a car lose traction. When taking off from a stand still, heading round corners and braking, be sure to use smooth pressure on both the pedals and the steering wheel.

6. Look out for snow and ice

If you don’t have a 4wd, it’s probably not worth venturing out in the snow. However, if you do need to, keep your eyes peeled for black ice. It has a shiny reflection that looks like the road is wet. Apply the same smooth movements. 

If you do all this, you should be able to get to the mountain, into the city or wherever else you’re heading safe and sound!

Car Subscriptions have become a hot topic. Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Until recently I hadn’t considered the true cost of owning, maintaining, insuring and fuelling my car, and whether or not it represented good value for the amount of use I got from it. Then I heard about monthly vehicle subscriptions. So, what are they and will they save me any money? And in a COVID world, where people are nervous about buying large, new assets like cars, are they the solution?

The traditional narrative on car ownership has changed massively over the last decade. For a long time now owning a car in cities like London, Singapore or New York simply didn’t make sense given the reliability and affordability of public transport. With the rise of ride-sharing services (think Uber) this is now true of many other places, and large numbers of city dwellers are forgoing a vehicle entirely.

But are these trends the same in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch?

Probably not, but monthly vehicle subscriptions may still have a place in NZ and quite a few reputable companies think so too. Recently, Turners announced they had purchased a stake in the Aussie company Carly and plan to launch in NZ later this year; Mercury Energy partnered with Snap Rentals in 2018 to launch Drive, a subscription model exclusively for electric vehicles;Finance company Simplify now offer subs on vehicles ranging from three to twelve months and Cityhop provide even more flexibility, allowing subs for as little as four weeks at a time.

And it’s not just second-hand cars either. In the US, vehicle manufacturers like Porsche, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Nissan and Volvo are all offering their own version of monthly subscriptions. It’s coming people!

So how do monthly vehicle subscriptions typically work?    

In most cases you pick a car, sign up for a given period (say 3 or 6 months), and get full access to it as if you owned it outright. Payment is taken weekly after the first month and includes insurance, registration, roadside assistance and routine maintenance. In some cases, you can switch the car you’ve chosen, either throughout the sub or at the end of each term.

Do the financials stack up?

Obviously this depends on your usage, however it’s clear that you definitely pay a premium for the convenience.

Every year the AA breakdown the cost of owning a car for each of the main car categories (small/ compact/ medium, petrol/ diesel/ hybrid etc). This analysis allows for current fuel and oil prices, the latest prices for maintenance and tyres, but most importantly calculates the cost of depreciation (the devil when it comes to car ownership). It helps provide a comprehensive comparison against the cost of a monthly vehicle subscription.

We’ve focussed on the medium-sized, petrol car category, however, the results are reflective of each category. Over a 12-month period, taking a loan to buy a car worked out between 17% and 39% cheaper than an equivalent monthly subscription. This factored in finance, WOF, insurance, repairs and maintenance, the lot. Check out the table below to see the specifics. And once the car is fully paid off, you own it. It’s an asset, with some retained value that you can sell.   

How is this different from leasing a car?

The main difference here is the term. Most leases are set up over a longer period of time, often around 3 years. They are also more common on new cars, where vehicles have higher initial values, and where a longer-term is required to depreciate over.

Is a vehicle subscription accessible to everyone?

Yes, as long as you are over 21 years old and have a full driver’s licence. Depending on the service, you’ll likely need to prove you are good for the money as well, which might mean bank statements, utility bills and/or credit scores.

Are there catches?

Unfortunately so. Some providers charge an upfront non-refundable subscription fee. Then there is a long list of fees and charges typical for finance companies including things like cancellation fees, transaction fees, mortgage fees, late fees, cleaning fees etc. Note, these are different for each provider.

If you’re a big driver you’ll want to know about the maximum km per month, which apply to some providers. Insurance excesses look pretty steep at around $1,000, and you’ll need a little money to get started, around 50% of the first month’s sub, with the difference being charged 15 days later.

In our opinion, this is one of those times it’s worth reading the terms and conditions thoroughly.

The reality is that this isn’t going to appeal to everyone. If you have the money or don’t mind taking a loan to buy a car, you’ll end up saving over the medium term by buying a car. The range of vehicles on offer is also pretty limited, and it is unlikely you’ll be able to find your dream car on subscription. Kiwi’s take pride in owning their first (and subsequent) cars and that makes it somewhat of an irrational purchase for many. We have one of the highest car ownership per capita in the world (0.8 per capita in 2018), and for a lot of people, their car is their biggest asset. These cultural changes will take time to imbed.

This doesn’t preclude the idea from taking off in the future. New providers appear to be popping up all over the place, and shortly there will be enough of them to create a competitive market that should drive down pricing and make the maths stack up for customers.

With car manufacturers trialling the model in the US it’s probable the appeal of new cars on monthly subscription could gather further interest in the idea. Especially if it’s a new Porsche.

Until then, I’ll keep saving up to buy my next car.