8 car checks before your outback road trip

Four wheel drive at Coober Pety
  • Make sure your car’s servicing and roadside assistance is up-to-date
  • Take drinking water, tools and basic spare parts with you
  • Tell family or friends where you’re going and when you’ll arrive
  • If you break down somewhere remote, always stay with your car

Before taking on a road trip into Australia’s vast Outback, these car checks are a must. If you’re not confident doing it yourself and you're an NRMA Member, you can book in a complimentary vehicle health check - until 31 January 2021. Alternatively, it may also be a good idea to book in a service with your local mechanic or dealership to make sure your car is ready for any long road trip. 

  1. Check that the engine’s fan or serpentine belts are tight and in good condition – it is wise to carry spare belts. You must have the engine turned off to complete this check. Never put your hands near belts when the engine is running
  2. Check the radiator coolant level, but never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. Look at the level marks on the overflow bottle and top up if needed
  3. Check the radiator hoses, including the heater hoses – make sure they have not perished and check each hose clamp for leaks
  4. Check whether the engine and gearbox oil and filters are due to be changed, and make sure all oil levels are up to the full mark
  5. Replace air and fuel filters as required, according to the car’s service schedule
  6. Have, at a minimum, a properly inflated spare tyre and wheel and a jack and wheel brace (the tool for undoing wheel nuts)
  7. A tyre pump, pressure gauge and a basic tool kit for repairs
  8. For off road driving, take recovery gear such as snatch straps in case you become bogged, extra (full-sized) spare wheels and tyres, and reserves of drinking water and fuel

Mobile and satellite phones are a must for people undertaking a road trip to extreme remote areas. Make sure you have a list of contacts that can be reached if you get into any difficulties. A satellite navigation unit and maps also come in handy if you plan to get off the main tracks.

If you do have network reception and travelling across NSW and ACT, you can also use the my nrma app to book roadside assistance and track the patrol. 

Before you drive off, you should tell relatives or friends your intended route and when you expect to arrive at each point along the way. You should inform police in remote areas if you are intending to travel to isolated parts of the country.

If at any time your vehicle breaks down, you are unable to repair it and you cannot contact anyone, never leave the vehicle – it will give you some protection from the elements, and a car or 4WD is much easier to spot in a search than a person.

Membership of a motoring organisation such as the NRMA or your state’s equivalent will give you a breakdown service that extends many hundreds of kilometres out of town as well as interstate too. It's a good idea to join before heading off to ensure you are covered should you need help and also ensuring your coverage is sufficient for your travels too. 

Basic spare parts and service items are available at the 85 Repco stores in NSW and the ACT, where NRMA Members receive a discount.

These tips are intended as a guide only and other checks and precautions may apply depending on the type of vehicle and the scope of your trip.

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