Driving long distances in hot weather

Properly prepare for long summer journeys before hitting the road

Reuben Van Niekerk
Road Trip
Consumer Advice

December is one of the hottest months across South Africa and it is also the time when many motorists hit the long road to holiday destinations across the country. While modern cars make travelling long distances, regardless of the weather so much easier, certain preparations should still be made. 

Have your car serviced 

If your car is due for a service, make sure that you get this done timeously and before you hit the long road. It is also a good idea to get your mechanic to thoroughly inspect the cars cooling system and test the air conditioning to ensure that both the car and its occupants remain cool no matter the weather. 

Plan your parking 

Parking a car in the sun can quickly see the interior temperature rise significantly. Never leave children or pets in the car, even if you are just quickly popping into the convenience store for a few minutes. If at all possible, park your car in the shade, if not consider putting up a sun protection windscreen shield. Also, make sure that you keep heat sensitive items out of direct sunlight at all times. 

Stay hydrated 

Even when driving with the air conditioner on, the sun through the front and side windows can bake passengers. It is important to stay hydrated and ensure that you have enough water with you in the car for the entire trip. Don’t rely on being able to buy water or drinks along the way as stores can sell out during peak times and you never know when you might experience delays on your route due accidents or general congestion. Pack a small cooler box to keep your drinks cool for the duration of your journey and keep it topped up whenever possible. Pack extra water and a drinking bowl if you are travelling with your pets. 

Inspect your tyres 

As with any road trip, it is vital to inspect your tyres for any damage and ensure that they are inflated to the correct pressure for the load you are carrying. If the tyres of your car have previously been plugged to fix a puncture it is idea to get these repairs inspected before departing as high temperatures have been known to cause these plugs to become dislodged. Make sure that your spare tyre and the required tools are in place and in good condition. Make sure that you know how to use these to ensure that you are able to change a flat tyre, should it occur, as quickly as possible.  

Prioritise visibility 

Check that your window washer is in working condition and that the fluid is sufficiently topped up so that you can periodically clean your windscreen of road grime and insects. Also remember to pack your sunglasses, especially if you will be driving at sunrise or sunset. 

Fill up when possible 

Ensure that you fill up before departing and continue to do so at every opportunity. If you need to stop for a comfort break and the filling station is not too busy and has fuel, rather fill up. Very often fuel stations will run dry during peak times and you don't want to find yourself a long distance from the next refuelling point without enough fuel to get there. It is also a good idea to carry some cash as very often the credit card machines at tollgates and fuel stations are out of order, especially during periods of load shedding. 

Be prepared 

Pack an emergency kit for the trip, which should include water, non-perishable foods, sunscreen, jumper cables, a torch, warning triangles, basic tools, a first aid kit, some cash and a mobile charger or power bank.