Holy Week Driving TipsBy Botchi Santos
MANILA, Philippines–Holy Week usually sees an annual mass exodus by Metro Manila residents to the provinces. As such, brace yourself for traffic jams and long delays. Here are some tips to keep in mind to get you ready.
Preparation is key
Map out your itinerary well before you leave. Confirm your accommodations before the trip, check out the 7-day weather forecast so you can pack clothes accordingly and check all the possible alternate routes. The Internet is your friend. You can check online maps, travel blogs and websites on how to get to your destinations via a plethora of routes. While the romance of driving does include going down unknown routes and roads, it is better especially during the holiday season to familiarize yourself with the routes you might have to take to avoid traffic.
While we try to be as best prepared as we can, it’s good to have emergency roadside assistance available at your fingertips. The numbers you should keep in mind or stored in your cell phones include the following:
• The Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP)
- (02)723-0808 (Manila Hotline)
- (02) 299-8339 and 299-8351 (AAP NLEX Hotline)
- +63923-280-8566 (AAP SCTEX Hotline)
- (02) 666-1988 and 776-1014 (AAP Skyway Hotline)
- (082) 299-4961 and 286-2191 (Metro Davao)
- (032) 232-6406 and 261-5050 (Metro Cebu)
• DM Quereza Towing Services – (02) 531-4612 / 531-5017
• Napoleon Towing – +63920-291-5535
• Viray Towing Services – (02) 532-4444 / 531-3468 / 531-3459 / +63917-852-1311
• Wheelers Club International Philippines – (02) 374-6001 to 02
Additionally, research the area you’re going to be passing through and find out the hospitals, police outposts and other notable institutions and find their contact details even before you leave.
Companies such as Petron, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet and Toyota are also holding free roadside assistance on various popular routes so find the ones nearest you, or the ones you will be passing through so you can use them as land marks or check-in points while travelling so you can rest in these areas, have your car checked or grab a bite.
Make sure your car is ready
Prior to leaving, these are some helpful tips for you to do with your car:
2 to 5 days before leaving:
• Book your car for servicing and a thorough check-up. The service shop should change all old parts, tighten all screws, bolts, nuts and fasteners, check, top-up or replace the condition of fluids (engine oil, gear oil / ATF, clutch fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid and coolant) prior to embarking on a long trip that can be torturous for your vehicle. Shops such as DTM Motorsports in Fort Global City (02-856-1882 / 0917-5254745) in Taguig have a special device that checks the hygroscopic condition (how much moisture hydraulic fluid such as power steering fluid, clutch fluid and brake fluid has absorbed). Motul Philippines has a 4-5-6 promo on oil changes so take advantage of that as well. (Motul Philippines – (02) 726-0399 / 726-3066)
• Check the condition of your tires. Air them up, check for punctures, rotate them or replace them and sneak in a 4-wheel alignment even if the tires are not new; the better aligned the tires are, the safer they will be to drive and be more fuel efficient as well. Likewise tire pressure; if the tires are properly inflated, you can increase fuel efficiency by as much as 20 percent on a long drive, and the tires will last much longer. You can have the service shop do this, or bring it to shops like Goodyear Servitek to make a comprehensive evaluation of your tire’s and suspension’s condition.
• Get all your LTO paperwork for your car, as well as your driver’s license renewed. The government has been implementing No Plates / Papers – No Travel policy. Your vehicle can get impounded, your vacation ruined.
The day / night prior to leaving
• Gas up your car when the weather is cooler, check all the fluid levels if they are filled to the maximum, air up your tires. All these things can be done at a gas station the evening before you leave. As a safety and fuel efficiency-tip, you can air up your tires 3-5 psi higher than usual when going on a long road trip, your car filled to the brim with passengers and luggage. The harder tires might be harsher, but they also help lessen tire blow-out up to a point, in case you run over debris or over a pothole and will better support the full weight of your vehicle with everyone (including cargo) included. Nitrogen filled tires cost about P50 per tire and will also help prevent overheating and increased tire pressure at higher speeds on the highway. Safe insurance, and you only usually need to check nitrogen inflated tires once a month at the very most.
• Charge your mobile phones fully. Check your route on your map, or program your route and destination on your GPS / SATNAV device.
• Ensure your hand tools are complete. Most Japanese cars usually require a 10mm to 16mm wrench, a working jack and tire wrench, plus a Phillips-head and flat-head screwdriver. If your car is European or American, the wrench sizes vary much more and are usually expressed in inches so check these out online for your car. Pack in a set of Allen wrenches and torxhead wrenches as well as some of the more premium models utilize these special fasteners. Additionally, bring along some towing cables and jumper cables, conveniently available from specialty stores such as Blade, ACE Hardware, Handyman and True Value in case you need to rescue yourself, or a friend in need when on a convoy.
• Pack workman’s gloves, an extra shirt, an old towel to lie on if needed, wash rags and emergency roadside assistance warning triangles plus a flashlight with an extra set of batteries plus a reflective vest similar to those used by highway construction personnel. This increases your own safety and visibility to other motorists, even during the day and especially at night. Mobile phone chargers are a must as well.
• Additionally, bring a liter of engine oil, a 5-liter bottle of distilled water (which you can use for drinking or to top-up your radiator), a 1-liter bottle of coolant, and a 500ml bottle of brake / clutch fluid. These are for topping up. If you need more, call for emergency assistance and don’t risk driving your car as damage might become greater. A can of multi-purpose spray lubricant such as WD-40 will prove invaluable when trying to remove rusted nuts and bolts so pack a decently sized can as well.
On the day of the trip itself
• Leave early but expect your travel time to double. This is a reality taught by countless road trips. Traffic and weather conditions always try to ruin our own personal schedules, so expect that you’ll get to your destination late, and the trip will be far more pleasant.
• Stop every hour or so for a toilet break, to stretch your legs, rehydrate yourself and grab a bite. Don’t eat too much, and don’t drink too much as you might find yourself constantly stopping. But the scheduled pit-stops keep you focused on staying on track, prevent you from becoming restless and also give you a chance to powernap when you’re drowsy. It also gives you a chance to rendezvous with your companions when driving in convoy.
• Wear driving sun-glasses that have anti-glare properties. If your eyes are tired, you’ll be squinting more, which increases stress and makes concentration more difficult. You should be at ease while driving, which helps preserve your energy, allowing you to focus far longer while driving.
• Pack in some good driving music to help you relax, set the mood and to keep you awake as well. Popular tracks can include U2’s Where the Streets have No Name to Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, Jamiroquai’s Cosmic Girl to something more serene to Lighthouse Family’s Ocean Drive, especially when hitting the beaches. Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is also a feel-good song if travelling with your wife / girlfriend. Just don’t pack any heavy metal music in the car like Metallica or Rage Against the Machine as studies abroad have shown that there is a link between road rage and aggressive driving with playing heavy sounding, aggressive music while driving.
• Drive at the maximum speed limit as much as possible. Driving as quickly as possible helps speed up overall traffic on the road, decreases your travel time and is the best balance for fuel economy / efficiency versus travel time. Remember, slow-moving cars agitate drivers following you. Over-speeding on the other hand increase risk to accidents and increases fuel consumption.
• In the event of an accident or vehicular breakdown, move to the emergency shoulder or the side of the road. Turn your hazard / emergency lights on, get your passengers to a safe, high ground away from the car with their valuables then assess the vehicle’s condition. Don’t forget to set up your reflective early warning devices and don your reflective warning vest if you packed one. Before working on your car, give it 15 to 20 minutes to cool down so it’s easier and more convenient to work on.
If the damage is beyond your capabilities, call for assistance immediately, then secure your vehicle, lock it up, remove your valuables, then camp out from a safe distance where you can see your car and the traffic from a vantage point. This is for your safety from bandits, robbers and incoming traffic who might fail to see you and collide with your parked vehicle or yourself if you’re standing nearby your stalled vehicle.
We can’t predict everything that can happen when driving, but we can minimize the risk of vehicular breakdowns, check-points and risk to bodily harm when we do find our vehicles failing on us by following these simple tips.
Have a safe trip this Holy Week!