How to Maintain Your Car for Travelling New Zealand©
How to Maintain Your Car for Travelling New Zealand

How to Maintain Your Car or Campervan in New Zealand + When to Service

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Article Single Pages©
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Keeping Your Car (or Campervan) Maintained in New Zealand + Signs of When Your Car Needs a Service

So you’ve bought a sweet ride for travelling New Zealand? That’s awesome! Although buying your own car for a long trip or working holiday in New Zealand only means you will be keeping the car for a few months to a year, you will still want to maintain it well. A well-maintained car makes it much easier to sell, more likely to pass its Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and reduces further repair costs that could be avoided. Maintaining your car doesn’t take much time or effort, which we’ll show you in this simple guide on how to maintain your car for travelling New Zealand. Plus, we’ll show you how to know when your car needs a mechanical service.

If you are about to buy a car, however, be sure to follow the steps in Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand: Step by Step so you don’t end up buying a lemon, therefore, your car will be easier to maintain.

Early Signs That You Need to Take Your Car to a Mechanic (That Your Car Needs a Service)

One way to maintain your car is to just be aware of any unusual changes to your car is driving. Getting something checked up on by a mechanic as soon as you notice something wrong is likely to keep the repair cost as low as possible before it causes other problems to the car.

Get Your Vehicle Checked Out If…

  • The brake pedal feels spongy
  • There are vibrations going through the pedal while braking
  • The steering pulls to the side while braking
  • There is a squealing noise when you brake
  • The exhaust releases smoke or sounds unusual
  • The steering wheel shakes a lot when you drive at speed
  • Your car is unstable on gravel roads
  • Your car continues to rock once you have come to a standstill
  • And any other unusual noises.

Find out more about how you can your car yourself to see if it needs a service (to take it to a mechanic) in How to Check if Your Car is Safe For a Road Trip.

Pexels© Pexels

How to Maintain the Engine of Your Vehicle

Backpacker cars go through a lot. They rack up so many kilometres and put the engine through its paces. One essential way to maintain the engine of your vehicle is to change the oil regularly.

How Often Should You Check the Oil of Your Car?

It’s recommended to change the oil every three months or every 5,000km/3,107 miles (or more frequently if you drive in dusty conditions, which may well happen on New Zealand’s gravel roads).

If your car hasn’t been properly serviced when you first purchase it, change the oil straight away since you don’t know how long it has been since it was last changed.

Pixabay© Pixabay

How to Maintain the Battery of Your Vehicle

One of the problems backpackers run into with their car is the battery going flat. Batteries store the energy that is needed to start the engine. Every time the engine runs, the alternator starts recharging the battery for the next start.

Keep your car battery (the big boxy thing under the bonnet/hood of the car) clean and secured so it doesn’t vibrate when you drive. Also, keep the connections clean and tight at the terminals.

How Often Should You Check the Battery of Your Car?

You should check the battery of your car twice a year.

Pixabay© Pixabay

How to Maintain Your Tyres

Tyres (or tires for you Americans) often need replacing on vehicles, especially on backpacker vehicles that have seen the country several times.

How Much Tread Should You Have on Your Tyres (in New Zealand)?

Make sure that you have enough tread on your tyres. Legally, the minimum tread depth is 1.5mm so make sure your tread is no less than this make sure you check the tread on several parts of the tyre for a more accurate reading.

How Often Should You Check the Tyre Pressure?

Check the tyre pressure once a month. Tyre pressures are different for each vehicle and can even vary between the front and back wheels. You can usually find out what your tyre pressure is meant to be on the inside of the driver’s door (if not, take a look at Check your tyre pressure at any gas station which will tell you what your current tyre pressure is, and then you just need to add or release air with the pump to get the right pressure.

Other Things to Check on Your Tyres

Finally, while you’re checking your tyre pressure and tread, have a look for cracks, bubbles or sharp objects stuck in there. If there are, you will need to change the tyres.

How Often Should You Check Your Tyres?

You should check your tyres once a month.

Pexels© Pexels

How to Maintain Your Windows and Mirrors

For obvious safety reasons, you need to make sure you can see out of your windows and use your mirrors. Most gas stations in New Zealand have window-cleaning brushes by the gas pump so make use of these! Get your passengers to do a clean for you every time you stop for fuel. Clean all the windows and mirrors regularly not only so you can see while you are driving, but this stops dirt from permanently sticking on there.

How Often Should You Clean Your Car’s Windows and Mirrors?

You should clean your car’s windows and mirrors every two weeks.

Pexels© Pexels

How to Maintain Your Lights and Indicators

In order to pass a Warrant of Fitness (WOF), which is a mandatory certificate to check if your vehicle is safe for the roads, all your lights need to work.

How to Check if Your Car Lights are Working

This is an easy fix and you can check this yourself by reversing close to a wall, putting your foot on the brake pedal, and then checking if the lights light up the wall seen through your review mirror. Also, put your hazard lights on and walk around the car to see if all your indicators are working. You can check your front lights by simply turning them on and checking outside. Make sure you keep the light lenses clean too.

How to Change a Broken Light on Your Car

Changing a broken light is as simple as going to an auto parts store and it’s likely that they will even change them for you.

How Often Should You Check Your Vehicle Lights?

You should check your vehicle lights every two weeks.

Pixabay© Pixabay

How to Maintain the Body of Your Car

Rust: this is every car owner’s worst nightmare. Rust can weaken the car’s structure and potentially cause all kinds of problems by eating its way to the more important parts of your car.

Of course, before you bought your car, you should have checked for rust when you followed Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection. Plus, once you’re car starts getting rust it is going to get much harder to sell.

How to Reduce the Risk of Rust Developing on Your Vehicle

To keep rust at bay while you are in possession of the car, avoid parking on grass for a long period of time, as the moisture can cause rusting. Additionally, always wash your car after it has been exposed to salt or saltwater.

How Often Should You Check for Rust on Your Car?

If your car has had problems with rust in the past, you should check for rust once a month. Otherwise, just keep an eye out for rust during your usual checks.

How to Maintain Your Car or Campervan in New Zealand + When to Service© Unsplash

Get a Free Car Insurance Quote + Our Exclusive Discount

A great New Zealand-based car insurance for travellers is the option below from Frogs-in-nz. They offer comprehensive insurance in partnership with Star insurance and have tailored their plans to backpackers’ needs. Your options include Comprehensive policy, Third Party Fire and Theft as well as Third Party Only. As a new option, you can now also add Roadside Assistance.

New Zealand Backpacker Car Insurance Discount Code:

Get a 5% discount by using the discount code: POCKETGUIDE in the “promo code” field. You’re welcome!

More About How to Maintain Your Car or Campervan When Road Tripping in New Zealand

Now that you know how to maintain your car for travelling New Zealand, here are more tips for your road trip:

Do you need some road trip ideas? Check out the following itineraries for the best road trip routes:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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