Preparing Your Vehicle for a Summer Road Trip
Blue skies, warm weather, the wind in your hair. For many, a scenic road trip is the perfect summer getaway. Just load up the car and hit the open road. However, if you’re not careful, car trouble can turn your plan for rest and relaxation into a frustrating ordeal. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the steps that you can take to prepare your vehicle for that summer road trip so your well-deserved vacation doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Check Your Fluids
Oil is the life-blood of your engine and a crucial component of your vehicle’s performance. Before you embark, be sure to check your oil level. Many new vehicles have electronic oil life monitoring systems that will let you know the percentage of oil life remaining. However, if your vehicle is equipped with a dip stick, whip out the rag and take a peek for yourself. If you’re unsure of how to check your vehicle’s oil level, you can read a tutorial here. If you are at or near the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval, consider getting a fresh oil change before hitting the road.
Additionally, don’t forget about the other fluids in your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended change intervals for things such as power steering, windshield wiper, brake, and transmission fluids. Be sure to check your vehicle’s coolant reservoir as well and top it off if need be to help prevent overheating.
Monitor Your Tires
Your tires are the only part of the vehicle that touch the road, so it makes sense to treat them with the utmost care.
If you’re still sporting your winter tires, it’s time to swap them out. Traction and handling on winter tires is significantly diminished in warm weather, making evasive maneuvers more difficult and requiring a longer stopping distance.
Rubber also tends to wear off more quickly when hot. So if your tires are bald and the temperature is hot, you’re risking flats, hydroplaning, and even blowouts. Bridgestone suggest utilizing the Penny Test to check if your tires need replacing.
Also, be sure to mind your tires’ pounds per square inch (PSI) levels. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving on over or under-inflated tires dramatically increases the likelihood of being involved in an accident. Be sure to refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for the proper inflation levels for your tires.
Examine Your Brakes
The ability to stop your vehicle is going to come in pretty handy on your next road trip. So before you set off, make sure that your brakes are in tip-top shape. Check to see if your vehicle pulls to once side when you apply brake pressure. Listen for any squeaking or grinding metal noises as you depress the pedal. If either of these situations apply, you’ll want to bring the vehicle into a mechanic to have it sorted out prior to your trip. A quick change of the brake pads is a relatively inexpensive fix, but if put off, can result in a more costly repair.
Inspect the Battery
If your vehicle is more than a few years old, it may be a good idea to take a look at the battery. Check the terminals for any signs of corrosion, make sure the positive and negative leads are secured tightly, and consider having the battery tested prior to departure. Many auto parts stores will test your battery for you, oftentimes for free.
Put Together an Emergency Kit
As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how many precautions you may take, some emergencies simply cannot be avoided. In those situations, it’s important to be prepared. Before you set off on your trip, it’s a good idea to stock your vehicle with some emergency supplies. Some common emergency kit items include: jumper cables, reflective hazard signs, basic tools, flashlights, extra batteries, a blanket, a spare tire or inflation kit, a vehicle jack, electronic chargers, a first aid kit, water, and food. Hopefully you never have a reason to use any of those items, but if you do, you’ll be glad that you were prepared.