Summer is here and ’tis the season for long-distance drives. So what’s the first item for the road trip planner? How about getting your vehicle into tip-top shape? After all, vacation is all about relaxation. Preventative maintenance is critical to staying safe and stress-free. As you plan your trip, get as much information as possible about your route. If you’re driving to your destination for the first time, research road conditions and climate in those areas. Find out if you’ll hit rough terrain, switch-back roads or inclement weather. Succeed in road trip planning to maximize your fun.
Road Trip Car Care Tips
- Check your tires. Check the tire pressure to ensure it’s balanced. Tire pressure that’s too low can cause your car to guzzle gas, whereas too much pressure can wear out your tires faster. Check the tread, especially if driving to a location where there might be rain. Balding tires against wet roads can cause hydroplaning and difficulty braking. If your tires are in good condition, ask your mechanic to rotate them and check the alignment to protect the tread. Also, be sure your spare tire is ready for use.
- Check your belts. The belts in your engine run the cooling system, alternator and other accessories. There may be one serpentine belt that operates all devices. Broken belts are a tremendous risk for long-distance driving and can lead to lengthy and costly repair time. Look for any cracks and severe wear and tear. Check the tension of each belt as well as any slickness, which can cause the belt to slip.
- Check your fluids. These fluids include oil, transmission, power-steering, brake, windshield washer and coolant, the latter is important to our A/C systems. Replenish these fluids to prevent engine breakdowns and for safety.
- Get a tune-up. Replace your spark plugs to ensure maximum efficiency of your ignition system, particularly if you drive an older car. Worn out spark plugs can cause misfires, which affect engine performance and fuel efficiency. Sign up for our low-cost tune-up class.
- Inspect your brakes. Check your brake pads for any wear and tear. Brake pad maintenance is important. If you let your pads wear down completely, they can cause your brakes to grind, creating costlier and risker problems in the future. Take our low-cost class on brake pads and inspections.
- Fix the windshield, replace the wipers. Repair any tiny cracks on your windshield so they don’t start to spread on your trip. Even if they’re so small they’re barely visible, they can create problems when you least expect it. Your insurance should cover this expense as part of preventative maintenance. Also, worn out windshield wipers can create safety issues. If your windshield gets dirty on your trip (and it most certainly will), this can dangerously affect visibility especially when driving towards the sun. In these instances, if you attempt to wash your windshield with your washer fluid and wipers, this will result in smears and a grimy windshield making impossible to see the road while driving.
- Clean your car. Regarding tip #6, it’s actually better to wash your windshields at a gas station or go for a full blown car wash. On any trip, it’s important to clear the interior of your car of hazards such as loose water bottles, cups or paper, which can blow throughout the car or roll around on the floor, causing distractions while driving.
- Get roadside assistance. Prepare for the worst but expect your best when going on a road trip. Buy a roadside assistance package in case anything goes wrong. Companies such as AAA, which offer roadside assistance, should be able to cover towing as well. Also check with your company about coverage areas so you know if they provide service within or en route to the areas you plan to visit.
Get Car Care Training
If you’re interested in do-it-yourself tips for caring for your vehicle, Auto Technical offers low-cost car care training. Taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota, our courses cover two different topics: brake pads and brake inspection and tune-ups. Take our classes to get prepared and empowered for your next road trip. Check out our low-cost car care training courses »