Summer is here, school is out, and families are hitting the road. When you hit the open road, it is an awesome feeling. Unfortunately, that road trip fun can come to a grinding halt if you experience car problems.
You may not always be able to avoid issues on the road, but there are precautions you can take to lower your chances of encountering problems.
Make Sure Your Car is Road Ready
- Tires- The most common problem experienced on road trips is some form of tire failure. You may not be able to avoid a road hazard that leads to a flat, but you can help avoid maintenance-related issues. Check your tire tread and pressure before any long road trip. If you notice any issues with the tire (low tread, bald spots) have your tire inspected and/or replaced by a professional. Check your pressure regularly on your trip as well. Low tire pressure wastes fuel and causes the tire to run hotter from extra friction. Refer to your owner’s manual, driver’s side door, the fuel filler door, or in the glove compartment for the proper psi. Over inflating along with extreme speeds and heat could lead to a blowout.
- Brakes- Make sure your brake pads aren’t worn or in need of replacement. Also check your brake fluid. Over a period of time, water and other contaminants can make their way into the brake fluid. If this is the case, the system needs to be flushed and cleaned then filled with fresh fluid.
- Oil- Oil is your car’s lifeblood. The oil keeps your engine parts running smoothly. The oil should look brownish yellow and clean on the stick. If it has been a while, have it changed before hitting the road. Check it regularly on your trip and top off as needed.
- Cooling System- After tires, problems with the cooling system are the most common issues out on the road. You should also have your cooling system inspected for leaks and weakened hoses. Replace parts that may be worn such as the water pump or radiator cap. You may need to have a coolant exchange or flush before you hit the road. Though cooling system problems are common, they are fairly easy and inexpensive to prevent with regular maintenance.
- Battery- If the battery in your car is more than two years old you should make sure that the terminals are corrosion-free and that the leads are tight. Maybe have it tested to see if it is fully/properly charged.
- Suspension System- The suspension system should be looked over for any worn or damaged parts. Replacing your shocks and struts if needed will make for a much smoother and safer ride.
- Windshield Wipers and Lights- Visibility is important on a road trip. Make sure that your wipers are working properly and replace them if they are not. Also check the wiper fluid. Keeping the windshield clean helps to reduce glare from the sun and on-coming vehicle lights. You also want to make sure you are seen. So, inspect your lights. Make sure they are all working, and that none are dimming.
Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
- Pack an emergency kit. Make sure your car is stocked with: at least a gallon of water, non-perishable foods, blankets, basic tools, a tarp to get under the car with, gloves, a jack, tire iron, spare tire, tire repair kit, jumper cables, flares, a tire pump, a first aid kit, any necessary medication, and a Smartphone charging cable.
- Know your route. If you have a GPS make sure your routes are programmed into it ahead of time. If you use a map, make sure it is up to date and that you use a passenger to help you navigate. With maps you could plan your route ahead of time with highlighters. Even if you do use a GPS, it is smart to have a map on hand as a back-up. When you plan your routes ahead of time you make it easier to find food, lodgings, and rest-areas as needed.
- Join an auto club. Being part of a road-side assistance club, like AAA, can be a real life saver on the road. Having an auto club in your back pocket can be a huge stress relief, even if you don’t need to use it. It is nice to know they are there should you have a flat, get lost, over heat, or crash your car.
- Check the weather. Knowing what weather conditions you are heading in to can help you prepare your car accordingly.
- Make sure someone knows where you are going, and your estimated time of arrival. For your safety, you should make sure that someone is aware of all of your plans. Should you not make it to your destinations on time, this person can look into your well-being and can send you help if needed.
- Keep important paperwork on hand. When you are on a road trip you should have these papers with you: driver’s license, proof of car insurance, vehicle registration, owner’s manual, warranty information, road side assistance contact number, and your medical insurance card.
Drive Smart and Safe
- Be respectful of other travelers and follow the rules of the road.
- Wear a seatbelt. The first thing you should do anytime you get into a vehicle is put on your seatbelt. In 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 53 percent of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes were not wearing the proper restraints. They state that in 2009, seat belts saved almost 13,000 lives and that almost 4,000 more people would be alive today had they put them on. Seatbelts, no matter how uncomfortable, prevent needless injury and death. So put them on.
- Avoid driving drowsy. Take turns driving with a passenger when you find yourself becoming tired. When you drive tired, it could potentially be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Get plenty of sleep at night before hitting the road. Take frequent breaks, and pull over to nap if necessary.
- Don’t speed. You want to avoid costly speeding tickets, and deadly crashes. Obey the rules of the road and stick to the speed limit. They are put in place for your safety. Also, maintaining the speed limits conserves fuel.
- Don’t get distracted. Stay off of your phone when driving, don’t wear headphones, don’t fidget with the radio, don’t eat a complicated meal while driving. Make sure that any pet that you may have with you is secure in the back seat and not climbing all over you or the vehicle.
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles. You should keep the three second rule in mind. Watch the vehicle in front of you, when it passes something like a speed limit sign count to three using Mississippi’s. (One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.) If you pass the sign before you get to the third Mississippi, then you are following too closely. In poor driving conditions like snow or rain then you should up the count to six.
We hope the above advice helps to make your road trip safe, fun and relaxed. If you have any concerns regarding your vehicle, bring it in to us here at Automotive Technology of West Islip. We are happy to help you get your car road trip ready. Happy travels!