Be safe on the roads this season. Follow these recommendations for preparing your car for a long road trip this summer.
Before taking off on your next big adventure, it’s important to get your car tuned up and make sure that the key components are working well. Here’s how to reduce the risk of a breakdown ruining your road trip:
Top Off the Fluids in your Car
First, check all the fluids in your vehicle. Start with the engine oil. If you haven’t had the oil changed recently, you will definitely want to have that done and have the oil filter changed before leaving on your road trip. With modern lubricants, it’s no longer necessary to change it every 3,000 miles, but automotive experts do recommend that
oil be changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If the oil has been changed but is low, you’ll want to top it off.
While you’re under the hood, you should check the coolant level in the reservoir. Remember that you should never do this when the engine is hot. Wait until it has cooled, then shake the reservoir slightly to see the level of liquid inside. If it doesn’t reach the line marked ‘full’, it should be refilled. Then take the radiator cap off (only when the engine has cooled) and check the radiator fluid. You should be able to easily see the level indicator.
Next, you should check the car’s automatic transmission fluid. To do this accurately, the engine should be warm and on a level surface. Remove the dipstick to verify that the transmission fluid is adequate. Rub a small amount of the fluid between your finger and thumb; it should be clear and slightly pinkish in color, without any dark particles or a burnt odor.
Finally, you should check the vehicle’s brake fluid level. You should be able to see the liquid level from the outside of the reservoir. If it is closer to the ‘low’ line than, open the top of the brake fluid reservoir and fill it to nearly the ‘full’ line. Be sure not to leave the tank open longer than necessary as exposure to air can ruin the brake fluid. Also, if the level was low, we recommend having a mechanic check your brake pads. This may be an indicator that it’s time to replace them.
Make Sure Headlights and Indicators Work Properly
For road safety, it’s very important that all the lights and indicators on your car are working correctly. To do this, turn the ignition switch on without starting the engine. Ask someone to help you and verify that these all work properly:
- fog lights
- front and rear daytime driving lights
- parking lights
- reverse lights
- brake lights
- front and rear turn signals
- license plate light
Be sure to replace any bulbs that are out or damaged. If you will be towing a trailer, camper or boat on your road trip, check and double check that the electrical connections and the trailer or camper lights work properly as well. This will help decrease the risk of a collision, especially when driving at night or in bad weather. Plus, nobody wants to get pulled over and receive a ticket for something that can be fixed so easily.
Check Tire Treads & Pressure
Tire treads wear out over time. You’ll want to ensure that your tires have worn evenly and have enough tread to grip the road safely, especially when water or other challenging conditions are present.
One quick and easy way to check the tires is to insert a penny head down into the tread groove. The top of President Lincoln’s head should be covered by the tire tread. Repeat this test at different points on the tire and on all four tires to find out whether it’s time to rotate or replace them.
Take a few minutes to check the tire pressure, but be sure not to over inflate.
Look at the Brakes & Brake Pads
Brakes are essential to safe driving. Whenever you notice a decrease in brake pressure or efficiency in slowing the car, especially when preparing for a long road trip, have the car checked by mechanic or brake specialist immediately. If you hear a rubbing, grinding or metallic squeak on either side of the car when engaging the brakes, this is a good sign that the brake pads may need to be replaced.
If you know what to look for, you can remove the tires and caliper in order to check that the brakes and brake pads are in good condition. This also might be something you want to rely on your trusted mechanic or brake specialist to do.
Get a Professional’s Opinion
Ask a mechanic to lift the car and inspect the exhaust for rattles and look for any leaks in the engine, struts, power steering or transmission or damage to the undercarriage. They should check the vehicle’s battery, spark plugs and ensure that there are no tears or damage to the constant velocity boots and that the wheels spin freely.
These tips should make a breakdown unlikely, but you should always be ready to handle emergency situations. Make sure that you have the following items in the trunk:
- adequately inflated spare tire,
- tire iron and jack,
- fire extinguisher,
- plastic funnel and tank of water,
- jumper cables,
- flashlight and emergency flares,
- set of tools,
- first aid kit.
…Before You Go
While preparing for a long road trip this summer, it’s also a good time to replace the air filter and wiper blades. You should bring at least one spare car key; stow it in your wallet or have a passenger keep it. Fill up the gas tank before heading out and try to always keep it at least half full.
Read more about how to avoid a car collision this summer.
The entire staff at Badell’s Collision wishes you a safe and happy summer vacation season! Contact our body shop in Aston and Malvern for all of your repair needs or use our simple online estimate form.