The road trip is the hallmark of any summer vacation, but amidst the bags, kids, and sunscreen, many people forget to give their cars a thorough once over before setting off. Mid-trip breakdowns aren’t uncommon and can put a large damper on your fun, so get out the floor jack and the motor oil. Here are a few pre-road trip maintenance tips.
Hoses: Check your hoses for any blisters or bulges, which indicate weakness in the hoses’ walls. If you find any cracks, replace the hoses. Purchase a hose patching kit at your local auto store just in case.
Engine Oil: Check your oil levels. If you’re due for an oil change soon, go ahead and get it changed a little early. Make sure you use a high-quality oil to protect your engine’s longevity and maintain maximum fuel economy, helping you save money at the pump.
Coolant: When you’re driving for long periods of time in the summer, coolant is what will keep your engine from reaching nuclear temperatures. Newer cars come with coolant designed to go 100,000 to 150,000 miles. Make sure your coolant reservoir is topped off, but avoid mixing different coolant types.
Brakes: Brake fluid attracts and absorbs moisture. As it ages, it begins to rust your brake components. Check your brake fluid, making sure it is not the color of maple syrup. Top off your fluid if it’s not at the right mark. It’s a good idea to take your car to a mechanic, who can use a car lift to check the brake pads and rotors properly.
Transmission and other fluids: Your other fluids have their own change intervals, but they tend to last longer than your engine oil. Still, if your car has over 75,000 miles on it and you haven’t checked these fluids yet, you should take your car in for a change or refill.
Belts: Turn your belts to their sides by hand to see the friction surface. They should look relatively smooth, but if you see any tears, cracks, or visible fibers, change them out. Your mechanic can easily do this, but if you’re so inclined, you may do them yourself or carry a spare set of belts as a precaution.
Tire pressure: Tires that are even slightly deflated will decrease your fuel economy and cause the tire to run hotter and wear unevenly, leading to a potential blowout. Check the driver’s side door jamb or your owner’s manual for the proper pressure. You can refill your tires with air at most gas stations. Make sure you have a bottle jack and spare tire in case. Flat tires are a common occurrence during any road trip.