Follow these tips to prepare your vehicle for what lies on the road ahead.
- Check the levels of all the car’s vital fluids — including motor oil, radiator fluid, transmission fluid, and windshield wiper fluid — and top-off or change them as needed. Pay special attention to the oil since it keeps the moving parts in your engine from grinding against each other. Make sure to change it regularly. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for the appropriate interval for your vehicle.
- Keep a gallon of distilled water in the trunk of your vehicle. If your vehicle starts to overheat, pour the water into the radiator to temporarily cool it down until you can get to a service station. But don’t open the radiator cap until the vehicle has cooled down. Hot fluid could spill out and cause serious burns.
- Prepare an emergency kit and keep it in the trunk. The kit should include: first aid supplies, jumper cables, a flashlight, fresh batteries, flares, basic tools, duct tape, gloves, flares, bottled water, granola bars and a mobile phone.
- Over time, dirt, bugs, leaves, and other debris can collect in front of your vehicle’s radiator and interfere with the cooling system. Spray the radiator grill with a hose when you wash your vehicle to remove debris and allow air to flow freely through to your air conditioner.
- Check the pressure and wear on your tires, including the spare. Over or under-inflation can weaken your tires, cause uneven tread wear, and impact your gas mileage. Many people think the proper tire pressure can be found on your actual tire, however that’s incorrect. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or to a decal often found in the doorjamb or glove compartment, for the proper tire pressure. Check the pressure when the tire is cold / at air temperature. Do not check the pressure after an extended drive on the highway or after driving for more than five minutes.
- Rotate and balance your tires before your trip so they wear evenly. The penny test will show you if it’s time for a tire to be replaced. Just place a penny in between 2 of the treads – if you can see all of Abe Lincoln’s head, the tire should be changed.
- Match the load rate of your vehicle (found in the owner’s manual or inside the driver’s side door) with the estimated weight of your family and the luggage you’ll be packing for the trip. Excess weight makes the engine work harder and consume more gasoline.
- Make sure your headlights, taillights, turn signals, parking lights, and license plate lights are all working. Replace any that may have burned out. Make sure wiper blades are in good condition in case you run into any unexpected storms. Visually inspect your vehicle’s belts, tubes, and hoses. Replace any that are cracked or leaking.