When the weather warms up and the days get longer, the open road seems to call your name. Whether you are going 3 hours away or are gearing up for a cross-country excursion, before you load up the trunk, you will need to make sure you car is ready for the road. Those who forgo a brief mechanical check over before taking to the highway are putting themselves at risk of being stranded. Here are a few preventative measures to take to ensure safe travels!
From the comfort of your driveway, check your oil levels and the date you’re due for an oil change. In your car manual, you will find a manufacturer-recommended oil change interval listed. If you are close to what’s listed, take your car in to be serviced. If you are traveling a long distance, pulling a trailer or traveling in hot weather, consider opting to use synthetic oil. This oil will give you extra protection against thermal breakdowns and it will also cut friction losses in the engine. Synthetic motor oil will also bump up your fuel economy, which will help you save money on a long trip.
Your transmission and drive axle both have their own lubricant supplies so those fluids will need to be checked, as well. Your owner’s manual will include a change interval listed for these too, and they are quite a bit longer than engine oil. Your local oil change shop will be able to handle the task of changing fluids.
The hoses in your car are regularly exposed to high temperatures, which is why they should be checked before getting on the road. If your hose were to get hard and crack, hot water will spurt out, and leave you in a world of trouble, far away from home. To avoid this catastrophe, look where the input and radiator hoses attach to the engine and radiator. Be sure to check your heater hoses as well, which run from the engine, into the firewall and back. If you spot any bulges or blisters, this is indicative of a weakness in the hose wall and they will need to be replaced.
Check your engine belts by turning them sideways so you can see the friction surface. If they are ragged or showing their fiber cords, then it’s time to get new ones. Also check to see if your belt is stretched or loose. An indicator of a loose belt is if you hear loud screeches when pulling away from a traffic light. A loose belt will need to be retensioned or it will fall off.
The last thing you want to do is be stranded on the side of the interstate trying to find someone to assist you in jumping the battery of your car. If your starter sounds off or slow, it is due to either corrosion or a dying battery. If your car’s battery is more than 2 years old, look to see if the terminals are corrosion-free and the positive and negative leads are on tight. If you spot any white, chalky stuff on the terminals, wipe it off with a wire cable brush.
Tires are your immediate contact with the road, therefore they need to be thoroughly inspected. The recommended tire pressure for your car will be listed on the driver’s side door, in the glove compartment or on the door of your gas tank. You can check the tire pressure yourself with a gauge purchased at an auto parts store and add air at a nearby gas station.
Road trips are meant to be stress free and fun! Whether you are hitting the road with friends and family or traveling with the elderly, safety should be your number one priority. Take a moment to take care of you car and in return, your car will take care of you!