Plans. Itineraries. Menus and maps. Suitcases, backpacks, coolers, and camping gear. You put a lot of thought and intention into getting ready for summer vacation. Why not invest some time and attention to getting your car ready as well? There is little so frustrating (and vacation spoiling) as a breakdown on the side of the road hundreds of miles from home. And your trip can quickly become perilous if your car quits in the middle of nowhere with no one to help. Here are some tips for making sure your ride is as prepared as you are for family fun on the road.
Be Mindful Of Maintenance
Before you head out on the open road for an extended journey – even if you are only travelling a few hours from home – especially if your car has been idle for a while during the COVID-19 pandemic – make sure your car is up to date on its maintenance schedule. The vehicle manufacturer recommends regular replacement of items such as the oil and filter, transmission fluid and filter, engine air filter, and more. Less-frequently attended to are the coolant, serpentine belt, spark plugs, differential and transfer case fluids (on some vehicles), brake fluid, and fuel filter. Take care of any maintenance that is due (or nearly due) and check all of the fluids before you travel. Inspect the brakes as well. Make sure you rotate your tires and are in good shape, free from damage and without excessive or uneven wear.
Keep It Clean
Make a clean start on your vacation by cleaning your car – before you pack it full of luggage, equipment, and passengers. A clean and organized vehicle might just make for a more enjoyable time on the road. Wash the exterior with car soap and water. Dry it with a chamois or a microfiber towel. Clean the glass inside and out. Vacuum and dust the interior and remove any unnecessary “stuff” that will get in the way on your journey. Inspect the car while you are washing. Look for signs of fluid leaks. Check out the tires. Then apply a coat of wax to the paint to prevent road tar, mud, and bugs from sticking to the paint surface. And consider treating the outside of the windshield with a water repellant to help you keep a clear view of the road in the rain. Better yet, before you go, take your car, truck, or SUV to a professional detailer for expert treatment and you will feel like you are traveling in a new vehicle.
Load It Right
Have you ever searched, frantic and frustrated, for some item in your junk drawer? Or your purse? Or your jam-packed garage or storage unit? What a pain that can be! When it comes to preparing your vehicle for a trip, you might think about how you pack. A balance must be struck between the amount/bulk of items you take, the convenience of retrieving items you stow, the ability to access emergency equipment (i.e. tools, first aid kit, spare tire), and the weight of all the stuff (and people). Overloading your car with gear can make it hard to access anything in particular, can cause damage to your car, and can force you to empty all of your personal belongings on the side of the highway if you get a flat tire. Avoid just “tossing in” extras at the last minute. Plan carefully how you might instead include smaller items in larger suitcases, bags, or packs so that, if you had to dump everything out on the ground, only a few bags would have to be dealt with. How about just plain taking less? Besides, your vehicle has a weight limit. You should not exceed the manufacturer’s maximum load capacity (listed in the driver’s door jamb), which includes all of the stuff you put in and on top of the car along with the combined weight of the occupants. If you plan to tow a trailer, you will also have to negotiate the towing capacity, tongue weight, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
Prepare For “Just In Case”
Memories. They are often made by not only the good times, but also by the challenges in life. Vacations are no different. But you want to make sure any challenges that might arise are met with preparedness so they do not end up in disaster. Of course, you cannot and should not try to plan for every contingency. Even if you could, you shouldn’t pack that much stuff anyway. But you can plan for some emergencies, like a flat tire, running out of gas (not really an emergency – more like a lack of planning…), a dead battery, or the loss of a car key (also not an emergency, but devastating if you aren’t prepared). A simple emergency kit might consist of:
- An empty gas can in case you run out of gas and need to hoof it to a gas station
- Spare key
- Simple set of tools
- First aid kit
- Can of Fix-a-Flat
- A set of jumper cables
- Water – to drink if you are stranded or to refill your radiator in a pinch
- Non-perishable snack food (think energy bars), also in case you are stranded
Look Before You Leap
After you have carefully planned your escape, make sure to follow up with a last-minute inspection. Make a checklist of pre-trip points that includes things like double-checking the tires, filling up the fuel tank, topping off the windshield washer solvent and checking the wiper blades, looking over the lights, and re-checking the oil level.
Whether you are looking to spend some serious time out of town on a road trip, or you are simply cruising around town for the summer, follow these helpful hints to ensure your car will have as good a season as you do.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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