Is Your Car Ready for a Road Trip?
If you are asking yourself, "Is my car ready for a road trip?" then you definitely need to read this article.
The annual summer road trip is as American as Apple Pie and Chevy Trucks. Nearly 100 million Americans will be taking a family vacation this summer and over 50% of these travelers will be hitting the roads in vehicles that have not been properly maintenance and inspected. Unfortunately, AAA predicts having to save over 7 million of these traveling families this year and helping them get back on the road after their vehicle has broken down. They have also found that 4 in 10 U.S. drivers are not prepared for typical roadside breakdowns. While some emergency situations are unavoidable, preventative maintenance can go a long way by eliminating issues before they occur and taking your vehicle in for pre-road trip inspection is essential to staying on the road this summer.
We all know how stressful being stranded on the side of the road is, especially with children. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take before your tires hit the road to help you and your family travel safely during your summer adventures. Before the rush to get the kids into the car with their pillows, snacks and activity books, run through this checklist to make sure in the haze of it all you haven't forgotten one of the most important things for your road trip, your vehicle's condition.
Want to have a professional inspect your vehicle before you load up the family? Call Castriota Chevrolet to schedule your pre-road trip inspection.
THE PRE-ROAD TRIP INSPECTION
- Wiper Blades: Like any other part on a vehicle, windshield wiper blades can wear out from use or dry out and crack over time. Using water or wiper fluid, check your wipers to make sure they can displace water effectively. If they leave are leaving water or lines that impair your vision, then you should have them replaced before leaving on your trip.
- Windows: Check your windows for cracks. Any cracks in your windows (windshield and rear window especially) need to be addressed before hitting the road for your family vacation.
- Tires: Tires are perhaps the most important parts of your vehicle. After all, they are your contact with the road. You will want to check the tire pressure, the tread level and look for any imperfections like bubbling or wires showing.
o Tire Pressure: Driving on underinflated tires can cause damage to the tire walls and increase your chance of having a blowout. It will also hurt your gas mileage. You should check with your owner's manual or on the inside of the driver side door for the recommended tire pressure. Check your tires with a good gauge and fill any tires that are not at the recommended tire pressure.
o Tire Tread: Examine the tread on all four tires to make sure they are not too worn or have uneven wear and tear. Most new tires come with approximately 10/32" of tread depth. You can get a tire tread depth gauge at your local parts store for just a couple dollar or you can use a penny to gauge your tire tread depth for a guestimate. If your tire tread depth gauge shows less than 2/32" or if using a penny and the depth hits below Lincoln's shoulder, it's time to change your tires. It is better to install new tires now than to take a chance on them wearing out while you're on the road.
- Lights: Having working headlights and taillights is necessary for safe driving. You will want to check the function of these lights to make sure everything is working as it should. Turn on your headlights, taillights, parking lights, fog lights, and turn signals to make sure each is lighting up as it was designed to do. Any lights that aren't functioning properly need to be replaced before you head out.
- License Plate: It is a good idea to make sure your license plate is tightly secured to your car before hitting the highway. The last thing you want to try to explain to the officer is where you think your license plate might have landed during your 2,000-mile journey. You will also want to make sure your registration decal is still attached, is current and not set to expire while you are on your trip.
- Car Horn: If you haven't honked your horn in a while you may want to give it a push to make sure it still works. It could mean the difference between an accident and just a close call if a driver doesn't look before they start moving into your lane.
- Leaks: Now is the time to check under your car for leaks. Place cardboard, newspaper, or aluminum foil underneath your car and let it sit overnight. When you check it in the morning you will be able to tell what is dripping and where it is dripping from. This valuable information can be used to repair your vehicle and stop the leaks. Any leaks in your vehicle should be addressed as soon as possible, whether you are going on a road trip or not. Slow leaks can turn into big leaks without notice and can lead to costly engine damage.
- Fluids: You will want to check ALL fluid levels, not just the gas, before you embark on the first 15-hour leg of your summer adventure.
o Oil: If your car is in need or will need an oil change soon, you should go ahead and take care of that before leaving on your road trip. If you have just had the oil changed you will want to at least check the oil levels and add more oil if needed.
o Transmission, Differential, Brake and Power Steering Fluids: You should check with your owner's manual for when these oils should be changed and their proper levels.
o Engine Coolant: New vehicle come equipped with engine coolant that can go the miles. However, if your car is older than 4 years you will want to check your engine coolant levels and make sure they are topped off.
o Windshield Wiper Fluid: Make sure your wiper fluid is full so you can maintain a clear view of the road.
- Hoses and Belts: Hoses and belts are under extreme condition in a running car. Regularly exposed to temperature around 210 degrees, it is no wonder they often crack and blister. When checking hoses, you want to look for cracks, bulges or blisters. If you see any of these indications of a weakness in any of your car's hoses, replace it immediately. For Belts you will want to turn them sideways to check their friction surface. If they are ragged looking, torn, cracked, or showing their fiber cords, it is time to replace them. Newer cars have one large belt called a serpentine belt that runs the water pump, AC, Power steering and alternator. If your car has less than 50,000 miles, it is most likely fine. Older cars have many belts that runs these devices so you will want to make sure they are all checked.
- Air Filter: The air filter is usually attached to the end of an accordion looking plastic pipe inside the air box. Most air boxes are held shut with clips. You can remove these to get a look at the filter. If the filter looks particularly dirty, then it needs to be changed to allow proper air flow.
- Battery: If your battery is more than a couple years old you will want to make sure that the terminals are clean and free of corrosion and the leads are tight. If you see white chalky stuff around the terminals you can clean it with a wire brush. Secure the leads tightly. If they are loose and one falls off it can cause a "voltage dump" that can kill the alternator. You may also want to have your battery tested for its output voltage.
- Warning Lights on Dash: Before embarking on you journey you will want to resolve any warning indicators that are lit up on your dash. Use your owner's manual to determine what the issue is and how to resolve it. If the check engine light is on, you can use a scanner that plugs into a port under the dashboard on the driver's side. This will give you an error code you can use to figure out what is going on so you can plan to get it fixed.
- The Test Drive: Don't assume everything is fine just because you drive your car every day. You will want to take it on a test drive on your local freeway to listen for noises, feel for shakes, and watch the gauge for signs of trouble. Is the car pulling to one side? Do you hear odd noises coming from the wheels, whether driving or applying the brakes? Does the car shake or jump, either while driving or idling? Do your headlights flicker while idling? Does the brake pedal feel soft? These are all things you need to look and listen for while on your test drive. If you see or hear anything out of the norm or are just concerned with the way your car is running, take it into a trusted service department for a full inspection.
Now that you know what to look for, it is time to start inspecting. Use this link for a printable version of this checklist to make sure you don't overlook anything.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming for you, no need to worry. You can bring your car into Castriota Chevrolet and we will perform a pre-road trip inspection for you so you can travel with peace of mind.