Those fabulous travel plans you’ve cooked up aren’t going to get you far if your ride isn’t roadworthy. We spoke with some automotive experts to make sure you do what it takes to get those wheels ready.
Winter isn’t kind to tires. The cold air causes a decrease in your tire pressure, leading to decreased handling, safety issues and possible blowouts. “Before a road trip in spring and summer, tire pressure should be checked regularly and filled to the recommended cold level,” says Matt Furcolow, VP of Operations for Valvoline Instant Oil Change. Plus, there’s an added bonus — correctly inflated tires can improve road trip fuel economy by about three cents per gallon.
Power up before taking off. Furcolow says the cold winter weather can drain a car's battery by up to 50 percent. Once it's warm out, have your local auto parts store run a quick test and let you know how much juice is left in yours.
Michael Miller, owner of Miller’s Arlington Car Care, says checking fluids are an important part of car care that just about anyone can do. “Your owner’s manual will explain the proper levels and in most cases, it will already be listed on the receptacles in the vehicle,” he says. Once you’re on the road, make a habit of checking your fluids again when you stop for gas.
Take a peek under that hood. See all those belts and hoses? You may never know what they all do, but we can promise you they’re all important. Miller says you should look at each one closely and check for signs of wear, especially fraying or bulges. If you find any, get your car to a mechanic before you log any major miles.
Ice and snow really do a number on windshield wipers, leaving you in a tough spot if you run into an unexpected summer rain storm. Check yours for damage and wear. The good news is, if yours need replacing, the nice guys at the auto parts store will change them for you for free. Top your wiper fluid off while you’re at it.
If you’re traveling very far, chances are you’ll be doing some nighttime driving. Make it easier by ensuring you can actually see the road. Ditch those dim bulbs and upgrade to a whiter, brighter light. You’ll have better down-road and side-road visibility, increasing your reaction time by seconds, says Sylvania Automotive Lighting Marketing Manager Brian Noble.
How well do you perform if you can’t breathe? Furcolow says a car’s air filter works just like a lung, helping an engine breathe clean air. When it gets dirty or clogged, your engine has to work harder, leading to poor performance and reduced fuel economy. Your air filter should be replaced every 12,000 miles, so figure out how long you’ve had yours.
We’re not all car buffs. Miller says if you don’t want to check these items yourself, you should take it to a trusted mechanic for a once-over. “They will inspect your entire vehicle at little or no cost, and alert you of any impending issues your vehicle may have; this way you won’t find yourself stuck on the side of the road.” He adds that you should call at least a week before your trip, in case they need to order parts for a fix.
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