Drivers who are diligent about preparing their car for winter driving may think they can skip maintenance in preparation for spring and summer road trips, but they shouldn't, said Mike Bradshaw, Kansas State University Research and Extension health and safety specialist.
With the weather warming and sun shining, there's a temptation to get in the car and go, he said. People may take more drives for pleasure, plan a longer vacation when traveling by car or spend time traveling to and from a child's baseball games or other events.
To make sure your vehicle is roadworthy ahead of this summer's temperatures near the century mark, begin by reading the owner's manual to make sure that you are current on routine and periodic recommended maintenance, said Bradshaw, who offered these tips:
- Check the oil and, if not quite due for an oil change, consider changing the oil prior to a long trip. Changing the oil, as recommended by the manufacturer, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles will protect the engine.
- Check belts, hoses, radiator and heater/air conditioner every six months. Newer cars are increasingly sophisticated and that may mean that changing a belt or hose is no longer a do-it-yourself job. Also, make sure the radiator mix is the same year round. Antifreeze is needed to reduce rusting, overheating and for lubrication of the water pump.
- Check tire pressure and adjust accordingly; uneven or low tire pressure can reduce gas mileage, cause excess wear and may cause a blowout. Look also for signs of uneven wear or damage to a tire; rotate and balance tires and align wheels periodically, particularly after hitting a curb or pothole.
- Check lights, turn signals, power or manual windows.
- Check windshield wipers and replace, if necessary; fill washer fluid reservoir.
- Check the air conditioning, especially in older cars.
- Check the spare tire and confirm that a jack is still in the car.
- Assemble a car care kit, perhaps with a few wrenches, pliers, flashlight, extra can of oil, can opener, jug of water (or several bottles), and tire pressure gauge.
- Choose a four-lane road whenever possible, and, if you want to look at the scenery, stop at a scenic overlook with parking provided rather than take your eyes off the road.
- Follow the rules of the road, which include allowing plenty of time and being patient, rather than passing another car, truck or farm vehicle when approaching a no-passing zone.
- A cell phone can be handy, but is not always a guaranteed connection, if, for example a battery needs charging or signal is out of range.
- Gather some non-perishable food items, such as cereal bars, canned or dried fruit, jar of peanut butter and crackers, several bottles or jugs of water, a few utensils, roll of paper towels and antiseptic wipes for long trips and store them in water-and bug-proof container out of the sun.
- Plan your route, including possible stops for a rest or restroom break and fuel, and allow time for frequent breaks to refresh driver and passengers.
- Let others know the route you plan to travel and when you expect to arrive, so they'll know where to start looking if you fail to arrive.
- Carry your driver's license and health insurance information with you; verification of registration and car insurance also should be in the car.
- Wear a seat belt, and make sure all passengers do the same (yes, even adults in the back seat).
- Be alert to changes in gauges; consider carrying an empty gas can in the trunk.
- Keep distractions to a minimum -- plan a rest stop (or several stops) to let the kids use up some energy, and leave phone calls for another time.
- Finally, slap on some sunscreen -- especially on your left arm, which will get a lot more sun exposure through the window -- and enjoy the ride!