If you’re like me, you’ll agree that one of life’s greatest pleasures can be a summer road trip to your favorite vacation destination. I’ve been on many road trips, but my favorite have to be the trips I take to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina where I can escape the summer heat and really enjoy the great outdoors.
For me, planning the trip is almost as much fun as actually going on the trip. Mapping out places to visit, finding area restaurants, putting together a shopping list for in-car snacks – these are just a few of the things that make planning so fun.
However, while it may be fun choosing between different landmarks and snacks, making sure your car is ready for the long drive is the most important thing you’ll need to plan for before your next road trip.
Here’s a list of seven essential items to check prior hitting the open road:
1. Replace Old Wiper Blades
If your blades have been smearing in the rain, replace them prior to your road trip. There’s nothing worse than driving down the interstate at 70 MPH in a rainstorm behind an 18-wheel semi-truck and not being able to see. It’s hard enough to drive on the interstate for long distances without having to worry about your visibility.
2. Test Your Car's Tires
Check all 5 tires (including the spare) for signs of excessive wear or damage. Try the quarter test (like the penny test) by placing a quarter into the tire tread with Washington’s head facing toward you and down. If the area above his head is visible, replace the tires. Check the tire pressure on each tire and make sure the pressure meets the PSI levels labeled in the doorjamb of the vehicle.
3. Check the Brakes
If you detect any vibrations, grinding, or pulling to one side when you brake, take the vehicle in to have the brakes serviced prior to your road trip.
4. Fill Up on Fluids
Check the coolant, oil, transmission fluid, and windshield fluid levels. The owner’s manual should tell you the location of each reservoir and the level you should fill it to. Summertime is hot in Florida and your car will be working extra hard in the heat. Low coolant levels may cause your car to overheat. If the oil looks dirty or low, take it to a service center for an oil change and inspection.
5. Assess Tire Alignment
If your car is pulling to the left, or to the right, it may be out of alignment and may sway or shake when you reach speeds up to 70 MPH. Get that serviced, if needed, prior to hitting the road.
6. Examine the Engine's Belts and Hoses
Inspect your hoses and belts for cracks and excessive wear; hoses should be firm and free from cracks or blisters; pay special attention to the serpentine belt which is the one that runs through all of the pulleys; also, carefully inspect any hoses connected to the radiator. A loose hose, or belt that falls off during your trip, will cause big trouble.
7. Inquire about Auto Refinancing
If you’re still making payments on your vehicle, consider refinancing
to potentially lower your monthly payments and keep some cash in your pocket.
Follow this list and you should have a car that’s in tip-top shape and ready for your summer travels. Be careful, drive safely, and have the best road trip ever!