auto maintenance January 11, 2018

Summer Travels

My sister-in-law arrived July 2nd with her 2 teenagers for a Fourth of July visit, to be followed by the now obligatory post-junior-year whirlwind tour of colleges. We were grateful because she was taking our son along too. She was concerned because she knew one tail light on her ‘08 Caravan was out, and her husband had tried replacing the bulb but it still didn’t work. I of course offered to bring it to the shop for a professional check. My wife, knowing the van was carrying precious cargo, suggested checking it over completely. And by “suggested,” I mean “insisted.” Before I even got to the shop I noticed a vibration in the steering wheel whenever the brakes were applied.

The tail light was a resounding “NO YOU CAN’T!” to do-it-yourselfers. The technician found a blown fuse, replaced it, and still had no power to the light. Seeing that the lights were controlled by the body module, he connected his scan tool and found an error code just where he had expected to find one. After he cleared the code, the light worked. He noticed the trailer tow rig on the van and concluded that a short in the recently used (but not present) trailer had blown the fuse, and the body module had shut down power to protect the circuit. Without the scanner you would have had a hard time restoring the light. In addition to that, front brakes were gone, oil was 15,000 miles past due, you get the picture. No way to start summer travels.

Moral of the story: Don’t wait for the week of your travel to make sure you’re ready to go. I don’t know about you, but our summers often involve trips that are planned on a moment’s notice, so just get your vehicle ready now.

Bring your vehicle in to Wiygul Automotive Clinic and we will check and service your fluids, your lights, belts, hoses, brakes, and tires.

Did anyone notice a little rain this week? Nothing is more irritating than being caught in hours of rain with a windshield wiper that squeaks or streaks. Just get new ones.

Not sure about the air conditioner? There is a big difference in the demand on air conditioning for one person driving 20 minutes to the store, and the requirement to cool 4, 5, or 6 people in slow traffic in the heat of the day. A backup on the New Jersey Turnpike is no place to discover your air conditioner isn’t all it should be. Get it checked.

And request that the spare tire be checked also. A spare tire without air isn’t much use to anyone.

If you really want to be proactive, find out which fuse provides power to the power outlets scattered throughout your vehicle, so that you can keep the smartphones, tablets, and Kindles charged. That’s the fuse that always blows, and you can change it with no special equipment. Once you locate it, mark it with Wite-Out or nail polish so you can find it quickly.

Another consideration, if at all possible, is to obtain a full-sized spare tire. The hard part is finding a place to put it. I used to carry one on the roof rack of my van. The benefit, if you have a flat, is that once it’s changed you can continue to your destination and deal with the repair after you arrive. If all you have is a space-saver or “donut,” you can only drive at a maximum speed of 50 miles an hour for a hundred miles or so, which also depends on your vehicle and how heavily loaded it is. Finding a place that has the tire or can fix it can eat up hours of travel time. It won’t be cheap, but check with the dealer to see if it is even an option.

One last thing. If you’re under 45 this is old news to you, but get the Waze traffic app on your smartphone. Picture a 1975 CB radio multiplied to the 100th power. Besides finding you the best route to your destination, it gives you traffic speed, conditions, and obstructions, and yes, the location of law enforcement. My younger brother introduced me to it. Hidden police cars, broken-down vehicles, even debris in the road are all revealed in plenty of time to react.

Oh yes, one more last thing. Don’t forget the E-ZPass. We rarely use it, but it’s invaluable when you hit a toll or need a high-speed traffic lane.

Happy Trails!

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