In the next week or so, families all over our area are going to hit the road, ready for the coast, the mountains, and everywhere else. Parents have snacks, tablets, toys, and other items to keep the peace lined up and ready to go. The only thing many of them aren’t ready for is sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck losing a tire to a pothole.
Even worse, is waiting for roadside service to fill the radiator or something equally simple. Many of these issues can be checked in your driveway and then handled in a garage with a basic, preventive maintenance plan.
First up, of course, is an oil change. Even if you already changed it to meet the warmer weather, do two things before you hit the road. Determine how far you’ve driven on the new oil, and add that to how many miles you’ll drive by the time you get home. If the numbers add up to more than your recommended 3000 or 5000 miles, consider starting your road trip with fresh oil. Your engine won’t work as hard, giving it a longer lifespan.
Now let’s cover the other fluids, working our way inside the vehicle from the windshield. Rain and road grime can turn a clear one into a mud field in just a minute. Without a topped-off tank of cleaning fluid, your wipers only smear the mess, making it worse. To do the same for your other windows, keep a bottle of fluid in your trunk with a designated cloth in a re-closable plastic bag or a roll of paper towels.
Moving to the engine, you need to keep it cool. That means making sure your radiator is full before starting the trip. If you fill it yourself, check the required fluid. Some models use 100% coolant, while others recommend a 50/50 mix with water. If you do run low, have a gallon of it in your trunk next to the wiper fluid.
Finally, there is the transmission fluid. It often gets ignored compared to the oil and coolant, but dirty fluid can adversely affect automatic shifting and leave you with a grinding sound that only gets worse. Draining and replacing it should be accomplished by a certified mechanic.
That takes care of the engine, now let’s keep you and your friends and family comfortable. Since this is June in what may be a record-breaking Summer, a functioning air conditioner is a must. There is no warning until you feel warmer air start to come out of your vents. Many area garages offer a free check of the system, and a quick refill of the Freon level is far cheaper at home than at a garage along the highway.
These are just a few items to check before hitting the road, but they are the ones that cause the majority of road trip failures. Spend a little time and money now to avoid major stops and repairs that can ruin what could be an excellent Summer memory for everyone.