It is now summer, the time for vacations and lots of car travel. Car travel has been going up in popularity the past few years, visiting some of the great spots in the US.
Getting your vehicle ready for a trip during the hot weather can make a vacation much more stress free.
The first stop should be your favorite repair shop, having them do a pre-trip check.
This is most important for vehicles over 80,000 miles or those who have not taken good preventive care of their car.
The most important focus should be the cooling system of your vehicle. About 75% of all major engine damage happens when an engine overheats. The cooling system is one of the largest systems of your vehicle. Your repair shop should pay special attention to all the cooling hoses, water pump, radiator and other parts of the system. Newer vehicles use a lot of plastic in the cooling system that gets brittle with age. If one plastic part breaks, it is a very good idea to replace all of the plastic parts of the cooling system at once. That includes a lot of water pumps because they have plastic impellers.
Do not drive that extra 4 miles to the next exit if your vehicle is overheating. I have found those 4 extra miles can cost thousands of dollars.
An owner’s part in helping the shop diagnose a cooling system is to observe where the temperature gauge settles in after a long hot drive. This is hard to duplicate in the shop or in town driving. Slightly plugged radiators are often not found without the customers input that after freeway driving, the gauge reads high.
According to AAA, the most common reason for service calls on the freeways is, running out of fuel, flat tire and then overheating problems.
Keeping the fuel tank over 1/8 full during hot long trips is important. Most fuel pumps are now in the fuel tank and get cooled and lubricated by the gasoline itself.
Have your tires checked for tread wear AND age. Yes, tires have a shelf life, some say 6 years. This is so very important on RVs that sit most of the year and only see the road on long trips. I have to replace all 6 tires on my small RV because of age even though they had over 50% of the tread left.
Keep an eye on your tires, checking tire pressure at least monthly. Tire pressure should be checked cold or in the first 4 miles of driving, not when pulling off to fuel up on long road trips.
It is also a good idea to check the wear pattern of your tire monthly. Just turn the steering wheel all the way to the left or right and see if the tread pattern is even across the tire
Tires are the first defense against the road. Blow outs can be very dangerous. If this happens, don’t panic, let off the gas pedal and ease the vehicle off to the right shoulder. Small steering and brake inputs are the rule here.
Make sure you vehicle is up to date on service, oil is fresh and all other fluids should be checked. Good record keeping is important here. One of the greatest advantages to being loyal to one shop is they should be able to tell you what service your vehicle needs and not duplicate or neglect services.
Make sure your windshield is clean both on the inside and outside, driving into the sun or at night is very difficult when it is hard to see past your windshield. Be sure your headlights are cleaned of bugs and dirt too. If you headlight covers have yellowed, get them buffed before you leave if you travels will be at night.
Last but not least, monitor how many miles you drive and if you are tired, stop, take a nap, get something to drink or take a walk. I find this so true after lunch that often I will take a 20 minute nap.
Remember, the left lane is for passing, travel should accrue in the right lane.
It is so much easier to be at home doing repairs then holding up in a motel while the vehicle is getting fixed.
Warning, never open a hot cooling system. Coolant is put under pressure in a cooling system, when taking off the pressure cap, the coolant could “geyser” out of the system up 20 feet. I have heard of people getting burned very badly.
Even though the antifreeze say “lifetime” is a good idea to flush your system every 3-5 years. This protects your cooling system from have deterioration from the inside.
Do not leave anything inside you vehicle that is visible from the outside. The “smash and grab” technique is used by thieves, break the window and grab what is in the car. Put things in the trunk or out of sight.