If you're planning a road trip with your family or friends this summer season, be sure to prep your car with these handy 'road trip tips. For do-it-yourselfers, you can perform these quick and easy inspections on your own. For added peace of mind, we suggest taking this list with you to your local automotive dealer where you can have your car serviced by an accredited car mechanic. Remember, its far better to do vehicle repairs at home than to do them while you're out on the road!
Tires are important -- they're the only things connecting your car to the road, so examine them carefully. Pay close attention to tire pressure and tire tread -- you can buy a tire pressure gauge and tread depth gauge from your local auto parts store. When checking tire pressure, refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for correct air pressure information or refer to information usually posted on the inside of your car's door jam. Check your tires before you drive even one mile (when they're cold) to determine if you need to inflate or deflate each tire to arrive at the correct pressure.
Next, use the tread depth gauge to determine if you need to replace your tires -- each tire should have at least 2/32" of tread or more; this is the minimum amount of tread allowed by law. Finally, be sure to check your spare tire for adequate tire pressure and tread depth as well and be sure to consider purchasing an instant tire repair kit. These kits can patch a tire and inflate it with little of no effort to get you off of the road and into a repair shop.
Hot summer weather can wreak havoc on your car's engine -- that's why it's important to check your vehicle's fluids to keep it running smoothly and reliably this summer. If you don't know how to check your car's fluids, refer to your owner's manual or have your local mechanic assist you.
Start with the oil - NADAguides.com suggests using a thicker-weight oil in the summer because hot weather tends to thin oil which can cause inadequate lubrication of important engine parts. While you're at it, make sure you check the transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids. You might need to replace or refill the liquids.
And finally, be sure to fill the windshield wiper fluids and antifreeze -- antifreeze is designed to prevent your car from overheating during hot summer months.
Lift the hood and check your car's engine components. Start by examining the battery and cables for any cracks, corrosion or dirt. Hot weather can shorten the life of your battery -- if you need to, replace it before a long road trip.
Next up? Take a look at the radiator and hoses for cracks and leaks and don't forget to change the air filter. Air filters prevent dirt and dust from seeping into your engine, which can decrease the performance of your car's engine while reducing gas mileage in the process. Don't know a thing about checking your engine components? Don't worry -- your local mechanic can help.
Component Check 101
Check the components of your car, including the air conditioning, windshield wipers and the exterior and interior lights (including the Check Engine light). Turn your air conditioning on, let it run for a while and then turn it off. Listen for unusual noises and be sure to put your hand in front of the air vent to gauge the air temperature. Replace worn windshield wiper blades. And test all of your vehicle's interior and exterior lights, including your headlight high beams to make sure they're working properly. Never leave home for a long road trip when the Check Engine light is on or when a malfunction indicator light is illuminated. It's important to have engine problems diagnosed and fixed prior to your departure.
NADAguides.com recommends having a well-stocked emergency kit in your car at all times, especially for long road trips. Be sure to include a basic tool kit (such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers), emergency flairs, a flashlight with fresh batteries, jumper cables, a tire iron, a jack and plenty of drinking water in case you're stranded for a long period of time.
Additionally, NADAguides.com recommends maintaining your vehicle based on the servicing recommendations outlined in your vehicle's owner's manual. A regularly maintained car with corresponding service records and applicable paperwork will usually fetch a premium price -- and will typically be more desirable to a potential buyer -- at resale time.