Make sure your car is in tip top shape so you can enjoy your time off. Long before the dog goes to the sitter and the neighbors are asked to pick up the newspapers, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your repair facility to examine the vehicle.
Vacation To-Do List
Fluids: Fluids are an important part of any vehicle checklist. Expect your technician to check and perhaps replace or top off the following: antifreeze/coolant, transmission, engine oil, brake fluid, washer fluid, power steering fluid and gasoline. The transmission fluid, oil and gasoline also have filters that will need to be examined.
Air Filter: Another important filter to examine in a checkup is the air filter. This strains the impurities and should be changed at recommended intervals in order to protect the engine.
Vision: Not surprisingly, it’s a driver’s vision, not his hearing or smell, which guides 90% of driving decisions. That’s why something as simple as a misdirected or burned out headlight can spell disaster on a rainy night. Now is the time to make sure headlights, windshields, window glass, signal lights, mirrors and wipers/blades are in good shape.
Brakes: Although brakes are constructed with built in “squealers” to alert motorists to declining conditions, it’s a good idea to have them examined before a trip. Brakes also should be checked at regular intervals (see owner’s manual) and whenever they begin feeling abnormal.
Battery: Unlike some of a car’s components, a battery can be easily tested and, if necessary, replaced prior to a trip. While cold weather affects a battery’s starting ability, hot weather takes its toll, making a trip with a weak battery a true crapshoot at best.
Tires: Technicians are fond of pointing out that at any given time, a motorist is connected to the road by the few square inches of rubber that are in contact with the road. Make sure that the tire tread is deep enough; the tires are properly inflated and have been correctly rotated, balanced and aligned.
Your technician may suggest other checks to perform during a pre-vacation inspection. Don’t put your car’s reliability and your family’s safety on the line. The best bet is to get the most thorough examination you can afford. It’s some of the cheapest insurance around.
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Emergency Road Kit Necessities
Even if everything checks out fine, car trouble on vacation is still a possibility. No matter how long your trip will be, you should have an Emergency Road Kit in your car for those unwelcome moments. Your kit should include:
- Flashlights and flares
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator
- Extra fluids (oil, coolant, transmission)
- A First Aid kit
- A jack (make sure that the vehicle jack is operational and all the tools are present)
- Rags/paper towels
- Multipurpose tools (commonly containing pliers, wire cutters, a knife, a saw, a bottle opener, screwdriver, file, and an awl)
Pack as lightly as you can to avoid adding unnecessary load on your tires; this helps save gas, too! By packing lightly, you’ll also avoid blocking the view in your mirrors while driving.
Follow posted highway speed limits. It will increase your car’s fuel efficiency because gas mileage declines by a few percent for each 5 MPH increase in speed above 45 mph.
Finally, buckle up, slow down, and have fun!