The past year has forced us to curb our wanderlust. We stayed at home and limited interactions with people in our bubble. Now that vaccinations against COVID-19 are happening en masse here in the States, it feels safer to go out and hit the road again.
Wait! Don’t get behind the wheel and drive off just yet. Make sure you’ve picked your route and planned your itinerary down to the last detail. Most importantly, get your car road-trip-ready.
Under the Hood
What else do you need to do besides filling your tires and checking that the pressure’s right on each of them?
Whether you drive a 2020 Ford Fusion or a 2012 Holden Colorado 7, you need to check under the hood. Make sure the engine is in good condition and all the other parts that ensure a smooth ride.
1. Check the Car Battery
Check your car’s battery to be sure the connection is tight and corrosion-free. Batteries contain corrosive acid. This could leak if battery connectors are forced off, so you’ll need to disconnect the battery and clean the connectors with a wire brush or get the services of a professional.
2. Top off fluids
Check the fluid levels of the following in your car:
- Engine oil
- Power steering
- Windshield washer fluid
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends topping off those that are running low before hitting the road. If your car needs an oil change soon, have it done before going on your trip. Lastly, check your vehicle’s engine coolant or antifreeze as it needs to be filled to the car manufacturer’s recommended level.
3. Replace filters
Replace the engine air filters when you see that it has collected dust or is clogged with debris. A dirty filter may affect your car’s acceleration performance.
4. Inspect belts and hoses
Your car’s electrical, power steering, and cooling systems need to be functioning properly at all times. Have the engine belts and hoses inspected for frays and cracks. The belts should also be tightly installed and not have a large amount of slack. The hoses should not have any leaks or drips.
Don’t forget to check your owner’s manual for recommended belt and hose service intervals. According to Cars.com, some vehicles may require replacements in as little as 60,000 miles.
Behind the Wheel
After paying attention to what’s underneath the car, get behind the wheel and check the vehicle’s most crucial safety features.
1. Make sure lights and electrical equipment are working
All the interior and exterior lights on your car should be functioning well. Replace any burned-out bulbs as needed. Inspect your windshield wipers too. If they aren’t efficiently removing water or are leaving streaks, replace them.
Make sure that your car horn and the controls on your entertainment console work. Have your air conditioning serviced before the trip, especially if you’re traveling during warm weather.
2. Test the brakes
Do you hear squealing noises? Does the brake pedal feel spongy when you step on it? If so, it’s time to get them professionally inspected. Squealing noises could mean worn-out brake pads, while the spongy feeling could mean the brake fluid is running low.
Now, Make a Checklist
You know what needs to be done, so put all of that in writing. Having a checklist ensures that you don’t forget to perform any maintenance activities that will guarantee a safe and hassle-free ride.
Keeping your vehicle in good condition all year round also saves you thousands of dollars. No one wants to be sitting and waiting for hours at a repair shop, especially when you’re on vacation!
If you don’t feel comfortable doing all these maintenance checks on your own, don’t hesitate to consult a professional for help.