It’s the time of year when families across the country set out for the open road. The last thing you want to worry about when you are in the middle of your trip is your car breaking down or getting a flat tire. Of course, those things happen and you need to be prepared. It’s awful to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, but if you prepare ahead of time, you can make that experience a little less terrible if it happens. With just a little preparation you can make sure your car is ready to transport you and the whole family safely for that special family vacation.
Change the Oil
It’s pretty easy to forget that pesky oil change, especially if the bulk of your trips are just to and from work during the week. However, when you are planning a road trip and your family is depending on you for a safe ride, it’s something you need to remember. If you are even close to your 3,000 miles (or recommended manufacturer oil-change interval), just go ahead and get that oil changed before the trip. During the summer (especially if you are pulling a trailer) talk to your mechanic about an extended performance 5W-30 or 10W-30 synthetic oil formula. Synthetics can offer longer cycles, making that trip around the country that much safer.
Check all the Fluids
While you are at it, you’ll want to go ahead and get all those fluids checked. There are some other, very important, fluids in your engine that your car requires to run safely. Make sure to check the transmission, coolant and drive axle and any other fluids, such as windshield wiper fluid, that you may have. You’ll need to talk to your mechanic or at least check your manual for the recommended interval changes. Automatic transmissions are especially best when left to a professional mechanic, and you can easily bring your ride in for a full fluid inspection at any mechanic.
Hoses and Belts
Long drives are notorious for leaving drivers stranded with a busted hose or belt. Make sure you or your mechanic takes the time to inspect all of the rubber hoses and engine belts. If a hose gets hard, it is likely close to cracking, and you’ll also want to look for blisters or bulges in the hoses. When it comes to belts, you’ll want to make sure they are not torn or cracked, either. It’s better to take the time to change these now, rather then when you have a car full of tired travelers and you are stranded on the highway in 90-degree temperatures.
Check Your Tires
Do you know what the recommended tire pressure is for the tires on your car? The number on the tire is the maximum amount of pressure the tire can hold, which isn’t always what you want to aim for. If you check your manual (sometimes on the driver’s side door or in the glove compartment as well) you’ll find the recommended tire pressures for your car. Get a good gauge and make sure your tires are at the recommended levels. You’ll also want to make sure your tread is not too worn, as bare tires can be extremely dangerous on long car trips.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Before you set off on that cross-country trip, take the time to pack an emergency kit. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but it’s an excellent thing to have just in case the worst should happen. Make sure your kit includes a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and some reflective warning triangles in case your car breaks down. Some simple auto-tools like a tire gauge, tire sealant and jumper cables will come in handy, plus you’ll want a flashlight, some duct tape, drinking water, nonperishable snacks, a warm blanket and a multipurpose tool like a Swiss Army Knife or a Leatherman. Pack it away in a good-sized backpack and all these times won’t take up much space at all, and you’ll be so glad you have them, should the need arise.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.