By Mark Shmelinski
Digital Lead and Former Service Advisor
Alright, with summer just around the corner you are probably planning on doing some extended driving. Before you hit the road, it’s important to spend a little “quality time” with your vehicle. You’ll need to perform some quick checks and assemble an emergency kit, yes an emergency kit. It’s also a good idea to have your favorite technician perform a “road trip check” on your vehicle before you take off. Now, I know you are thinking “my car is still on warranty, I have roadside assistance.” And while it would be easy to ignore this golden nugget of information, a little preparation now can save a lot of aggravation, money and precious time later. The last thing you want is to be spending precious vacation time stranded or in a garage getting repairs done.
For those of us (me) driving 14 year old cars that are pushing the 300,000km mark, this is pretty much a routine just to drive to work. This inspection process can be performed by you or your technician – a simple walk around inspection, then an under hood inspection, and finally an under vehicle inspection.
The Walk-Around Inspection
- Wiper Blades – Inspect the condition of the blade material for cracks or separation from the blade retainer. The last thing you need is streaky blades on the highway.
- Lights – Check the turn signals, headlights and brake lights, making sure they operate properly.
- Tires – Check tire pressure. It’s important to check the tire pressure when the tires are cold. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle can be found just in your manual, or just inside the driver’s door panel (usually). Also check for signs of uneven wear (less tread or no tread on the edge or middle of the tire) consult your mechanic if you notice any signs of odd wear or are unsure.
- Trailer hitch – if you are towing, make sure you inspect the hitch, the wiring, and trailer brake control you might have.
Under Hood Inspection
- Fluid Levels – Lift the hood and check the engine oil, automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, radiator coolant, and windshield washer fluid levels. Top up if necessary.
- Belts & Hoses – Check hoses for leaks, brittleness, loose clamps, and softness in the elbow areas. As for the belts, check for glazing, tearing and cracking. Replace if necessary.
- Air Conditioning – Test the A/C system to see that it is working and cooling the vehicle down in a reasonable time.
- Battery Connections – Check battery posts and cable terminals for corrosive buildup. White fuzz that surrounds the cable terminal ends at the battery posts can easily identify a corrosive condition.
Under Vehicle Inspection
- Fluid Leaks – Examine the ground where you park your vehicle for leaks. Any fluid residue found should be examined for the type of fluid and the leak repaired immediately to avoid any problems.
- Brakes – If you feel your mechanical expertise is limited in this area, I would recommend you have a professional look at your brakes to advise you on the condition of the brake friction material, drums, rotors, and the hydraulic system. In case you didn’t know it is important to have brakes.
Emergency Road Kit
Of course, a cellular phone can be your most useful tool, but they don’t always work (thanks anonymous cell company, you know who you are). If there’s no phone around and you aren’t able to use a cellular phone, you may have to rely on your emergency kit, so make sure you take it with you. Carrying an emergency kit can get you out of a tough jam when stuck on the roadside. You can easily create one by putting together in a box the items listed below:
- One quart of Oil
- Two quarts of Premix Radiator Coolant
- Small Funnel
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Pocket Knife (If you’re MacGyver…Swiss Army Knife)
- Assortment of Combination Wrenches, Screwdrivers, and Pliers
- Flashlight / Spare Batteries for Flashlight
- Roadside Flares / Battery Operated Roadside Marker Lights (If you don’t like playing with fire)
- First Aid Kit
- Electrical Tape/Duct Tape
- Battery Jumper Cables
Finally, the two most important pieces of any road trip, food and music. Snacks are key in helping pass the time on those long road trips. Costco is always a good option. Why buy one pack of sour candy when you can buy a case of it? As far as music goes, there are more than enough options with Satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming, or if you are like me, a cassette adapter and an iPod.
In my experience, when you’re totally prepared, usually nothing goes wrong. Happy road tripping this season!