College Road Trip Tips
By Paul Fix III
Summer is on its way and that means more people will be hitting the road to enjoy the great outdoors this year. Road trips are fun, but if you get stuck on the side of the road somewhere, it can screw up your excursion.
If you’re planning a road trip with your family or friends this summer, be sure to prepare your car with these road trip tips. You can perform these quick and easy inspections on your own.
1. Tire Test
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, check your owner’s manual for air pressure information or you can find the same information in your door jam. Make sure to check your tire pressure before every road trip. Next, use the tread depth gauge to see if you need to replace your tires, each tire should have at least 3/32″ of tread or more; this is the minimum amount of tread allowed by law. Finally, you should also check your spare tire for the correct tire pressure and tread depth.
2. Got Fluids?
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. If you don’t know how to check your car’s fluids, look in your owner’s manual or have your local ASE certified mechanic help you. Start with the oil; I suggest using a thicker-weight oil in the summer because hot weather tends to thin oil which can cause poor lubrication of important engine parts. While you’re at it, make sure you check the transmission, power steering and brake fluids. You might need to replace or refill the fluids. 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.
3. Motor Skills
Lift the hood and check your car’s engine parts. Start by checking 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, 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 also reducing gas mileage. Make sure to replace your air filter every six months. Don’t know a thing about checking your engine parts? Don’t worry — your local mechanic can help.
4. Component Check 101
Finally, check the components of your car, including the air conditioning, windshield wipers and the inside and outside 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 make sure the air is working. Replace worn windshield wiper blades.
Never leave home for a long road trip when the Check Engine light is on. It’s important to have engine problems diagnosed and fixed before you start your trip.
5. Safety First
I recommend having a well-stocked emergency kit in your car at all times, especially for long road trips.
What to pack in case of an emergency–
Carry these items in your trunk in a box, duffel bag, or and emergency kit.
• Jump starter
• Flashlight with new batteries
• Tire inflation kit – just in case
• First aid kit
• LED light source and safety triangle
• Protein bars – in case you are stuck and waiting for help.
• Bottled water
• Road service card
• Paper towels
• Glass cleaner
• Extra washer fluid
• Work Gloves & rain poncho
• Basic tools
Maintain your vehicle based on the service recommendations outlined in your owner’s manual. A regularly maintained car with matching service records and proper paperwork will usually help you sell your car at a better price.
These inspections and safety tips are important in preparing you for a summer road trip; it’s important to regularly keep care of your car. Get in the habit of inspecting your car — or having an ASE certified mechanic inspect your car on a regular basis. Be Care Car Aware.