Summer Road Trip Tips

It is Summer! Don’t we all love a good road trip?

Make sure you check your cars’ vitals before hitting the road, so you can reach your destination and have fun, and not be stranded along the roadside. Nothing like car trouble to ruin a vacation.

The top reasons for requiring a tow from AAA data are:

• battery and electrical systems issues (23 percent)

• engine cooling system failures (11 percent)

• tire damage that cannot be repaired or replaced at the roadside (10 percent)

So, let’s review some items to check before you hit the open road…

Essential Fluids

First check the oil, brake, power-steering and windshield-washer fluids regularly. These liquids never stop being used and consumed. Speaking of brake fluid, how do the brakes on your car feel in general? Do you feel like they are spongy or lacking bite? If so, new pads and a system bleed might be required. Before you road trip, Oxford Automotive can help take care of this kind of maintenance before you go.

Coolant System

It is summer, so for most of the USA that means it is hot! Keeping cool is imperative, and not just for ourselves, but also for our cars. So check the level of coolant fluid in your car, then go the extra mile and inspect the state of the hoses and the coolant reservoir. Check for leaks, especially at joints and connection points, such as where a hose connects to the engine block. Next, squeeze the hoses (when the engine is cool) every once in a while to make sure they feel firm but not rock hard. Replace any that need to be before you go. And, as a precaution, buy a hose-patch kit at the local auto parts store to take along on longer road trips.
One more note, for the coolant, be sure to use the same coolant type as is already in the engine, they don’t like to be mixed. You can tell the difference from the color. Green coolant is the most common, indicating an ethylene glycol-based coolant with a standard package of rust inhibitors. Orange is called Dex-Cool, originally developed by General Motors but manufactured by other coolant name brands under license. The jug should have a large “Dex-Cool” trademark on it. It is also ethylene glycol-based, but it has an enhanced package of corrosion inhibitors (and, hence, tends to be more expensive).

Battery

Check the battery and replace if necessary. Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging. Excessive heat and overcharging shortens the life of a battery.

Engine Belt

Check the engine belts by turning them sideways with your hand so you can see the friction surface. If they’re at all ragged, torn, cracked or showing the fiber cords, it’s time for fresh ones. Most newer cars have a serpentine belt that runs between the alternator, the fan and several other components (older cars have several belts). It can deteriorate, become loose, start to squeal, and sometimes just break for no apparent reason. Make sure this is in good condition and at the right amount of tension. If you see cracks in the belt or small pieces missing, it’s time to replace the belt.

Wipers and Lights

Summer brings heat and then of course the rain—at some point. So be ready see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lights are working properly. Next, check the wipers because worn wipers can impair your vision while driving as they don’t effectively remove the water on your windshield. Check your wipers and replace them if necessary before your road trip. It is a good habit to check them at the time of your oil changes, even ask your technician if they can check the wipers and replace them for you if needed.

Air-Conditioning System

Air-conditioning in many parts of the country is a summer essential. And, freon into the atmosphere is not good. There are plenty of leak-sealing products and refrigerant rechargers available, so check your system for leaks, or have us take a look at it. Remember, if there’s not enough refrigerant in the system for it effectively cool your car, you probably have a leak. We can check your system for leaks, repair and recharge your system.

Air Filter

Still haven’t checked your air filter yet this summer? Before a road trip is a good time to buy a new one or take the current one out and give it a cleaning. Many modern cars also have pollen filters or cabin filtration systems, so take a look at those, too. Sometimes these cabin filters are easy to change yourself. Like everything else mentioned here: When in doubt, consult a qualified technician.

Tires

Tires really need to be checked regularly all year round. Pressures must be correct (consult the manual because sometimes that information is on the inside of the fuel door or the door jamb for the driver’s door), treads should be free of stones, stray nails and the like, and all four should be in good condition. What is good condition? No cracks, no uneven wear, and plenty of tread depth (use a penny to test your treads—place a penny head first into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If this is the case, your tires need to be replaced. if part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more that 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means your probably don’t need new tires.) If you tires are in good shape, it still wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a can of Fix-A-Flat that could at least get you to a shady spot where you could change the wheel more comfortably. Make sure you also check your spare tire to make sure it is usable, too.

Dashboard Sunshade

Summer sun is hard on more than just your skin! So to help keep your interior cooler and the interior from fading in the harsh ultraviolet rays, consider a cover for the front windshield to help protect the dashboard. There are lots of options, some even have solar panels to keep the battery charged. If you have kids in the back, consider pull down shades for the rear side windows, too, and provide extra protection for the kids.

Driver and Passengers

I think we’ve mentioned the heat…yes it is hot out there. Make sure everyone stays hydrated on the trips. It’s better to make a few more bathroom breaks and stretch your legs than to endanger your health, or at the least be miserable and not feel well. Plan your road trips. Make a list of everything you’re going to need. For example: sunglasses, hats, travel mugs, games for the kids, snacks, chargers for the phones and tablets, route planner, weather forecasts, emergency triangle, flashlight, and a small tool kit. If you have a scheduled service is coming up on your car, consider bringing it into us to complete it before a long drive.

It’s also wise to review your insurance with your agent to make sure you have the coverage you need for the trip, and to confirm your driver’s license and tags are up to date

A pre-trip inspection can help ensure a stress-free journey! Have a great summer, enjoy the roads, and take care of yourself and your car.