Hitting the road on a long trip is a welcome experience that provides solitude, peace, and a much-deserved break from life’roads hassle. This is especially true during this traumatizing COVID-19 era. Many of us have been stuck in the same place for the past couple of years.
However, with the lockdowns and mandates lifted in many places, nature is beckoning, white sandy beaches offering an invite, and fresh mountain air calling, it’s road trip time.
Road trips are like a marathon race for your car.
Unfortunately, many families prioritize packing and picking the destinations and forget to put as much attention to the family car. Even the best-planned travel itineraries will be shot if your vehicle breaks down.
It’s bad enough to have a car breakdown in your driveway, neighborhood, or city. Breakdowns are a terrible experience when you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
Road trips should be relaxed and fun, and the difference between misery and pleasure lies in whether you have fully prepared your car for the long trip.
So, before leaving home, here’s what to check before taking a long trip.
Check the windshield wipers
The windshield wipers wear out like other car parts due to constant use. In dry, hot climates, they can dry out and crack over time.
When your wipers lose the rubbery spring, replace them.
More so, check if the wipers clear all the windscreen water or leave lines of water that impair your vision.
Most cars have two different types of air filters. The cabin air one filters the incoming air from the passenger’s compartments, while the engine air filter provides the engine with a debris-free atmosphere.
For your vehicle to perform well and enable people inside to breathe fresh air, replace the air filters and according to the manufacturer’s specifications, usually after every 10,000-15,000 miles.
Hoses and belts
Nowadays, cars rely on one ribbed serpentine belt to operate the air conditioning compressor, alternator, and water pump. As a result, it wears out faster.
Do a visual inspection to check for frays or cracks. While at it, check out the hose junction’s points for cracks signs, or leaks.
Your car’s light source comes from the headlights, but there are multiple bulbs that need occasion checking and replacement. Check your interior, brake, and reverse lights regularly as well.
Check the fluids
Maintaining your car fluids works magic in ensuring you enjoy a road trip without a hitch. The motor oil is your engine’s lifeblood, and many companies have invented specialized fluids to ensure your vehicle performs excellently and has longevity.
Here are other most vital car fluids:
Service and replace the transmission fluid after every 100,000 miles.
For older models, you can easily check the fluid level and top up. Transmission fluid can get debris and dirt, thus reducing the transmission performance.
Some newer cars come with sealed transmissions that don’t allow checking or even topping off the liquid. Have a qualified mechanic check it out and ensure all is well.
Cars with electric-assisted power systems have become quite common nowadays.
However, most vehicles have adapted hydraulic power-steering systems. These power steering systems use fluid that can be quickly depleted or contaminated, thus hampering the steering performance and possibly leading to system components damage or leaks.
You can easily access the fluid reservoir from under the hood and determine if it needs changing or topping up.
The braking system uses the brake fluid to build a hydraulic pressure which forces the calipers to firmly clamp on the brake pad and then down onto the car rotors.
So, if your brake pedal starts feeling soft or spongy, then air might have accumulated inside the brake lines, and as such, you need to service them.
Moreover, brake fluid can absorb moisture and get contaminated, thus reducing its performance.
Check your engine oil frequently; it’s the most accessible maintenance item in a car and the most critical. Some vehicles do have factory oil change intervals for up to 10,000 miles. However, it’s advisable to check every 1,000-3,000 miles.
Modern engine oils have several additives that enhance the lubrication properties, thus keeping the system clean, but they can become depleted.
High oil consumption and unprecedented loss can indicate significant engine problems.
Remember, most cars come with the owner’s manual on engine oil type and when to change, and also, don’t forget to change filters.
Coolants keep the engine temps down, helping it maintain an optimum operating temperature. Low coolant levels can cause overheating, especially during hot weather and on long trips.
Engine coolants have fortified additives that inhibit corrosion and enhance performance, like motor oil. You can perform a DIY inspection by checking the coolant tank under the hood.
Caution: never open the engine coolant while hot since the pressure build-up can result in a rush of hot coolant and steam that can cause burns.
During summer trips, bugs will smash onto your windscreen. You can easily remove them using your windshield washer fluid, without having to make frequent pit stops.
Ensure your vehicle has enough wiper fluid for your long trip. Most cars come with a warning light indicating when the fluid level is low. However, the fluid reservoir under the hood allows for easy DIY check.
Tires boast of being the only parts of a car with direct interaction with the road, so they need to receive extra care. Check for inflation, tread wear, and other defects before embarking on your trip.
Top key considerations for tires include:
Most manufacturers put the car air pressure specification on a small label attached to your driver’s door jamb.Get to know the ideal tire pressure for your car’s make and model.
Check tire pressure after every 1000 miles, and for the RVs, check the tires at every stop. It’s advisable to carry a pressure gauge with you.
Cars have various drive-wheel configurations like rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive. The wheels that perform and receive the power wear faster than the non-drive wheels tires.
Additionally, loose or workout steering components promote the front tires’ uneven wear.
As such, rotating the tires from side-side, front-back, back-front promotes even wear (check the owner’s manual for your car’s proper rotation pattern).
Perform this service every 5,000-8,000 miles or sooner if you notice uneven wear. The astonishing thing is that most oil change shops have specials that include tire rotation.
Keep in mind that gouges, bulges, and other damages can compromise the tire’s structural integrity, and even minor impact from curbs or potholes can damage the tires.
Visually check for clues of uneven or odd wear patterns and tread wear on every part of the tire. If you find any, a check-up is due. It may also be time for new tires.
Final thoughts on taking a long trip
Do you want an enjoyable, fun, thrilling road trip? Then keep your car well maintained and in perfect condition. Such will ensure you don’t spend your road trip having pit stops or at the repair shop.
Tip: when inspecting your car and you feel something is not good, consult a professional for help, avoid DIY.
However, even with the best preparation, accidents do happen. Contact a personal injury lawyer to advise you on the way forward, should you find yourself in these unfortunate circumstances.