The weather’s warming and the birds are chirping. Make no mistake about it, it’s time to get your car ready for the first road trip of the season. Whether you’re headed north for some last-minute skiing or toward the coast for some fun in the sand, there are a few things you can take care of before you set off that will make your drive as easy going as the rest of the trip. They might even save you some cash by keeping you off of the side of the road, too.
Whether your trip is 100 miles down the road or 1,000, it’ll pay to get your car up to speed on all of its regular maintenance. That means taking care of any fluids that may have been neglected over the winter. If you can’t remember the last time you checked, changed or topped off your oil, coolant, brake or transmission fluid, go ahead and swap them out for brand-new examples. In the case of your oil or automatic transmission, make sure you get a high-quality filter, too. It may seem like overkill to take care of all of your fluids at once, but think of it as cheap insurance. Which is better? A $30 oil change or a new engine? Even we can do the math on that one.
Go ahead and have your tires rotated and inspected, too. The last thing you need is to head off into the sunset on bald or dry rotted tires. A blowout at interstate speeds can be both frightening and dangerous, even if you do make it to the side of the road. Err on the side of caution and replace any tires that look suspect. Again, it may seem expensive at the time, but we guarantee it’ll be cheaper than having to get someone to tow your car to some no-name garage in the middle of the night for new rubber. Once you’ve made sure everything looks good, take a look at your tire pressure. With everything up to spec, you’ll get better gas mileage and your vehicle will handle and stop better.
With the vehicle’s wheels off, it’s a good time to take a look at the car’s brakes, too. Are your rotors warped or cracked? Do they have deep grooves or are your pads warn close to their minimum clearance? Your vehicle will be experiencing harsh conditions for much longer than your daily commute to and from work, so once again it’ll pay to nip any potential problems in the bud now rather than deal with them a few hundred miles down the road.
With the major issues taken care of, you can focus on easy-to-do items. Have a friend help you check all of your vehicles lights. A burnt-out bulb is a great way to get a visit from the local police department while you’re on a trip. New bulbs only cost a few dollars and are easy to install. Some parts locations like Advanced Auto Parts or Autozone may even help you install them for free.
The same goes for windshield wipers. If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it’s time to swap them out for new ones. Bad windshield wipers can make driving in the rain in a foreign land a nightmare. Again, new wipers are cheap compared to getting into a fender bender just because you can’t see the guy in front of you.
Last but not least, give your car a good top to bottom cleaning. Pull out any and all unnecessary items from the trunk and backseat. Doing so will this help with your vehicle’s fuel economy, freeing up more cash for food and brew once you arrive. Making sure your windows are clean will also improve your visibility and reduce the likelihood of steamy glass. Remember, greater visibility reduces your chance of bumping someone in traffic. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than an accident.
Knocking out simple preventative maintenance can go a long way toward keeping everyone smiling as you head on down the road. You may never know if what you’ve done has actually kept you out of trouble, but in this case, it’s better not to test your luck.