5 Car Maintenance Musts Before Hitting the Road This Summer

Categories Car Tips

You’ve planned your itinerary, picked out roadside attractions along the way, made all your hotel and campground reservations, and you’re just about ready to hit the open road. Before you go, there’s one crucial thing you need to accomplish before starting your summer road trip: making sure your car is just as ready as you are. Here are five car maintenance tasks you need to take care of before departing on the adventure of a lifetime:

1. Schedule Routine Maintenance

If you’re about to put a lot of miles on your car, it’s wise to handle any routine maintenance needs before you head out. Schedule an oil change, replace spark plugs, and make sure cabin and engine air filters are in good condition. Your car’s maintenance schedule, found in the owner’s manual, will tell you exactly what tasks are due for your vehicle. This is also a great opportunity to replace windshield wiper blades, top off fluids, and give your car’s interior a thorough cleaning.

2. Inspect Your Tires

Tire blowouts can be incredibly dangerous, especially when traveling at high speeds, so make sure your tires have plenty of tread before you start your trip. Instead of just eyeballing it, check your tire’s tread level by doing the penny test in several places on each tire. If you can see all of President Lincoln’s head, you need to replace your tires before hitting the road.

In addition to checking the tread, inspect your tires for any bulges or tears in the side wall, which is the part of your tire between the tread and the hubcap. Look for nails, glass, or other items stuck in your tires, and ensure they’re inflated to the air pressure rating noted on the sidewall.

3. Check the Brakes

Your brakes are the last thing you want to fail when you’re halfway across the country with your whole family in the car. While it’s unlikely that your brakes will stop working entirely, worn brake pads can still create a dangerous situation by increasing your car’s braking distance. Before you head out, have your mechanic check the brake pads to make sure they still have plenty of miles before they need to be replaced.

4. Test the Battery

Batteries in modern vehicles can stop working with little warning. To prevent your family from becoming stranded at a rest stop, test your battery prior to departure. While you can test your car battery at home with a multimeter, many auto supply stores and car repair shops offer battery tests for little to no fee. If there’s corrosion on the battery terminals, this is a good time to clean it as well.

Even if your battery is in good condition, it’s a smart idea to pack your car with jumper cables. Jumping the battery is a lot less stressful if you can ask a passerby for help rather than waiting for roadside assistance to show up.

5. Assess the A/C

If being stuck in traffic in the middle of July without air conditioning isn’t your idea of a fun road trip, test your car’s air conditioning before you take off. This is especially important if you’re traveling with the elderly or young kids. While you might be able to tough it out in a hot car, they’re more sensitive to extreme temperatures.

Spend time driving around town on a hot day; if you’re less than completely comfortable, bring your car to the mechanic to have your air conditioning system assessed. There are a few things that can cause your air conditioning to lose effectiveness, from a dirty cabin air filter to a Freon leak to a broken compressor, so it’s best to let a professional figure out where the problem lays.

Once your car is in tip-top shape, it’s time to pack your bags and hit the road. Just make sure a roadside preparedness kit is included in your packing list. While these steps should keep you safe and secure through all the miles ahead of you, it’s still important to be prepared for every scenario during your summer road trip.


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