A Road-Tripping Checklist for Car Safety

Now that summer is here, many Americans are looking forward to their next road​ trip. The warmer months provide the best opportunity to explore the country, go on adventures and take a break from the norm.

Beyond the normal trip-planning tasks like booking hotels or campsites and making sure you didn’t forget to pack something important like extra S’Mores reserves, you’ll want to make sure your car is in top condition to survive the trek.

Weather of all kinds can take a toll on your car. The winter months can cause some damage due to freezing temperatures, which may have gone unnoticed but need to be addressed before heading out of town. But heat brings its own set of challenges for any vehicle as well. It’s important to give your car a full examination before taking off.

Keep Cool

Any road-tripper who has suffered the heat of summer will tell you that one of the most important features of a car is the air conditioning system. If you haven’t turned it on since last summer, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s in working condition before you discover halfway through your trip that it’s not. The first test is simple: Turn it on to see if the air coming out is cold. If it’s not, there’s a problem. AAA suggested having it checked out by a qualified technician.

“An overheated car can put a damper on a fun road trip quickly.”

Some cost-cutting travelers may decide to forego fixing up the AC to save some money. However, Esurance warned against this. While you may think that the AC is just to keep you and your friends cool, the belt that controls this feature could also be powering other important parts of your engine. Make sure this is in working order to prevent engine problems down the line.

You’re not the only one that needs to stay cool this summer. An overheated car can put a damper on a fun road trip quickly. Autotrader noted that checking it is pretty simple, and anyone with a modern car should be able to do this task. Your car’s maintenance manual will tell you where to locate the coolant reservoir. When the engine is cool, open the cap to check the level. There will be a easy-to-read range, and if the levels are below the minimum, just add more.

Be sure to do this before you leave town. Driving will heat this part of your car up, making it unsafe to open the cap. Plus, you’ll want to take care of any issues you may find beforehand.

Test the Tires

Air pressure is affected by temperature, so when it begins to get hotter, the pressure in your tires will expand. An overinflated tire can make driving less safe and can wear your tires out faster. Be sure to check the tire pressure when they are at a normal temperature, such as before you start driving. To find out what the pressure should be, consult your car’s manual; don’t rely on the maximum pressure that may be printed on the side of the tire.

Also, make sure you remembered to put the tire gauge back into the glove compartment. You’ll want to periodically check the tires throughout your trip.

Oil Up

The oil in your car keeps the engine running smoothly, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough clean oil before your trip. If you haven’t had an oil change in a while, you should do so before you leave. You don’t know when you’ll have a chance to during your vacation, and the oil should be changed every 5,000 miles.

Poor oil quality and an old oil filter will also affect your car’s fuel consumption, so making sure these are in good working order is important.

Windshield Wipers

On a sunny day, you may not think about how crucial windshield wipers are to your safety. However, get caught in a heavy downpour once and you’ll quickly realize that this item should be on your regular maintenance checklist. Carefully inspect the blades to make sure they’re not torn or falling apart. After a winter of getting frozen to your windshield, they might have seen better days.

Once you are confident your car is in perfect shape to take on the road, feel free to hop inside and go exploring. Just be sure to double​-check everything along the way, or when you get home.

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