Simple Maintenance Can Keep You and Your Vacation on the Road
With summer just around the corner, many Midwesterners are starting to plan family vacations and summer road trips. Before you hit the road this summer, make sure your preparation includes getting your car in shape for warmer weather.
Some simple preventive steps can help you save time, money and the headache of having your trip interrupted or even cut short because your car breaks down.
"With a few quick and relatively inexpensive steps, you can keep your vehicle and vacation running smoothly," said Charlene Zettel, director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. "You should be enjoying your trip, not worrying about whether your car will make it home."
Summer Maintenance Tips
Hot weather can be rough on cars. Higher temperatures speed up a car's wear and tear, as fluids and lubricants break down more quickly. But by following the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule (see your car's owner's manual) and taking the following precautions, your car will be ready for a long, hot summer:
Consider a pre-trip inspection by a qualified technician before you leave. Repairs made on the road may be more costly, and disrupt your vacation plans.
Operationally, check the air conditioning, and inspect the belts and hoses. You may want to have a service professional inspect the entire system.
Inspect batteries and battery cables for corrosion, cracks and dirt. Hot weather can shorten a battery's life, so have it tested if it's near the end of its warranty. It's a lot easier to replace a dying battery before a trip than replace a dead one on the side of the road.
Have a licensed brake adjuster inspect your brake pads and linings for wear. Change the engine oil and filter according to the manufacturer's service intervals and specifications. The service technician should also check the coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper and power steering fluids. Replace ragged wiper blades.
Check the air pressure in all tires, including the spare, to make sure they are properly inflated. Uneven or excessive treadwear are signs that it may be time for rotation or even replacement.
Test your car's interior and exterior lights, including turn signals and high beams, to make sure they work. This is also a good time to clean the lenses to get maximum visibility.
Change your car's air filters according to the manufacturer's service intervals and specifications. A dirty air filter lowers gas mileage and reduces engine performance.
A service professional should inspect the radiator pressure cap, belts and hoses. Flush and refill the cooling system according to the manufacturer's service intervals and specifications. This service should include replacement of the pressure cap. Check engine light. Never leave on a long trip with your car's "check engine light" or "malfunction indicator light" lit up. This light alerts you to a malfunction if it's on while driving your car. If this light is on, have the problem diagnosed by a qualified technician before you leave.