Maintenance Tips For Summertime Travel

by Don Elliott on July 19, 2012

The AAA predicts that 35.5 million of us will travel by automobile during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. That number is up 4% compared to last year, making this the biggest automobile vacation weekend in at least a decade, up nearly 42% since the economic bottom in 2009.

High temperatures, road construction and drivers who did not properly prepare for the long trip by car will inevitably create problems. Before you sit behind the wheel, do what airplane pilots do every time they take off for their next trip. Go down this simple checklist to make sure that you maximize your used car’s value  during your Fourth of July travels.

Fuel Efficiency – Lower fuel prices contribute, in part, to more drivers on the road this holiday weekend. Gas prices are hovering at $3.50 per gallon, 44 cents lower than their peak in April and 16 cents less than last year. Add fuel treatment with your next tank of gas to get an extra mile or two per gallon during your holiday travels.

Oil Change – Extra miles, summer heat, and highway speeds put extra stress on your engine’s moving parts. A new oil filter and an oil change will help your engine perform more efficiently adding to your fuel savings.

Tire Pressure – When your tires are inflated to the proper tire pressure, they will have less rolling resistance and maximum tread contact with the road. Check the chart on the driver’s side doorjamb, the owner’s manual, or on the tire for the correct pressure reading. Tires should have at least 3/32” of tread to be safe for highway driving. Rotating your tires every six months (and before a long trip) will extend the life of the tires. Don’t forget to check the pressure of the spare tire!

Air Conditioning – Most auto repair shops have a summer air conditioning tune-up special. If you have any doubts about the amount of cold air blowing from your vents, a check by a trained mechanic is a good idea before you leave.

Engine Coolant – Make sure that the engine coolant reservoir, or the radiator on older cars, is filled to the proper level with the correct antifreeze/coolant for your make and model car. An overheated engine is no fun on a vacation trip.

Windshield Wipers – If it has been awhile since you changed your wiper blades, now would be a good time. Replacing the blades is inexpensive and you can do it yourself, making driving much easier if it rains.

Lights – Take a minute with one of the kids to make sure all of your lights are working properly. A check of the headlights, daytime running lights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals will assure safe driving and maybe avoid a stop by a police officer. This is particularly important if you will be towing a trailer.

Brakes – Having your brakes checked every 6 months or so is a good idea. Some brakes have alerts that will let you know when they are due for replacement. Don’t spend part of your vacation at the car repair shop having the brakes replaced when it could have been done before you left home.

Mapping – Before you leave, enter the addresses for all of your stops into your GPS or mark them on a map. Programming the GPS while driving at 75 miles per hour is just not safe.

Have a happy fun-filled worry free Fourth of July holiday vacation!

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