It is almost officially summertime in the United States of America. We all look forward to the warmer weather, full sunshine, beaches, and family vacations. All these things have long been a staple of the American summer and summer vacation. If you don’t live on the coast you simply travel there and spend a week or two and experience the wonderful sunny skies and warm beaches. In fact, many look forward to that walk on the beach at sunrise or sunset as the most romantic part of their getaway. It used to be that many would take an airplane trip for their vacation, but with rising gas prices those airline tickets are almost out of sight. Today many will be relying on those same old four wheels that take them to work every day to now carry them off on vacation.
While most would think that the hotel reservations should come first, your auto mechanic will tell you otherwise. Your vehicle preparation should be first. Vehicles endure a lot of wear and tear in the heat and stop and go traffic only adds to that wear and tear. In fact those things are the hardest on any vehicle. Since no one wants to start out their vacation by getting 100 miles down the road and having to pull off and wait for a tow truck’ to rescue them, it would be best to follow the mechanics advice and put the car first on the to-do list.
If you are faithful with your maintenance schedule – getting the oil changed on time, tires rotated on time, brakes checked, and belts and hoses inspected, your car probably won’t need more than the normal checkup. However, if you haven’t stayed up-to-date with those inspections you might find there is more wrong than you ever dreamed. Taking your car to a certified automotive technician for a full safety inspection might be just the answer you need. This should be done at least one full week before you plan to leave on your trip. That way if they discover a problem that requires parts to be ordered, you will have enough time and no reason to panic. Since we don’t just run out and buy a new car before we go, we should allow enough time for the old one to be checked out.
During this safety check the technician will check all the fluid levels in the engine including the oil, transmission fluid, radiator fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Once these have all checked out or have been topped off the tires need examination too. The tire pressure is important, an under-inflated tire bulges outward and puts pressure on the sidewalls of the tire. With enough heat and pressure, that tire will eventually blow out. An over-inflated tire makes less contact with the road and can lead to hydroplaning on wet roads. The tire tread’s depth and condition is also important because blowouts on the road are common enough without us adding to them. If a tire is wearing unevenly, the alignment needs to be checked too. Tires carry us safely down the road we don’t want to overlook them and run the risk of having them dump us right down on the highway. Don’t forget about the spare, it should be checked too in the unlikely event that you need a spare, wouldn’t want to pull out a flat one and not be able to go on down the road Belt and Road.
Next on the list to check out are the brakes, we rely on brakes to get us stopped on time and sometimes sooner than we plan on. Brakes are very important to help prevent accidents in some situations. We certainly don’t want to have faulty brakes or brakes that only work part time. It could cost us everything we love if the brakes fail. We would go right in and get brakes that squeal checked out, so we may as well just give them a look while we are inspecting all the rest just to be sure.
Belts, hoses, and air conditioning are important vehicle functions. These items can develop leaks that we wouldn’t normally notice, but given a long day on the road we might find out real soon they aren’t up to snuff. A broken belt or a leaking hose will cause the radiator to quickly overheat, leaving us stranded on the side of the road. We might think the outdoor temperature is hot, but just think what we might feel if we were stuck on the side of the road with a car steaming out its ears. The radiator coolant should be changed and flushed once a year and summer time is the best time to have fresh coolant. Most people wouldn’t consider vacation much fun if they had to drive everywhere with the windows down and still be sweating up a storm. There isn’t much that is more uncomfortable than being overheated for either us or the car.
Because we can’t count on the weather to always be sunny with nary a cloud in the sky, the windshield wipers should be checked and possibly replaced. Sort of like running fingernails down the chalkboard, the skipping of old wiper blades across the windshield can be grating on the nerves. Not to mention they don’t do very much to clear the vision. And then there are the summer bugs, we have to be able to occasionally wash the windshield in order to see past all the bug splats. One thing is for certain, there isn’t a vacation spot out there that has bug-free arrival.
Summer traffic is often huge. We all know that traveling with our headlights on is a good safety measure, and at night they are completely necessary. Headlights that don’t work or are down to just one working light are a huge safety hazard. In fact, they can cost you a ticket with the local highway patrol. Sitting along the side of the road with flashing lights behind you is uncomfortable enough when you have been speeding, but having required vehicle safety features added to the ticket really adds up the fines.
Finally, having the battery checked and all the corrosion cleaned off will help to guarantee you won’t have trouble starting that car every time you climb in. Making sure the battery posts are good and the cables have good connections will help make sure that battery keeps you running all day long.
With high fuel prices weighing us down, we need to do a few things to help improve our mileage while out on the road. Changing the air filter every 12,000 miles is a good place to begin. It doesn’t cost much, but it certainly improves the way the engine runs. Also driving sensibly will make a huge contribution to fuel mileage. Did you know aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas? It can lower your gas mileage by 33% at high way speeds and by 5% around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you can save more than gas money. Simply slowing down on the open road can save gas too. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $.024 per gallon for gas. Using the cruise control on the highway helps to maintain a constant speed and will also save gas. Also avoid excessive idling, idling gets 0 mpg. And finally don’t pack the refrigerator and the kitchen sink to take with you on vacation. Having an extra 100 lbs in your vehicle could reduce your mpg by up to 2%. Simply take what you need and leave the rest at home.
There are so many things to think about when it comes to summer vacation. Making a list and checking it twice will help us make sure to get it all done. Once we climb into the car and head down the road, we want to know that all preparations are complete and this can be the vacation or summer of a lifetime. It is time for relaxing with friends and family; don’t let your car throw a wrench in your plans. See your local auto repair facility today, have a visit with their certified auto technicians and let them help you get your car ready for the long hot summer. Summer is only fun if it’s free of inconveniences like car breakdowns. Once they send you down the road with a certified updated vehicle bill of health, rest assured you are ready to have fun.