Before you pack up your luggage, kids, spouse - even your dog - and head to your favorite destination, give your family vehicle a thorough appraisal. Here are some maintenance items and safety tips you should consider before heading out into the open highway.
Is Your Car Ready for a Road Trip?
Check Your Fluids
As you probably already know, it's important to keep an eye of fluid levels and replenish them on a regular basis. Although most drivers do an excellent job of getting regular oil changes, checking your engine fluids might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking about California beaches or skiing in Aspen. Before you hit the road, stop into your dealer for an oil change. While they're at it, they can check your coolant, brake, transmission, and power-steering fluids to make sure you're all set.
A low battery can derail your entire trip. Being stranded on the side of the road is definitely not a fun road trip memory. However, it's also much more affordable to replace an old battery than to pay for a tow truck to come and pick you up from a long, lonely stretch of desert highway. Checking your battery power is also something your dealer can do in a flash. They'll let you know whether your battery is up to the task of a cross-country trip.
Consider the Climate
During your travels, think about how a local would drive. If you're a Southerner on your way into the Alaskan wild, for example, you might not know that it's a good idea to keep your fuel tank more than half full. Doing so prevents condensation from forming and helps you avoid a frozen fuel line, which would stop you in your tracks. If you expect snow, get your hands on an ice scraper for your windshield and a snow shovel to dig your car out of a snowed-in parking space. Similarly, before you head south into Everglades National Park, you'll want to make sure your air conditioning system is running in peak condition. Check the Freon levels to ensure maximum coolness.
Highway tire blowouts are surprisingly common, but there are things you can do to avoid such accidents. First, make sure your tires are filled to the appropriate level. Vehicles vary when it comes to ideal psi levels. Your vehicle's ideal psi numbers are available in your owner's manual (and can sometimes be found on the inside panel of your driver's side door), but your local dealer can also help you determine proper psi for your model. Next, check tire tread. This is easy - simply take a penny, and, with the Lincoln side upside-down and facing you, and insert it into a tire groove. If Lincoln's head is completely visible, it's time for new tires. Driving anywhere with low tread is unsafe, so you'll want to replace those bad boys before you drive anywhere else, much less across the country.