Whether you are headed out on a weekend road trip, planning a month-long family vacation, or waking a four-wheeled friend from its long winter nap, you will want to make sure the spring driving season brings maximum enjoyment and minimum stress. Before you pack up the car, check out these travel tips from AAA and your local AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.
- First, have your car looked over by a certified and inspected AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. If you are a AAA member you can have a maintenance check performed free of charge with any paid maintenance or repair. This will check over those items on the engine that can frequently fail during summer’s heat such as belts and hoses. Your AAR facility will give you a written estimate of any repairs or maintenance and guarantee all work with a 24 month or 24,000-mile warranty that is good at over 7,400 repair facilities across the U.S. and Canada.
- Tend to what connects your car to the road - your tires. If you have snow tires on, make sure to switch to some all-season tires for the spring. Check your tire pressure – and check it often. Buy a quality tire pressure gauge to check air pressures and check the door decal that has the proper pressures for your vehicle listed on it. Check your tires first thing in the morning when the tires are cool, because as you drive on your tires the air pressure inside increases as the air gets warmer.
- Stay on top of your fluids. If you have fallen behind on maintenance, get your vehicle’s oil changed before you hit the road. Use the proper type of oil for your engine, 5w-30, 10w-30, or 10w-40 are multiviscous, and get a bit thinner the hotter it gets outside, thereby increasing the chance that the engine might not get the proper lubrication (it is the opposite in winter). Check the owner’s manual for the proper oil rating for your vehicle and if you are going to be driving in extremely hot weather, you may want to consider using slightly thicker oil in the engine for extra friction protection. Also, while the hood is up, check the antifreeze and make sure it has enough protection for both summer’s heat and winter’s cold, which is ideally a 50/50 mix of coolant and water, but again verify this by checking your owner’s manual.
- Have your battery checked. Summer’s heat and vibration are the two primary causes of battery failure in today’s vehicles. With today’s vehicles being as heavily dependant on electrical components such as computers, switches, and motors, it is vital to have a good, strong battery and charging system to power all of them. If your vehicle is 4 or more years old and has the original battery, it is highly advisable to have it replaced before you go on a trip. If you are a AAA member call us and one of our trained battery installers will come to your location and install a fresh, reasonably-priced AAA battery with a full 36-month warranty in your vehicle.
- Make sure you can see. Check your wiper blades’ condition; if they are skipping on the windshield or streaking it, they need replaced. Twice a year replacement is not unusual because of damage from winter ice and summer bugs and dirt. Also do a light check regularly to make sure all your lights - especially headlights, turn signals, and brake lights - are functioning properly.
- Don’t forget the exterior of your vehicle. Snow, ice, and salt that get on it in the winter can damage the painted surfaces. Wash it thoroughly and apply a good paste wax to the painted and chrome surfaces of your vehicle. Clean the interior and vacuum and clean the carpets to remove winter’s dirt and grime.
- Finally, pack for emergencies. Carry a cell phone with a full charge and a cell phone charger. Also carry an emergency kit with flashlight, flares, first aid kit, jumper cables, gloves, paper towels, extra washer fluid, energy bars or other non-perishable food, a gallon of water, and some basic tools (Leatherman, wrenches, ratchet/socket set, screwdrivers, pliers, or Vise-Grips, etc.)
If you take care of your car before you go on your trip, it will take care of you and make sure you have a safe, trouble free trip. For more information on AAA’s Approved Auto Repair program go to AAA.com/AutoRepair.