Keep your Cool: How to Prevent a Summer Breakdown
The dog days of summer are here! As families try to make one last road trip before it's time to head back to school, we're sharing a few tips to make sure those adventures go off without a hitch... Unless, of course, you've got a trailer hooked to one!
#1) Start with a Tuneup:
If you're taking an extended road trip, make sure your car is in tip-top shape. If it's almost time for a scheduled maintenance or oil change, make a visit to your trusted mechanic and get it done before your vacay to reduce the chance of breakdowns along the way.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you should check and fill your fluids, including engine oil, radiator coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Check the ground around and under your car for drips; these could warn of small leaks before they can cause big trouble on the road.
Don't forget to also check belts, hoses, and wiper blades. A worn or loose belt can cause the engine to overheat. A cracked belt or a hose that is unusually soft or hard needs replacement.
Improper inflation can lead to overheating and blowouts, so ensure your tires are properly inflated (including the spare) according to your owner's manual or the placard inside the doorjamb. This is of even more concern when road temperatures are extremely high. Make certain you have plenty of tread and no unusual wear on the tires.
Summer heat is actually the number one cause of battery failure and reduced battery life. To ensure easy starts along the trip, make sure the battery cables are clean and have a tight connection to battery terminals. Dirty, loose connections limit the flow of current and are a common cause of battery issues.
Overheating is the leading cause of preventable breakdowns and one of the main areas where prevention is much cheaper than the cure. Watch your car's temperature gauge as you travel, especially if you're stuck in stop-and-go traffic, or traveling through particularly hot climates. Keep an eye on the temperature warning light on your instrument panel: If it starts flashing, it means that the engine's temperature is above acceptable levels and you need to pull over and give the car a rest. Turn off your air conditioner, roll down your windows, and turn on your car's heater (this will pull some of the heat from the engine into the passenger compartment and may keep your car from overheating). If you continue to drive, the engine may suffer serious damage that could cost a lot to repair. (Not to mention, really mess with your family's plans!)
Speaking of overheating, you don't want your passengers to overheat, either! Be sure to pack plenty of drinks for your family, so passengers don't get dehydrated along the way. Start the trip with a cooler full of frozen water bottles: They'll help keep your food cold, can be re-frozen in most hotel fridges overnight, and provide refreshing drinks for your passengers as they thaw.
Keep an emergency kit stowed somewhere you can reach without getting out of the car. You can purchase a ready-made kit or create your own with these items:
•First aid supplies
•Fire extinguisher and jumper cables
•Tire gauge and foam tire sealant
•Flashlight and batteries; a solar cell-phone charger is also particularly handy.
•Gloves and duct tape
•Rain poncho & blanket (Yes, you can be surprised by rain! Have you ever been out in one of Florida's August afternoon rain storms?)
•Water & non-perishable snacks, as well as spare baby supplies like diapers and formula if you have an infant.
•Multi-purpose tool (Swiss Army knife, for example)
•Gallon-size plastic bags for trash. If you're traveling with kids, keep a couple in the glovebox in case of car sickness.
Summertime road trips can be great fun--there’s nothing better than watching the countryside pass by as you leave your home, daily life, and troubles behind. Keep these tips in mind before you head out so you can prevent car trouble during your travels.