Although it’s tempting to fly out the door for your beach trip, take the time to prepare your vehicle for the journey. It might delay your head start on the highway, but neglecting to check that your car is ready for a long drive can be dangerous for you and your family.
In addition to a car wash to prevent more dirt from damaging your vehicle, we recommend checking the following parts:
If your brakes aren’t up to par, this can be hazardous as you travel. Take your car on a test ride to see whether there are any weird vibrations under the brake pedal or if there’s a grinding noise.
Regardless of the noise or motion of how the car slows down, if it seems unusual, go ahead and take it to a mechanic to get looked at.
It’s important to monitor the levels of the following fluids before traveling:
- Transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Engine oil
- Windshield washer fluid
To check these fluids, look at your owner’s manual. A rule of thumb with the brake fluid is that it should be relatively clear. Also, an easy way to check the windshield washer fluid is to turn your car on and spray it to see how much is left.
A simple spot check can detect other issues too. Consumer Reports recommends in their article “How to Prep Your Car for Vacation” to “run your vehicle for about 10 minutes until the engine is up to its normal operating temperature, then park it for a few minutes and note any fluids that may have dripped from underneath…Red liquid is power-steering fluid or transmission fluid. Brown or black fluid is engine oil. A yellowish-green liquid is coolant. A clear liquid is either water (usually just condensation from the air conditioner, which is no problem) or brake or clutch fluid.”
Battery and belts
To see if your battery needs to be replaced, you can follow your owner’s manual and fill the battery with distilled water while checking for cracks. However, if you’re not confident in doing this yourself, definitely take your car to a mechanic.
Since belts and hoses only last a few years or so, it’s crucial to feel the hoses for soft spots and cracks. Similarly, you can evaluate the belts by feeling them for worn out areas or slack. If you detect anything in the belts or hoses, visit your mechanic to have them replaced.
Checking your tire pressure may be the easiest task. Some newer cars alert you if your tire pressure is low, but for other vehicles, you need to insert the pressure gauge into the air valves to see if they’re properly inflated.