When it’s that time of the year again and you need to get your family across the country to visit grandma and grandpa you’re going to need to prepare your car for that long trip. The followings are the steps that you must do to make sure your car is ready for the hard work coming.
It’s important to start the repair and maintenance work at least two weeks before your actual trip schedule. Two weeks is a lot of time for you to get everything right. Unexpected things will come up so with time to spare you’ll be ready for almost anything.
1. Check the lights
If you have a rather old car you should check if your headlights are still clear or are they beginning to become yellowish or even opaque. Clear headlights are very important when you’re driving at night. They improve your visibility and makes everything safer for you, your family, other vehicles, and other people sharing the road with you at night.
There are various headlights cleaner you may try. Lucklily they are very affordable. The not so lucky part is they require a great deal of work. Prepare to spend a whole weekend to bring your headlights back to their prime. While you’re at it check the bulbs too. If it’s been years since you change the bulbs it will be wise to change them now to make sure your headlights actually have some lights when you need them.
Also check the break light, indicator, and fog lights. All of these must function properly to ensure a safe ride.
2. Check the tires
Are your car tires inflated properly yet? The recommended pressure varies by make and models so you need to check the owner’s manual for the number. Under inflated tires make the engine work harder and it’ll burn more fuel. Over inflated tires are dangerous. Blown tires when you’re driving at speed will be disastrous.
Go to an auto shop to have the tires balanced and change the tires if :
– Signs of tread wear is apparent
– A tire goes flat repeatedly or cannot be properly repaired due to the size or location of a cut or other damage
– You notice tire damage such as cuts, splits, cracks deep enough to expose the fabric or bulges indicating internal damage
Keeping a spare tire in the boot is also recommended just in case one of your tires is damaged during the trip.
3. Check the fluids
Image : Check Automatic Transmission Fluid
This includes the motor oil, automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid, wiper fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant/antifreeze. Periodic oil change is a must if you want the engine to run properly. Automatic transmission fluid is mean to last a long time but checking it before a long ride is advisable. In case of a leak there won’t be enough fluid to lubricate the transmission. If that happens the engine may stop completely.
The coolant fluid keeps your engine temperature in manageable range. Overheated engine is a fire hazard. When you want to change the coolant please wait until your engine is cooled down a bit. Don’t open the radiator cap right after a ride. The super hot vapor will cause severe burn. You may be tempted to just water as coolant. Don’t! Water’s boiling point is too low and it will not provide the necessary cooling your engine really needs when it’s running.
The coolant, brake, power steering, and wiper fluid level should be between the “MAX” and “MIN” lines on the tank.
4. Check the battery
Image : Checking Car Battery
Make sure that the battery terminals are not corroded and that there are no loose connections, cracks, or loose clamps. Use a multimeter/voltmeter to check the battery’s condition. If reads 12.65 – 12.77 Volts, then it’s in good condition. If it’s less than 12 Volts that means the battery’s dead and you need to replace it. It’s always a good idea to carry a battery jumper when you’re going for a trip. You’ll never know when that battery need a quick jump.
By the way, be cautious when checking the battery. Do not cause sparks by touching the battery terminals with tools.
5. Clean it up!
It’s not just washing the car and get everything on the exterior looking sparkly clean, but also getting the interior nice and clean. Replace the AC filter if needed. Get rid of dust and mold sticking on the AC Vent so everyone gets to inhale clean air when you turn the thing on. Fresh-smelling car is a delight especially when you’re in it for hours straight.
Clean up those crumbs from the carpet and seat. Throw away any tissues, candy wrappers, and any trash that’s been in the car for far too long. Get a good wet/dry vac to clean the interior. It’s a handy tool to suck up spills and dirt alike.
5. Get a trash can
If you don’t have one already, just get a small trash can or bag. When you have kids they will surely snack during the trip and the snack packaging and wrappers will have to go somewhere. You’re not going to tell me your one of those parents who tell their children, “Just throw the trash out of the car!”, aren’t you? Of course you’re not. You’re a responsible parent who knows littering is a bad habit.
Car trash can or bag costs peanuts. You can get on for less than ten bucks. They also come in various sizes and types. Some hang on the headrest or transmission stick and other look just like a miniature trash can. When possible, get one with leakproof material. That way when your kids put their unfinished drinks or ice cream there, it won’t drip and make a mess. You can also line the interior of the trashcan with grocery bag.
Do remember to empty the trashcan when you’re stopping to get gas, have lunch, or just take a short break. Trash gets smelly especially the wet ones.
6. Change the air freshener if needed
Kids get carsick during long road trips. That’s normal. Sometimes part of the cause is how your car smell. On short trips to the school and back it may not be too much of a problem since your kids are only in the car for mere minutes. For hours long of road trip, however, car that doesn’t smell right will be a huge problem. Take your family’s preference into account when choosing a car freshener. Get a spare with different scent just in case.
7. Check windshield and wipers
Image : Cracked Winshield
The car windshield should be clean for proper visibility. When the windshield is dirtied with sticky dust then the dust will scatter the sunlight making it hard to see what’s in front of you.
If there’s a crack, please fix that first before going on a long road trip. It may sound like a hassle but even small chips compromise the structural integrity of the windshield. Contact a glass repair company to fix or replace it.
Check the wiper blades and test if they are able to clean the windshield properly. Wiper blades are meant to be replaced once a year. If you’ve been postponing changing them now is a good time to do it.
8. Consult the owner’s manual
The steps described above cover pretty much everything you need to do before your long road trip. To be sure please consult your car manual for any specific maintenance your car may require. If checking all these seem tedious to you please go to an auto shop to do them for you. This is why you should do these maintenance at least two weeks before the actual trip. Good auto shops usually have customers lining up weeks in advance. It gets worse during holiday season.
Okay, those are just about all you need to prepare for a long car trip. Of course, the actual preparation doesn’t stop on the car alone. You also need to prepare yourself and your family for the trip. Stay healthy and good luck on your next trip. Oh, and be sure to get carry all the important tools and equipment with you. You’ll never know when you’re going to need them.