Well, vacation time is here. You trust your wheels to get you there, to drive you around on vacation from this to that place, to find restaurants, hotels, shopping, amusements parks, and numerous other excursions. How do you know your car will hold up through all of this traveling activity and keep you safe while on long road trips?
While our travel advice is usually geared toward exotic air and sea options, we have had several requests to continue to write about more “road trip” friendly destinations. We’ve thought of a few tips you should keep in mind while traveling that should lessen your chances of having problems with your trusty wheels while out and about and hundreds or even thousands of miles from home.
- Get a tune-up. Even if you think everything is running fine, it doesn’t hurt to get a tune-up just prior to leaving for vacation and make sure that everything is working properly before traveling any distance. From the engine to the transmission to irritating windows that won’t roll up, any car problem is a nuisance when you are on vacation. So top off the fluids, inspect belts/hoses and get everything checked out beforehand. Peace of mind when you leave your drive is a wonderful thing!
- Get an oil change. You should only do this if your car needs an oil change or if your trip will be enough miles to make it roll over to the “needs oil change” status while you are away. For newer cars, letting your gauge roll over to this point without an oil change can actually void the warranty. For older cars, it’s not quite as important to get it changed within the recommended mileage and there is some flexibility on this rule. But just make sure that you know how close it is to this point and don’t let it run thousands or even hundreds of miles without maintenance. One product the staff at Skycap News recommends without question during each oil change is the micro-lubricant zMAX. Trust us, this product is a “must have” if your serious about protecting your cars engine while traveling.
- Keep it cool. One of the problems often experienced on the road is engine overheating. Long waits in traffic in the heat of the noonday sun can overheat a car’s engine fast and put you at risk for being stranded in dangerous conditions. Some people who have traveled to Death Valley, California, where the mid-day sun can heat up to over 110 degrees can attest to this. Some have even lost their lives in this situation. Always be aware of the temperature and current weather conditions, including the heat factor and carry some extra water in the trunk, in case your car overheats. This is also a reminder to take extra water for yourself as well, enough for everyone in the car with you and emergency communication devices that have a full charge.
- Check Your Tires and Battery. Yes, where the “rubber meets the road.” While it’s arguable which is the most important part on an automobile to maintain, tires rank way up on the list. Check for excessive wear (replace if necessary) and that the tires are properly inflated to ensure best gas mileage while traveling. If you battery is more than two years old, its definitely worth checking out and perhaps, even looking at a possible replacement. Oh, and don’t forget the jumper cables “just in case.”
- Know your resources. Always be aware of the nearest car mechanic’s garage, Jiffy Lube, O’Reilly Auto or even Walmart, in case you need to get your car to one fast and get service for your car. You should also have a backup plan in case one or all of these is unreachable, or too far for you to drive to in the event of a breakdown.
- Join an auto plan. If you do not have an auto plan (emergency wrecker service) in your car insurance, get one through an independent agency. AAA Auto is one of these plans that will go several miles to pick up your vehicle in the event of a breakdown. Make sure there is a number that you can call if you do need emergency help, without having to put yourself in harm’s way from strangers (or nature) when the unexpected happens while traveling.
These travel tips may keep you from experiencing a complete breakdown while traveling. In most instances, if you know your car, get it maintained regularly, and take care of it at all times when on a trip you will enjoy a problem-free trip traveling to your destination. Also, make sure you have communications up and working at all times and be aware of “no coverage” cell signal zones.
Your first line of defense in the event of a car breakdown should be to get to a point where you have cell phone access, call emergency help, and stay safe. Your car should be second on your mind in terms of safety, but you should always be on the lookout for potential issues. Your car is your only safety valve when you are out in the middle of nowhere. So be aware and take care while traveling near or far. If you should need additional information and/or motivation, please check out the two videos from Car and Driver. If anyone should know what is important to check on a car maintenance-wise, they should!