Road Trip? Check Your Vehicle First

We're traveling as you read this.

When we were packing for the trip, I thought about the one thing most summer drivers fear: a road emergency.

That's because Darling Hubby took his pickup in because the fan on the radiator seemed to randomly come on and go off.

No rhyme or reason to it. Surprisingly, our trusty service manager discovered that a low battery was the cause of it.

Summers in Texas kill batteries if they're a few years old.

A battery should be charging at a certain number. The battery in our pickup charged at half that number. We could have been out in isolated country, stopped for a bite to eat, and discovered when we tried to start the truck again that it was as dead as an armadillo crossing a busy highway at night.

No matter where you live, before you leave on a road trip, you should do these basic inspections of your vehicle.

1. Battery. Check the battery. Is it charging properly? Batteries are rated for how many years they should work well. How old is the battery in your vehicle? There should be no charge to check this with your local mechanic.

2. Tires. Those round black things are another critical part of your vehicle. Hot pavement, hot outside temperature, and high speed can wreak havoc on tires.

This is a part of your vehicle that's rated by miles. If the tires on your vehicle are rated for 50,000 miles, and you've put 60,000 miles on them, don't take a long trip without getting your tires checked. Best thing to do is get a new set of tires.

3. Oil changes. Some people ignore this, but oil changes are required every few thousand miles. The number depends on the make of vehicle. Not changing your oil as required by the owner's manual will shorten the life of a vehicle engine. Absolutely get the oil changed before a trip if you're close to the miles requiring an oil change.

4. Radiaotor. Have it checked. Does it need flushing and new coolant installed? Get it done or you may be very sorry.

5. Overall maintenance. Most cars manufactured in the last few years are built fairly well.

Sure there are some lemons, but you probably read vehicle reports before buying. Right?

The owner's manual has a service log in the back that shows when various items need to be checked, replenished, or replaced.

The belts in today's vehicles are expensive, but if one goes, the repair is even more expensive. The timing belt usually must be replaced when the vehicle reaches a certain mileage. On our vehicles, that's 100,000 miles. What is it on yours? Do you know?

6. Owner's Manual. Many vehicle owners never read the owner's manual so they are uninformed about how to take care of a fairly expensive purchase. Be smart. Get your owner's manual out and read it, especially the part about maintenance.

Photo by Akent879-3188468 Pixabay
7. Emergency help. Program phone numbers into your cell so you'll know exactly what to do if you have a road emergency.

Some people have rescue plans through their new vehicle purchase. If you don't, consider signing up for an emergency road service plan.

8. Travel plan. Like being a private pilot who files a flight plan, write up a travel itinnerary and give it to a couple of friends or family members.

Make sure someone knows where you're supposed to be and when. Check in with them as planned when you reach various waypoints.

Takeaway Truth

Have a great week. If you plan to travel, be smart and be safe.  Enjoy this last weke of July. I intend to do that!

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