Monday, September 17, 2012

Prepare your car for a road trip

Today’s guest article by John Egan, managing editor of, a popular auto insurance website that provides online services to consumers, provides important tips for trouble-free road trips.
Fall is a great time to travel, but even with cooler days on the horizon it's wise to be prepared for hotter-than-normal temperatures. That means more than just a wide-brimmed hat, plenty of sunscreen and a well-stocked cooler -- your car, truck or RV will need attention as well.

Just five minutes spent checking your vehicle's vital signs can mean the difference between cruising across state lines and sitting outside a small-town mechanic's shop for days while you wait for parts to arrive. Before your road trip use this checklist to keep on rolling to your destination:
Dismantled tire on car in the mountains
Getting Started
Your battery powers your car when you turn the key, so without it you won't go anywhere. Hot temperatures can cause the electrolyte solution inside to evaporate. When levels get low, corrosion occurs and can ultimately cause the battery to fail. Check fluid levels by popping the cap on the battery's top and peeking inside. The solution should reach to just below the vent wells. If it's lower, add distilled water (but don't overfill to the top of the battery).

Rolling Down the Road
Tires take a beating in hot weather because of friction they endure against hot pavement for hours on end. When a tire is under-inflated, it flexes and adds resistance to its rotation. Keep a tire gauge in your car and check air pressure regularly. Having enough air in tires can prevent a dangerous blowout on the highway.
Stay Greased Up
Engine oil dipstick
The oil in your engine keeps all those moving metal parts lubricated and cool. When it gets low, the heat in your engine can increase by a fifth.  Check oil at least every other gas stop. Pull the dipstick under the hood and make sure the level falls between the high and low mark. If you're low, simply pour half a quart in and check again. Repeat if necessary.

Keep it Cool
Engine coolant is usually contained in a plastic reservoir under the hood with a clear mark for the fill line. If you're low, add more -- you can buy coolant at any gas station. The coolant absorbs heat, often reaching over 200 degrees before dissipating that through the radiator. If you drive a black or dark colored car, be even more diligent -- temperatures can be ten degrees hotter inside than in a white or light colored car.

Hose Check
Heat can crack and split hoses carrying fluid and coolant between engine parts. When you check oil and coolant, look for leaking or cracked hoses. These are available at most auto parts stores, and employees will often help you with a hose swap.

Finally, if your A/C system has a filter, be sure to change it annually. When it's clogged or dirty, it has to work harder to keep itself (and you) cool.

Photos provided by Bankrate, Inc.

No comments: