If you have a new car or a not-so-new car, there are some things we all need to do before a long trip.
At the garage
The first thing you want to do is check your oil. Make sure the car engine is cool to the touch. The user’s manual can help you locate the dipstick if you have trouble. Check the color as well as the level. The darker it is, the more you need an oil change. If you take it to a garage for an oil change, tell the mechanic you are about to drive it on a long trip. He can top off your other fluids, too, like transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. If your antifreeze is dirty and you need your coolant system flushed, he can tell you that, too. He knows not to mix antifreeze colors. A mechanic can also visually check your belts and hoses for signs of wear and tear. The pressure in your tires can easily be checked here. (Don’t forget to remind him to air up the spare.) This way, you don’t have to fool with a magnifying glass to see the tiny letters on the tire. If your tires are more than six months old, have the tread checked. A depth gauge should read no less than 1.5mm, preferably 3.2mm. When they were brand new, they had an 8mm tread depth. The more tread you have on your tires, the sooner the vehicle can stop after you hit the brakes. Whether you’re talking about a vacuum cleaner, a clothes dryer or even if you buy a new car, the air cleaner needs to be cleaned. If it is only lightly dirty, maybe it can be blown out with compressed air instead of replaced. An air filter helps to guard against oil contamination. So, keeping it clean helps keep your oil clean longer. Inspect the battery for leaks or cracks. Check the battery fluid levels. If you’re working on year five of a five-year battery have it replaced. Better safe than sorry!
Do the seat belts work? Are they comfortable enough for everyone to wear? The local discount store has many types of pads and seat belt holders to choose from. If they don’t work right, you can order replacements over the Internet. Inspect the windshield wiper blades and replace if necessary. Wash the windows, inside and out. Dirty windows make seeing even harder at night or in a cold fog. Road hypnosis can happen to anyone. If you see it, you have more time to react to careless driving. Pack an emergency kit. Include jumper cables, cell phone, engine water, bottles of engine fluids, an assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches and sockets and road flares. For yourself, include a blanket, jacket, water and non-perishable food. (Don’t forget the can opener!) For pets, include food and water for them. Have someone else watch your lights as you tap the brakes and tell you if they’re working. Test the left and right blinkers and hazard lights to make sure they work well. Beep the horn to make sure it sounds loud enough and doesn’t stick. This is a good, helpful way to involve small children.
The night before
Fill up the car the night before you leave and get a good night’s sleep. Night-night!