Troubleshooter: Preparing your car for summer road trips
|driving.ca 10 Jun 2021 at 16:25|
As pandemic lockdowns start to fade into memory, they are being replaced with plans for vacation road-trips. Whether it’s across the city, county, province, or nation, it pays to plan your trip ahead. This is especially true when it comes to the condition of the vehicle that you and your family will be relying on to get to your destination and back home without a fuss. But do you really need a full-blown maintenance service, and how much will it reduce your risk of trouble, if at all?
First, if you adhere to a regular maintenance schedule with a shop that checks everything possible, every single time, you’re not likely to need any special professional inspection before a trip. But that assumes that you get a written condition report, and that you actually read it. If tires, for example, were highlighted at your most recent visit as a yellow or ‘will need attention soon’ situation, getting some new ones in advance of the tour might be advisable. But if it’s been 6 months or longer since your vacation driver was in the shop, getting an oil change and complete inspection — including brakes — is a must, especially for vehicles over 2 or 3 years of age or with mileage exceeding 50,000 km.
Survey shows Canadians are ready for road trips this summer
So, for a regularly and properly maintained vehicle, there are a few things you can and should check yourself in your driveway, before packing up.
It’s amazing how few drivers regularly check their vehicles’ lights, especially considering that they can work one minute and go dark the next. With all lights (including the four-way flashers) on, do a simple circle-check to make sure everything’s lit. If you want just a little extra assurance of no surprises, lightly slap each lens with the palm of your hand to make sure a loose connection or filament won’t let you down.
Yes it’s nice that tire pressure sensing systems can do this for you, but getting and using a gauge can get you close enough to the wheels to possibly spot something else amiss. And what about tires on trailers or wheeled off-road transports? Don’t they deserve some pressure?
Asian auto mechanic holding digital tablet checking car wheel in auto service garage. Mechanical maintenance engineer working in automotive industry. Automobile servicing and repair concept
If you change them every 12 to 18 months, you probably needn’t worry. But if you can’t remember the last time you bought wipers, replace them before a road trip. Nothing is more exasperating — not to mention unsafe — than a set of wipers that won’t give you sufficient vision during a downpour.
The most common error that drivers make when checking various fluid levels is overfilling an automatic transmission. Fortunately, most carmakers have eliminated this problem by removing the dipstick, so hopefully your last service provider verified that level and provided a report. Remember that engine coolant in a reservoir will vary in volume, so unless that bottle is dead empty when the engine is warmed up, don’t add any coolant.
It’s easy to damage some undercarriage gear, so a quick look is a good idea. Fetch a flashlight and use the camera feature on your phone to get a clear peak. Look for anything loose or hanging. Check any fuel, brake, or coolant/refrigerant lines and the fuel tank for wet or damp spots. On a dry day, everything should appear dusty and bone-dry.
And don’t do this inspection on the morning of your trip. Do it a few days (or a week) in advance to give yourself time to correct anything that might be needing attention.