Summer road trip ready: easy tips to avoid car trouble

School will be out in a few weeks and families across the country will be taking longer trips in their vehicle. For most, a trip to a cottage or to see new sights will be a happy and enjoyable experience, but for some, vehicle problems on the road will interrupt travel plans or can even cancel them completely. Here are a few tips to help prevent vehicle problems during your travels.

Checking tire pressures once every two weeks is often enough when near home, but if you are driving long distances, check them regularly. A tire that is low on pressure may have been damaged or picked up a nail. Often you can detect a problem before the tire gets too low, about 17 PSI minimum. Then you can drive very slowly to a local repair shop rather than changing the tire on the side of the road. Be sure to check the spare tire pressure too. A flat spare is of no use to anyone.

Keeping your tires at the recommended pressures will increase tread life and decrease rolling resistance of the tire for better fuel economy inspect the tire tread while you are checking the pressure. Tires should be worn evenly across the tread surface, but the outside edges of the front tires tend to wear faster due to steering forces put on them. This is especially true of front wheel drive vehicles. Uneven tire wear indicates the need for a wheel alignment, which increases tire life while improving fuel economy. If you see bands of solid rubber (tread wear indicator) going across the tread of the tire, then there is only 2 millimetres of tread remaining and the tires are due for replacement.

Next, check all the fluid levels. If there is coolant showing in the radiator overflow or surge tank, then the radiator should be full. Never remove a radiator cap while an engine is hot because the coolant may boil when the pressure is released causing serious burns to anybody nearby. Look at the radiator and heater hoses for any spots that may have been rubbing and wearing against another part. This could cause the hose to burst suddenly. Most hoses fail at connections, so if they look cracked or have soft spots, have the hose replaced. Many of the vehicles that have problems on the road are due to overheating or loss of engine coolant. Consider having the cooling system flushed. It will increase the life span of cooling system parts and reduce the possibility of the engine overheating.

Engine oil should be checked regularly. Internal engine problems may not cause the engine to use much oil when driving around town but can cause oil to be used quickly when driving on the highway. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself driving a vehicle that uses oil quickly, carry extra oil to keep it full. Check for leaks beneath the vehicle and have serious ones repaired. If the engine leaks one drop of oil every kilometre, the engine could run dangerously low on oil in less than a few hundred kilometres.

If equipped with a dipstick, check the automatic transmission oil for particles or burnt odor several days before leaving on holidays. If you find any, take it to your service shop for further diagnosis. By removing the plan and filter, a transmission specialist can often diagnose future transmission problems by the amount and type of debris found. It is cheaper to get it fixed at home than on the road.

Don’t forget other fluid levels such as the power steering, windshield washer, and brake fluid in the master cylinder. Low brake fluid levels may indicate a leak or worn brad pads. Don’t take a chance on your brakes. Some shops will do a free inspection. Any problems they find could save your life. If you inspect the brakes yourself, pay extra attention to the brake hose condition. Cracks or checks on the hose can indicate a potential brake hose failure. Don’t take chances – have them replaced. Have the brake fluid flushed too. It may not be in the owner’s manual but replacing brake fluid every two years will remove moisture from the brake system to improve braking performance and protect expensive brake system components.

Pack an emergency travel kit as well. A flashlight, duct tape, flares or an emergency sign, some simple tools and additional clothing and water should be part of your travel kit. Packing one will ensure you will never need it! Finally, be sure to check your vehicle before you travel. Service departments get extra busy approaching summer travel season so plan ahead and enjoy your summer.

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