Car Maintenance Tips for Successful Road Trips
Cars are almost like part of the family, aren’t they? They are there for us when we need them, and with a little love and care, they are the vehicles that bring us to our priceless adventures. I thought I would share a few car care tips for proper maintenance so that when you are ready to hit the road, you can do so trouble-free!
We all know that vehicles need proper care, but sometimes needed maintenance is put on the back burner until repairs, updates, or mechanical issues can be afforded or worked into our schedules. That approach might work if you’re a gambler, but the best method is to stick to a scheduled maintenance plan so that you aren’t scrambling to get these things done in the event that any last minute travel opportunities come about.
Getting to know your car and staying on top of maintenance tasks could not only save you a ton money in the future, but it could also be the difference between going on a spontaneous road trip or staying home. There are several things you can do beforehand to put the odds of successful road tripping in your favor.
7 Car Care Tips So You’re Ready to Get Up & Go
1. Get to know your vehicle
We’ve all seen the car off to the side of the road with its hood up while someone explores the contents of the engine cavity to find…what? The time to understand your car is when everything is going as it should, before your travels. It’s important to know what all the parts look, sound, and perform like when they are operating correctly. Where do the fluids go and why, and what happens if the fluids aren’t there?
Not that into it? At least acquaint yourself with a solid maintenance timeline for your car to help you prevent costly problems down the road. Educating yourself on the hows and whys might be crucial in helping you identify an issue should problems arise.
2. Never leave home without the owner’s manual
Every car comes with an owner’s manual, whether it’s in the glove box or online. The owner’s manual will provide recommended maintenance schedules and specifications for all parts of your car. It will tell you about those fluids — antifreeze, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid — the proper amounts and what to look for.
3. Periodic Visual Inspections
Speaking of what to look for, a quick walk-around your car from time to time is always a good idea. Don’t just look under the hood and in the car; look under the car. A leak is always worth investigating and often can be a signal that something is wrong.
4. Periodic Part Inspections
Like anything, car parts can suffer wear and tear. Keeping an eye on wear could save you costly breakdowns for items like timing belts and serpentine belts. Inspect parts regularly (again, check your manual) for wear and tear and replace them when they appear worn. Check your battery to make sure the contacts are clean, and replace your engine air filter when it’s dirty. Most of these items you can take care of yourself with the help of that manual.
5. Regular Oil Changes
Of course, oil changes are important to proper engine performance. Again, follow the suggestions of the manufacturer as far as the type of oil and frequency recommended for changing the oil. If you aren’t sure on the timing, you can also visually inspect it yourself. Use the dipstick to make sure the oil is filled to the right level and also inspect the appearance. Oil should be clean, so if you notice a muddy appearance to the oil (especially if you have recently changed it), it could mean something is going on with your engine.
6. Tire Tread
Know how to determine if your tire tread is adequate. The old penny test works well: insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head pointing down into the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires. I wouldn’t suggest pushing this to the limit, particularly if you are planning a longer road trip. It’s always best to error on the side of caution as blowing a tire would definitely put a cramp in your travel plans.
7. What to leave to the experts
Unless you are a car buff, then I would definitely recommend leaving some maintenance items to the experts: changing the oil, changing the spark plugs, checking the brakes, and getting your tires rotated, balanced, and aligned. They have the tools, the facilities, and the knowledge to complete these tasks quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, work with reputable mechanics who have your best interest and safety in mind.
Regular care and maintenance will extend the life of your car and allow it to be the faithful servant you want it to be — and a valued part of the family!
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