Preparing for Summer Road Trips

Helpful tips to make sure your trips run as smoothly as possible

With the kids home from school for the summer, many families decide to pack up the family vehicle and hit the open road to visit family or see America. Being confined to an enclosed space can be stressful enough, so basic preparations before the trip can help keep unexpected disasters to a minimum.

First up is checking the condition of all the tires. With gas prices of nearly $4 per gallon, an easy way to save at the pump is to make sure the tires are properly inflated. Check the sticker on the driver’s door jamb for the recommended pressures, and make sure all four tires are up to spec. Before a road trip, it’s equally important to check the pressure in the spare. While you’re at it, do a visual inspection of the tires and replace tires showing excessive or uneven wear.

Compact spares are typically inflated to between 80 and 90 psi, compared to about 30 to 35 psi for conventional tires. While checking the spare, don’t forget to take out the jack and make sure it’s working and all the parts are there. If your wheels have locking lug nuts, you wouldn’t want to get stranded with a flat tire that can’t be removed so make sure the key is in the car, as well. A first aid kit in the vehicle is always a good idea, too.

Cranky kids confined to a steamy car on a hot summer day are not conducive to a fun family outing, so if you haven’t already checked out the air conditioning, make sure it’s properly chilling the cabin air. If necessary get it recharged with refrigerant or get other repairs done.

Of course, the passengers aren’t alone in needing cooling in the summer. Make sure the engine coolant reservoir is filled to the proper level and the coolant is in good condition. It should be either a bright green color or bright orange if it uses Dex-Cool coolant. If there are any signs of brown discoloration, have the system inspected by your dealer’s service department, as it could be an indication of a leaking head gasket that’s allowing oil to mix with the coolant.

Don’t forget to check under the vehicle after it has been parked to make sure there are no leaks. If there are signs of any fluids other than water (which may just be condensation from the air conditioning compressor) get it checked and repaired as soon as possible.

If you are planning a long trip and your car is close to the mileage where it needs an oil change, take it in early to get fresh oil.

No matter how much you prepare for a trip, the unexpected can sometimes happen. Thankfully, roadside assistance services are always ready to come to your aid. Many automakers now offer complimentary roadside assistance that includes towing, tire changes, emergency fuel delivery and other services during the warranty period on new and sometimes pre-owned vehicles. Cell phone providers also frequently offer similar assistance services for just a few dollars per month added to your bill. For those that prefer the traditional approach, automobile clubs like AAA are also a great option. No matter what service you opt for, make sure you know your account number and program the phone number into your cell phone.

Speaking of cell phones, remember to bring a 12-volt charging adapter so you can keep the battery charged while driving. If you are planning to use a smartphone as a navigation device, check out your local cell phone store for a windshield mount for the phone so you don’t have to hold it in your hand.

Thanks to modern consumer electronics, kids can also stay entertained on the road––listening to whatever music they like, or using laptops or tablets to play games or watch movies––without annoying parents. The batteries in those devices have a habit of running down at inopportune times, however, so having suitable charging capabilities is important.

For devices that can charge from USB ports, if the car doesn’t have extra ports, get a couple of extra 12-volt to USB chargers and, if needed, a multi-outlet adapter. If using a laptop on the road, investing in a 400-watt power inverter will provide one or two AC outlets just like at home, so everyone can stay occupied.

Stop by the dealership today and let us make sure your car is in the right shape before you take it out on a long road trip. Some basic preparation will help minimize the chances of avoidable disasters on the road and allow everyone to come home with memories of a great trip.

This article is presented by Jack Maxton Chevrolet in Worthington, Ohio.

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