Vacation Driving Tips
Follow this checklist before you pack the car and hit the road.
- Fluid adjustment: Check the antifreeze, brake and transmission fluids. Run your car for a few minutes and then check the oil. It should appear clean on the stick and be at a sufficient level. If oil levels are low, take your vehicle in for service. Though the number varies, most technicians suggest an oil change every 3,000 miles. Your owner’s manual will indicate what is best for your vehicle.
- Motor skills: Lift your hood and check your vehicle’s engine components. Begin by examining the battery and cables for any cracks, corrosion or dirt. Summer weather can shorten the life of your battery, so replace it if necessary before a long road trip. Inspect the radiator and hoses for cracks and leaks and change the air filter if necessary. Air filters prevent dirt and dust from seeping into your engine, which can decrease the performance of your car’s engine and reduce gas mileage.
- Windshield wiper blades: Errant thunderstorms are an Arkansas summertime expectation, so new windshield wiper blades might be a good investment. A simple check is to try your windshield washers. If the blades are not in good condition, you will see why when they attempt to wipe the washer solvent off the glass. Streaking, chattering or any other problems will be clearly obvious. Previous winter’s weather may have taken a toll on the blades’ performance.
- Kick the tires: Both extreme heat and cold impact air pressure in tires, so use a tire-pressure gauge to check that inflation levels are on par with what is recommended in your owner’s manual. Properly inflated tires increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent. Check the tires’ tread by sticking a penny face down in the gaps. If Lincoln’s head is fully visible, new tires are in order. Be sure to check the spare as well.
- Ditch the junk: Cleaning out your car can save you money. The more you haul around, the more fuel you burn. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.
While specific checks are important, be aware of more general warning signs from your vehicle. Odd noises, a sudden shake or shimmy or anything out of the ordinary can be an early indication of a potential problem that should be looked into before you take to the road. Remember that even the most conscientious pre-trip prep work can be thwarted by the unexpected. To be prepared, you should always keep at least a basic emergency road kit and a cell phone in your vehicle.