Take Care: Pre-Trip Preventive Maintenance for Your Car
Your family is probably already looking ahead to its next big road trip, planning sights to see and routes to take. Just don’t make the mistake that so many other would-be road trippers make and forget to put your car in the best possible working order before you leave. Planning a trip can seem like a full-time job, but losing sight of the big picture and failing to take care of the little things like engine maintenance, tire health and transmission repair could be a costly mistake. Refer to the following vehicle-maintenance checklist before taking an extended road trip.
1. Change Your Oil
It’s no longer a secret that the oil on newer vehicles doesn’t need to be changed every 3,000 miles as manufacturers continue to recommend. Getting it done once every 5,000 to 7,500 miles will save you some money and won’t noticeably affect your car’s performance. That said, you should always change your oil before a big road trip. The reasoning is simple: In addition to putting thousands of miles on your car, you’ll be driving for long periods at a time in rough conditions, putting exceptional strain on your vehicle’s engine. Don’t take a chance.
2. Check Your Belts
Few vehicle components run down faster during periods of high use than its belts. To check for wear, take each between your fingers and inspect by sight and touch for rips and ragged edges. If you detect any imperfections, you must change the affected belts before embarking on your trip. The good news: They are available at any auto-parts store and you can replace them yourself by following the instructions in your vehicle’s manual, so be sure to bring an extra set on your trip.
3. Inflate Your Tires
One of the simplest preventive care tasks imaginable, checking your tire pressure will save you time, money, gas and worry. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone! Before your trip, check your tires and inflate them to the high end of the manufacturer’s recommended range. Air costs less than a dollar at most gas stations, and will immediately boost your car’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent or more. Fully inflating your tires also decreases the likelihood that they’ll blow out, a situation you would probably prefer to avoid. If you’re expecting inclement weather or back-road driving on your trip, check your tire treads as well. Worn-down treads reduce your vehicle’s stability in substandard driving conditions.
4. Battery Maintenance
Car batteries have become increasingly resilient in recent years, but they remain fallible. As a rule, batteries over four years old are due for a replacement, and in cold climates you would ideally replace yours every three. If your battery is newer and you don’t want to spend the $80 to $100 for a new one if you don’t have to, visually inspect your battery for leaks, excessive corrosion, cracks or other defects. Any such blemishes will impair the battery’s function and may present a safety hazard.
You’re probably excited about your upcoming family road trip, but don’t get so caught up in the planning process that you forget to prepare for it. Taking the time to check your vehicle and put it in good working order will save you a lot of stress down the road.
Tilla Wentworth lives and writes in London. She writes for carinsurance.org.uk where you can find more information on car insurance.