By DON ELFRINK
There’s nothing more evocative of summer than the road trip. Whether you’re beach-bound or heading up to the higher elevations in the mountains for a little R&R, this is the time of year to do it. However, if you’re planning a road trip, you’ll need a few basic tips to help ensure that not only do you survive it, but that you arrive safe and sound at your destination. Here are some essential tips for summer road trips.
Stay Off the Road during Peak Travel Times
Summer is the nation’s peak travel season, but there are specific peak travel times when you need to stay off the road. Obviously, you want to avoid rush hour traffic if you’ll be traveling through an urban area, but in general you should stay off the road during the afternoon when possible. Avoid driving during the highest temperatures of the day. Not only will this help you avoid problems like your car overheating, but it can also help you squeeze a few more miles out of each gallon of gas.
Service Your Vehicle before Leaving
While keeping up with basic maintenance is always important, you should have your car professionally inspected before taking a road trip. Take care of any impending maintenance issues now (oil changes, tire rotations, etc.), but also make sure that the shop inspects the car for any problems that might rear their heads during the trip. This can and should include an inspection of your radiator and hoses, your brakes, your tire pressure, your suspension system and a check for oil leaks. It should also include a full charging system test (battery, starter and alternator).
Check before You Leave
Don’t leave anything to chance. Just because you recently had your car serviced, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant. Just before you leave, do another check of all your car’s fluids, including the engine oil and the radiator coolant. Double-check the tire pressure and condition, and visually inspect the belts and hoses under the hood.
Is the A/C Working?
If you’re traveling during the summer, you’re going to need a working air conditioner. Unless you plan to drive only at night or in the very early morning, this really isn’t optional, either. If the A/C in your car seems to be cooling less than it used to, have it checked at your mechanic’s shop. A quick shot of coolant might be all that’s needed to set things right.
One of the most important parts of preparing for a road trip is to make sure you’ve packed correctly. This goes far beyond making sure you have your bathing suit and toiletries. You should make sure that your car is stocked with an emergency kit in case you break down somewhere. The kit should include water, blankets, nonperishable snacks, a flashlight, jumper cables and a first aid kit at the minimum.
Too many road trip disasters occur because drivers didn’t plan ahead. Make sure you map out your route. Even if you’re using a GPS unit, make sure you also have a physical map on hand as well. Electronics have a habit of dying when it’s least convenient, and you can avert disaster just by being prepared. You should also read up on what natural dangers you might encounter along the way and at your destination – bears in the mountains for instance, or snakes indigenous to the area around the lake house you’ll be visiting.
Having an issue with your car while traveling can put a damper on the entire trip, but your summer road trip can be a blast if you take the right steps before venturing off on vacation.
Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of AutoMatStore.com. AutoMatStore focuses on providing custom floor mats for your car or truck. Prior to opening his own business, Elfrink spent over 30 years working in the automotive industry.