We make the best memories in the summer time. It’s not about warmer weather but all my favorite “F” words – moments filled with fun, family, friendship, freedom, and food. As millions of us hit the road this summer ready for the sun and relaxation, the last thing we anticipate is a delay getting to our final destination.
My 1988 Chevy Cavalier, dubbed “Brownie,” wouldn’t let me be great. It was the summer of ’97 and I was 16 years old. My friend Cindy and I were driving to Dewey Beach in Delaware for a weekend filled with tanning, eating boardwalk fries, and flirting with teenage boys. Ah! Sweet dreams of made of this. We thought we had the teen independence thing all figured out. We had our place to stay, printed directions on MapQuest, bikinis and suntan lotion, and favorite music CDS. We piled everything into the Chevy and hit the road for the 2.5 hour trip.
Somewhere cruising down Rte 1 rapping Notorious Thugs at the top of our lungs while our hair flew in our faces we notice smoke coming from under the hood. Uh oh. I pulled off the highway and shut the car off. What were we to do? My heart sank to my stomach. We didn’t have cell phones then.
Luckily for us, a friendly driver passing by pulled up behind us to help. He was a mechanic! The odds, right? My coolant bottle was empty and I had no coolant in engine. He had a gallon of coolant in his trunk and added it to the radiator. He made us promise we would take the car to a mechanic as soon as when we got home. It didn’t overheat again on the way there or home. The car gods were looking out for us!
Nothing puts a damper on your summer vacation like a broken down vehicle on the side the road. Don’t let this happen to you. Before you hit the road for the much needed vacation make sure you show your car some love! To prevent being stranded on a hot summer day, follow these important tips!
Things to consider before any road trip longer than 2 hours.
Does your car need any repairs or maintenance? Unusual noises, leaks, shakes, illuminated dashboard lights, and worst of all, warm air from the AC should be addressed before going on any long trip. If you are taking a car you don’t drive everyday, go on a test drive and check for any trouble signs and noises.
Take your car to the repair shop if it is due for following maintenance: Oil change, filter change, tire rotation, tune up, belt replacement, or fluid flush. If you are towing a load, use synthetic oil for your oil change.
While there, tell the mechanic or service advisor you are going on a road trip and to look for things that could potentially strand you on the side of the road. They should additionally check the brakes, radiator hoses, and drive belt, check for leaks under the car, and looseness in the steering and suspension.
Things to check yourself before EVERY road trip longer than 2 hours
If your car isn’t due for maintenance or repairs, there are a few DIY checks to complete before your summer road trip.
Pop your hood and check all your fluids. These fluids include engine oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant, and transmission fluid (if applicable). Power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant have reservoir bottles with max and min level indicators. If any are low or empty, take the car to the mechanic to diagnosis and repair. Learn more about these fluids.
Check your battery. Do you have a lot of corrosion on the terminals? Clean off the greenish-white powder with baking soda, water and a toothbrush. Coke is often used as well to remove battery corrosion.
Check tire tread and air pressure. Summer has many sudden torrential down pours. You don’t want to drive on slick wet roads with no tire tread. Check each tire for low tread and low air pressure. Tire tread should be at least 3 mm thick. Fill the tire with air if needed but do not over inflate. Average air pressure for tires is 33psi! Learn more about tires, tread, and air pressure.
Helpful tip – Your car has 5 tires, not 4. Don’t forget your spare tire! You can’t change a flat tire with a flat spare. Many people have learned this the hard way. Make sure your spare tire is inflated to the correct air pressure
Another helpful tip – Check that your car has the proper tools and parts needed to change a flat tire. Along with a spare tire, you will need a jack and a lug wrench.
Check all your lights. With a friend, check to make sure the car’s exterior light bulbs aren’t burnt out and need replacement. Check the following lights:
Headlights (front of car)
High beams (front of car)
Brake lights (back of car – don’t forget the third brake light)
Turn signals (front and back of car)
Reverse lights (back of car)
Check you wipers and washer fluid. Heavy rains in the summer can also make driving difficult and scary. Make sure your wipers are in tip-top shape to handle the storms. Check that you wipers aren’t worn or split. The windshield washer bottle under the hood should be full.
Helpful tip – The quickest way to defrost a windshield from the humidity of a rain storm is blow hard, cold, air on the windshield. Turn on the A/C to the coldest setting and the defrost to the highest setting.
Pack the car with a few helpers for peace of mind. There are few items to have on hand, especially if you have a car with over 100,000 miles. An extra gallon of coolant, 2-3 quarts of oil, rags for cleaning, water, GPS if you don’t have cell phone, and duct tape. Organize all items in a box and throw it in the trunk.
Now that the car is ready for vacation, you can look forward good times with friends and families! Don’t forget the sunscreen! #sheCANic