Nothing puts a damper on a road trip like an auto breakdown. While accidents and other unforeseen events can create delays, it is possible to minimize the chances of breaking down by practicing some basic car maintenance before leaving on your trip. You should also continue that maintenance while on your trip. Some of this can be done yourself, while other tasks may require a trained mechanic.
One of the first steps in preparing your car for a long trip is to begin with a thorough inspection of the tires. Check the tread all the way around each tire to make sure the wear is even. There should be plenty of tread left which allows for maximum control of the vehicle on slippery roads while breaking. If the tires are not worn evenly, it may be a good idea to replace them before hitting the road. Make sure that your front end is aligned and the new tires are balanced at the same time.
It is also important to make sure that the car has fresh fluids and filters of all types. This means you should have the oil filter changed and fresh oil placed into the engine. For cars that have high mileage, make sure to use a motor oil that is especially formulated for engines that have seen a lot of action.
Also make it a point to check the transmission fluid as well. Low levels could indicate a leak that should be addressed before taking the automobile far from home. In any event, if it has been some time since the fluid was changed, have it done. Knowing that the car is unlikely to run low on fluid can provide a peace of mind, as well as help the transmission to perform at optimum levels during the trip.
Do not forget the other fluids in the vehicle. Brake and power steering fluids should be checked and changed if necessary. The radiator should also be checked to make sure there is plenty of fluid and that the balance between water and coolant is within acceptable limits.
One fluid many drivers overlook when getting ready for a road trip is the windshield washer fluid. Make sure the reservoir is full and that the fluid moves through the jets with no problem. The ability to keep the windshield clean while driving is extremely important to your safety.
Checking all of your hoses is also very important. A failed hose can leave you stranded in parts unknown and ruin your trip. Make sure the body of each hose is still strong, without any leaks. You should also check that the hoses are securely connected to the correct engine components. If any hose do not seem quite right, it is best to have it replaced. This can help prevent any problems that may occur.
Continue the preparation by checking various other components, such as taillights, lamps, signal lights, and various fuses. Include an inspection of the fan belt and any other belts that may be present in the engine. The idea is to make sure every system on the car is working properly before you pull out of the driveway.
Once on the road, you still need to perform regular maintenance each day. Whenever you stop for gasoline, make it a point to check oil and transmission fluid levels. You can also take a quick look at the levels of washer fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Do not check the fluid level in the radiator until the car engine has cooled down. A good time to check these fluid levels is first thing each morning before you get back on the road.
In order to help you stay on track with your on-the-road maintenance, invest in a simple car tool kit. Many auto supply stores offer these kits; you can also purchase one online with relative ease. The kits include necessities such as replacement lamps, heat resistant tape to deal with a leaky hose, extra fuses, and even a spare fan belt for the radiator. Basic tools such as screwdrivers and wrenches are often included. Most of these kits fit neatly into a corner of the trunk of the car, making them easily accessible should you need them.
It also never hurts to take along a few extras components, just in case they are needed. Having a container with a mixture of water and coolant could come in handy if the engine overheats on a lonely stretch of road. An extra can of oil and a small container of transmission fluid should be stored in the trunk as well. By preparing the car properly and checking all systems at least every other day during the trip, you have an excellent chance of making your complete trip without any serious problems with your vehicle.