Summer time is full of events, trips and things to do. The Easter Bunny has come and gone and our last April snowstorm has passed, before we know it the kids will be out of school and summer travel season begins! Nothing will ruin your summer road trip faster than an unexpected breakdown leaving you out in the middle of nowhere with no idea when or if you will get to finish your vacation. There’s no way to guarantee your vehicle will be trouble free but there are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of a breakdown ruining your vacation.
- Preventative maintenance: We always emphasize the importance of preventative maintenance to our customers and will always do so. The fluids in your vehicle breakdown over time and can cause premature wear to the parts they are designed to protect. Engine coolant will become corrosive and can start to eat away at the not just the plastic, but also the metal components in your coolant system. Brake fluid absorbs water and dirt from the air which can swell seals and cause internal and external leaks. Engine oil and transmission fluid lose their viscosity over time and lose the ability to lubricate and cool effectively. Make an appointment for service at least a few weeks before you leave just in case there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed or something that needs to be rechecked after a bit of driving.
- Have a plan: Most of the time you will know where you are staying and stopping from day to day, but you should also take a few minutes to study the surrounding areas on a map. Construction, accidents, and detours are going to happen so having some knowledge of the route could come in handy. Keep a physical map in your glovebox in case your cell service drops out or your navigation system lets you down. Plan out your fuel stops based on mileage so you don’t get caught between gas stations with an empty tank. Always make sure someone knows where you are going and will know to call for help if you don’t show up or check in.
- Be prepared: No matter what you do there are no guarantees that things will go smoothly so take some additional steps to protect yourself just in case. Always have a good amount of water in your car. Not only for the passengers, but you can also use water in your radiator in place of anti-freeze in a pinch. Make sure you have all the tools needed to put on your spare tire, including a usable spare tire. Don’t assume it’s in the trunk, take the time to check or ask about it when you have the vehicle serviced. Test your air conditioning system before your leave, just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it still does and you don’t want to find that out in the middle of Arizona on your way to the Grand Canyon. Everyone should have an emergency kit in their vehicle that has some basics:
KEEP IN YOUR CAR:
- Cell phone charger
- Pen and paper
- Spare tire, jack, and lug wrench
- Durable canvas bag for your kit
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
- Duct tape/bungee cords/twine
- Latex gloves and/or work gloves
GOOD TO HAVE:
- Safety triangles
- Toiletries and sanitation items
- Paper towels, rags
- Bottled water
- Small tool kit
- Trash bags
- Tow strap or chain
- Emergency battery jumper/charger
- Oil, coolant (water will work), washer fluid
- Flat tire inflation canister (this will make the tire unrepairable, only use if needed)
- Road maps
- Granola, protein bars, energy bars, etc.
- Gas can
- Change of clothes
- Fire extinguisher
- Car escape tool
- Foldable shovel
- Waterproof matches
- Bag of kitty litter or sand
Every trip will be different so customize your kit based on your needs at the time. Without planning and preparation even a relatively minor problem can ruin an otherwise great vacation. Taking these small steps in advance can make a huge difference when something does inevitably come up. Be prepared and have a great vacation!