It’s summertime again, and with that comes planning for an unforgettable summer vacation with friends or family. They say that the journey is as important as the destination, and while for some it means getting business/first class ticket on a flight, riding a cruise, or riding a luxury bus, for those of us who travel by car it means having a smooth and uneventful trip because let’s face it we can’t really have much control over traffic or the weather. Nothing ruins a vacation mood more than an overheat, a flat tire, or worse! When your car suddenly breaks in the middle of the road with no apparent/visible signs of problem. I’ve personally had an experience where our car’s compressor broke just as we were about to approach SLEX, talk about a bummer; which is why I’ve compiled a checklist of things to do before going on a long drive (assuming you get it checked regularly, if not then it’s another story altogether as I did not include checking hoses for leaks, checking air filters, and the likes), some of it you may already know but getting a refresher won’t hurt as much as getting your vacation ruined.
- Check your brake fluid
Brake fluid is essential for the operation of your brakes, they make your brake mechanism work.
To check, locate the brake fluid reservoir inside the car’s hood (you can refer to your owner’s manual), the proper level should be above the minimum level indicator and below the maximum level indicator.
- Check your engine coolant
Engine coolant ensures that your engine operate at its optimum running temperature and prevents your car from overheating. Be sure to use coolants not water! Engine coolants have a higher boiling point than water and it avoids rust build up in your radiator and it is specifically designed for your engine.
Check your engine coolant by looking at your engine coolant reservoir located inside your car’s hood (you can refer to your owner’s manual), make sure that the coolant level is not above the maximum level indicator and below the minimum level indicator. There are a lot of trusted brands of engine coolants, just go to your nearest auto supply store.
- Check your engine oil
Your car’s engine is made up of lots of moving parts, when in operation, these moving parts should be lubricated properly to avoid damage to your engine. It needs to be quantitatively satisfied meaning that you have sufficient amount, and qualitatively satisfied meaning it has to be in good condition, since both are factors in the efficiency of your engine oil.
Checking the engine oil is easy, just locate your oil dipstick located inside your hood, it usually a color yellow handle which is located just beside your engine (you can refer to your owner’s manual), pull it out and check if it’s in the proper level. There are indicator marks (usually two dots or two lines) on the dipstick that shows you the amount of oil you have. Then you have to check its condition, if it’s still near its original color (a sort of gold or amber), and if it doesn’t have debris on it, otherwise you need to replace the oil already.
- Check your tires
Tire wear should be checked, and it can easily be seen by visually inspecting your tire. Make sure that the threads are still visible and in good condition. It is also important to check the tire pressure because it affects your car’s handling and gradually effects tire wear, be sure to maintain proper tire pressure, not over inflated or under inflated, I prefer 30 psi on long drives and 32 psi on city driving, proper tire pressure ensures a longer life for your tires.
Check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge, or go to the nearest gas station and have it checked and properly inflated
- Check your brakes
Have your brake pads checked on your nearest Auto repair shop or your mechanic, brake pads should be in good condition to have nice braking efficiency, and also ensures your safety.
- Check your wheel alignment
Have your wheel alignment checked in your nearest auto under chassis repair shop. Proper wheel alignment will minimize tire wear and enhance your car’s stability and handling, especially during high speeds while driving on expressways.
Don’t forget to bring/pack the following items
- Tire replacement kit, a tire wrench, a jack stand (usually a scissor jack) in case you have a flat tire
- Extra set of tools: wrenches of different sizes, ratchet wrench, screw drivers and pliers.
- Bring a set of jumper cables, in case your battery ran out.
- Extra bottle of engine coolant, brake fluid and oil (not more than 1 liter, you don’t want to bring too much)
- Rags/Cloth, in case your windshield gets too dirty for your wipers to handle
And of course don’t forget to bring lots of drinking water and snacks for the trip! Especially in this hot summer weather. I also have a gopilot, a sort of portapotty for the short bladdered.
In doing these checks with the engines off, then checking how it runs you may also see if there may be further maintenance/repair needed. Have a safe and fun trip!