A little planning for your driving vacation can save you a lot of trouble.
Here are some tips from AAA.
FLUIDS ARE KEY
• Check the engine oil level and get an oil change if needed.
• With the engine warm and running, check the automatic transmission fluid level. Top it off if needed. Be careful not to overfill.
• Check the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze/coolant and water. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. If the radiator is not completely full, have the cooling system checked by a professional. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot.
• Brake fluid does not require topping off provided the level is between the full and low marks on the reservoir. A fluid level near or below the low marking could signal worn brakes or a leak in the system. Have the system inspected by a professional.
SEE AND BE SEEN
• Replace windshield wipers that leave streaks or don't clear the glass with a single swipe.
• Make sure all vehicle lights, including headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are functioning properly.
• Top off the windshield washer fluid reservoir with an appropriate cleaning solvent.
CHECK FOR WEAR AND TEAR
• Ensure the battery cables are securely attached and the terminals are free of corrosion.
• With the engine off and cool, check the drive belts. Replace any that are cracked, glazed or frayed. Check belts that don't have an automatic tensioner for proper tension; there should be no more than one-half inch deflection when the belt is pressed midway between two pulleys.
• Check the radiator and heater hoses for visible wear, soft spots or bulges, and look for leaks around clamps and the water pump.
THOSE ALL-IMPORTANT TIRES
• Check and adjust tire pressures to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended settings - check your owner's manual or door jamb for these numbers, and don't forget the spare. Inspect the tire sidewalls for bulges, and check the tread for excessive or uneven wear that indicates the need for wheel alignment and/or tire replacement.
• For maximum life, rotate your tires at the mileage interval specified in your owner's manual. Note that some vehicles use differently-sized tires front and rear that cannot be rotated.
KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING
• Get up-to-date, accurate maps and routing information before leaving home.
• For long trips, plan stops along the way to stay alert. Use an online service such as the TripTik Travel Planner on AAA to help find restaurants and lodgings along your route. To find the best lodging rates, book in advance and take advantage of discounts.
• Share your travel itinerary with friends and family.
• During a road trip, it's important to budget for fuel, especially now. Figure your trip's expected fuel costs by using AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator at FuelCostCalculator.com.
• A few basics to have on board during road trips include a small first aid kit, your vehicle's owner's manual, a flashlight and a tire pressure gauge. It's also a good idea to keep an emergency tire inflator and sealer with you. This can help you safely and quickly get off the side of the road and to a safer location for further assistance. If you use an emergency tire inflator and sealer, drive at a lower speed and have your tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
• Always keep a fully-charged cell phone with you so you can call for help in case of a breakdown. Carrying a car charger for your cell phone is a good idea.
• Consider taking a GPS navigation device with you. It may be a portable or handheld device such as a Magellan unit, or you may be able to turn your GPS-capable cell phone into a navigation system by downloading a program.
• Check your vehicle's payload capacity, the maximum combined weight of all cargo and passengers that can safely be carried. You can typically find this figure on a sticker attached to the driver's door of the vehicle.
• Limit any load on top of your vehicle to a maximum of 18" in height and no more than 100 pounds.
• Do not overload the trunk or rear cargo compartment. Items in a vehicle's open cargo area or on the roof should be properly secured to prevent shifting of the load.
For more information, visit AAA.