Photo By Robert Kneschke at Shutterstock
Ahh, the Great American Road Trip. There’s the ever-changing scenery, the off-key singalongs, the convenience store snacks, and of course, the lifelong memories. This year, unsurprisingly, more people than ever before intend to travel by car. According to the monthly Travel Intentions Pulse Survey (TIPS) conducted by travel marketing firm MMGY, a whopping 73% of respondents in August said they are “highly likely” to travel by car within the next 6 months. This is a substantial increase of 6% over July’s 67%. Sure, flying from Grapevine, TX, to an exotic faraway destination is appealing in its own right, but there’s no question that traveling by car holds a higher level of perceived safety.
With summer winding down, it’s time to get serious about planning that end-of-season road trip you’ve been thinking about. It may seem as easy as picking a spot on the map and filling up your gas tank on the way out of town, but not so fast. There are several important things you should do first, start with some auto repair basics. A bit of extra TLC and routine preventive maintenance can ensure your vehicle is road-trip ready, helping you avoid unexpected “speed bumps” and costly repair on the road.
AUTO REPAIR 101: GET AN OIL CHANGE
Auto industry professionals recommend that most vehicles have their oil changed every 3,000 miles or so. If your most recent oil change was 1,500 miles ago or more, or you plan to drive at least that many miles on your road trip, consider having your oil changed at a local auto repair shop before leaving town. Even if your vehicle is not quite due yet, it’s worth having it done to get the peace of mind that you won’t need to while you’re traveling. Plus, low or dirty oil makes your engine work harder and can even decrease gas mileage.
TEST THE BATTERY
Most car and truck batteries will last about three years, but that can vary depending on where you live. For example, the scorching hot, humid summers can significantly shorten a battery’s lifespan. Take a look at your battery, checking for any signs of rust or corrosion and loose or frayed wires. You can also go to your local auto repair shop and have the battery professionally tested.
CHECK THE WIPERS
The last thing you want is to be driving in pouring rain in an unfamiliar area and find out your windshield wipers don’t work. Yet, this is something easily overlooked by most drivers, and you don’t want to rely on an auto repair shop to check them during a service appointment. It takes just a (literal) minute to test the wipers and if you find that they need to be replaced, it’s an inexpensive, easy fix. If they’re sticking or causing noticeable streaks, they need to be replaced. Your local Grapevine, TX, auto repair shop carries replacements compatible with most vehicles.
Brakes fall into the category of things most drivers don’t think much about until something is wrong with them – and with brakes, when something is wrong, it’s generally really wrong. There is no hard-and-fast rule on when brakes should be replaced, as it’s largely dependent on how much and what type of driving you do. Some vehicles need new brakes at 25,000 miles, while others easily last about 75,000 miles. Before heading out of town, you should have a professional auto repair shop inspect your brakes. You want at least 50% of life left in the brakes, especially if your road trip will involve off-roading or driving in the mountains.
Even if you get regular oil changes, if it’s been at least a couple of years since you had your vehicle professional tuned-up, it’s probably time. A professional mechanic or auto repair shop will thoroughly inspect your car or truck, looking and listening for red flags such as unusual sounds or vibrations, being slow to start, and more. Vehicles often seem to be running just fine day-to-day, but a professional tune-up can reveal underlying problems, like an air conditioner about to die or a timing belt running on its last legs.
CHECK THE TIRES
A couple of days before your trip, make sure all your tires are properly inflated, including the spare, if your vehicle has one. It’s important that all tires be inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations, as both over- and under-inflated tires wear unevenly and are more prone to blowouts. Improperly inflated tires also decrease your fuel economy. While you’re checking the tires, inspect them for signs of uneven wear, such as bulges or bald spots. If you notice these, consider replacing them or having them rotated at a reputable auto repair shop. Also, if you don’t have a spare in your vehicle, now is an excellent time to buy one.
BRING SOME BACKUP
Even the most meticulous vehicle owners encounter some unexpected hiccups from time to time – especially when doing a lot of driving. It’s smart to put together your own emergency preparedness kit and keep it in your vehicle. It should include jumper cables, heavy-duty gloves, a map of the area(s) you’re traveling to, blankets, a few pairs of socks, at least one flashlight and extra batteries, non-perishable food, and drinking water. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one gallon of fresh water per person, per day. If that seems excessive, remember that drinking water can literally save your life.
Road trips are meant to be fun, and following these car care tips can ensure that yours is. Before you hit the road, bring your car or truck into Import Car Center. We offer a wide range of comprehensive vehicle services, plus have full-service tire and parts departments. Call us at (817) 481-5665 or schedule an appointment online. Travel safe!