Spring Break vacations and warm-weather trips may have been canceled last year, but they’re so on for this year. But before you grab those car keys or snag those online travel deals, there are some things to know and preparations to make.
Car Care
Nothing ruins a road trip faster than car trouble. Gary Stinnett, of Royalton Automotive, provided his best car maintenance tips for long travel on the road.
• Wiper Blades: Winter road salt and corrosive materials can build up on wiper blades causing them to deteriorate and not work as well, Stinnett said. He recommends swapping your blades out for a new pair before extended car travel. Ensure your washer fluid is topped off as well and consider keeping a spare jug of windshield cleaning fluid in your trunk.
• Batteries: Batteries can fail at any time of year. The only way to get an accurate assessment of how much power your battery has is to have a professional mechanic check it out.
• Lighting: Bulbs can go out over the cold winter months and it’s important to check that each one is on and working properly before a long car ride.
• Tires: Road salt and other corrosive snow-fighting materials can do damage and eat away at a vehicle’s rubber tires. Do a visual inspection of tires before hitting the road and make sure your alignment is correct. Wintertime chuck holes can throw off a vehicle’s alignment. Tire pressures should be checked at least once a month and should be done while the tires are cold. Also, be sure to check the tire pressure level on your spare (if you have one) and be sure that your jack is in good operating condition. Check your tires for tread life, uneven wearing and cuts on the sidewalls. If your vehicle pulls to one side, a wheel alignment may be in order.
• Oil Change: Always stay current on your vehicle’s oil change schedule. It’s a simple thing to do that makes a world of difference. The normal ASE recommendation to change the oil and oil filter is 3,000 miles. But, if you take a lot of short trips, extended trips with plenty of luggage or tow a trailer or a boat, that oil change should be made more often.
• Air Conditioning: Make sure your car’s air conditioning system is in good working order. A great way to check this system is by turning on your defroster, which automatically switches on the air conditioning. If your windows aren’t defrosting well or quickly, a visit to the mechanic may be in order.
• Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your owner’s manual. But, if you notice your brakes pulsating, grabbing, making noises or requiring a longer stopping distance, you may want to have that inspection done as quickly as possible. These minor brake problems should be dealt with as soon as possible.
• Car Wash: A wash of your vehicle’s exterior and under-carriage is a great thing to do before a road trip. Winter weather can be brutal on a vehicle, causing rust and erosion of materials.
It’s always a good idea to keep your car stocked with supplies in the event of trouble. Some simple things to stock include bottled water, flashlights, blankets, rain gear, pre-packaged snack foods, games/entertainment if you’ve got children, and tire-changing supplies. Hand sanitizer, extra face masks and antibacterial wipes are helpful too. If you are a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA), make sure your membership is current in the event of needing roadside assistance. Consider upgrading your membership if you plan on traveling a lot this summer by car.
Know Before You Go
Most of us haven’t stepped foot inside an airport, amusement park, cruise ship, or hotel for more than a year, so naturally, we may not be as savvy as we used to be. Know your destination’s safety protocols before you leave and be prepared for disruptions, longer wait times and general hiccups as our travel destinations prepare to welcome us back. Practice patience as check-in procedures may look different than what your family is used to. It’ll be worth the wait! Don’t forget the sunblock!
A great cause of car problems during the spring and summer is overheating. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanics suggest that your cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled every 24 months. Following the refill and flush, the level, condition and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. If you plan to check the coolant level yourself, do not remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled. The condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked by a mechanic.

Contributing Writer