Before you head out to experience America, make sure that your vehicle is up to the task. Nothing can spoil a trip faster than car trouble, especially if it could have been prevented. Keeping your regularly scheduled car maintenance up to date can help keep your vacation from becoming a mechanical nightmare, complete with bills for several thousands of dollars in car repair work.
There are steps you can take before going on the road, like replacing worn-out windshield wipers or checking your alignment, but many important parts in your car, such as the brakes and suspension, should be inspected by a professional mechanic. So you should make an appointment with your auto service center before you leave, and ask for a "maintenance package," which usually includes an oil change, tire rotation, and inspection by a mechanic.
There are also some things under the hood that you should take care of before you start out on your trip:
- Check the engine oil and your automatic transmission fluid. If your next oil change or transmission change is due soon, you should definitely take care of it before you leave.
- Check the engine antifreeze (coolant) level in the overflow tank. Remember, never open the radiator cap if your car engine is hot. Any leaks you discover should be fixed immediately because a lack of coolant while you are traveling may cause engine to overheat, which can lead to serious damage.
- If you feel that your battery's cranking speed is slower than before, it is probably time for you to replace it. (Typically, a battery lasts from two to five years.)
- Check the brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer reservoir.
- Change the air filter if you haven't done so recently.
- Look for anything irregular, including leaks and loose clamps.
- Check the tire pressure, including the spare, and if you feel any vibration when you are at cruising speed, have your tires balanced. (Uneven tire wear indicates an alignment problem, and improper wheel alignment may cause a car to skid when you are traveling at high speed.)
- Make sure that the jack is still operable in case you need to change a tire on the road.