As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, more are looking forward to this summer. It’ll be a great time to head out and explore. But before embarking on road trips, travelers should make car safety a priority and get their vehicles serviced to help prevent problems on the highway.
Service your car before road trips
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In 2014, AAA members called for help 29 million times, AutoGuide reported. Battery failure, flat tires, and keys locked in the car were 17 million of those calls. There were more than 2 million calls for engine problems and 600,000 for transmission failures. More than 500,000 calls were for running out of gas, and 235,000 calls were for brake failure.
AAA also found that 35 percent of U.S. car owners skip or delay recommended services and repairs, making them more vulnerable to vehicle breakdowns.
The most common kinds of breakdowns on road trips
Drivers tend to experience some of the same common problems that cause breakdowns. Firestone Complete Auto Care describes several of them. People deal with flat tires and dead batteries. They also deal with mechanical issues, including brake problems, transmission failure, or engine failure.
The car could also run out of gas. Avoid this problem by filling up before the low-fuel warning light turns on. It’s also common for people to get locked out and call AAA if the key fob battery dies. In 2015, 4 million people had this happen and called AAA. Pack an extra battery or fob to take care of this situation quickly. Luckily, many of these problems are preventable.
Check these car parts to help prevent breakdowns
- Tires: Check the tire pressure and the tire tread. Don’t forget to check the spare tire, too, if you have one. Get new tires if your tread is worn.
- Battery: To avoid a dead battery, get it checked to make sure it’s charged. Car batteries generally last two to five years, so definitely get it checked if it’s more than a year old.
- Brakes: Have the brake pads, rotors, drums, and brake fluid all checked. Brake problems are important to avoid because they could cause a safety issue.
- Transmission: Check the transmission and the transmission fluid. This is especially important if the car has any odd sounds when in neutral or leaks.
- Engine: Make sure the engine is performing properly. It’s imperative to get it checked if the “check engine” light is on. Check the oil, and get an oil change if it’s close to being time. A hot engine in the summertime needs all of its oil.
- Steering and suspension: Check the steering, the suspension, the ball joints, and the tie rods.
- Cooling system: Check the whole cooling system, CarTalk suggests. That includes the radiator, belts, hoses, cooling fans, heater core, water pump, and coolant.
- Air conditioning: Check the A/C to make sure it works properly and has enough refrigerant. Not only is this important for your comfort on a long drive, but also the belt that powers the A/C often also powers other parts, including the water pump that keeps the engine from overheating.
Ways to prepare for breakdowns
You can do a few other things before leaving on your road trip to prepare for breakdowns. If your car doesn’t have a spare tire, consider buying a kit. For $150 to $300, you’ll get a tire, jack, and lug wrench in case your vehicle gets a flat tire.
Make an emergency kit for your car. Include a first-aid kit, jumper cables, distilled water, a battery charger, wire, tools, and reflectors or flares, Travel + Leisure suggests. Be sure you know how to use the jumper cables. You might also want to bring extra coolant and oil.
There are also a couple of things you can do while on the road to help prevent breakdowns. Don’t drive too fast, and if the temperature gauge goes up, try turning on your car’s heat to draw the heat away from the engine.
If you’re prepared, you can enjoy summer road trips and avoid problematic breakdowns.