The car is all packed. You've got a full tank of gas, a cooler full of snacks and the GPS is loaded with a fun vacation destination. But wait -- before you drive off into the sunset, ensure that your car is safe and ready to roll.
I'll never forget the summer I broke down not once but twice on the same long car trip. I was traveling alone, hundreds of miles from home, and had to wait in the hot sun for help to arrive. Thankfully, the kindness of strangers -- and a little service for my car -- helped me reach my destination safely. But let me tell you: It was no fun being stranded on the side of a busy highway.
You just might be able to avoid this fate by taking a few preparations prior to your trip. The Car Care Council recommends conducting a pre-vehicle inspection before taking your summer road trip:
>> Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.
>> Check the brake system and make sure the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
>> Check filters and fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Dirty air filters can waste gas and cause the engine to lose power.
>> Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
>> Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Underinflated tires reduce a vehicle's fuel economy and uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
>> Check that the gas cap is not damaged, loose or missing to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.
"A pre-trip vehicle check can determine how road-ready your vehicle is so you can take steps to have the problems fixed before heading out for vacation," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "Having a thorough inspection done on your car will give you peace of mind as you travel and help make your journey safer."
The Car Care Council also leads the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign, which promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For an electronic copy of the council's Car Care Guide, visit http://www.carcare.org.