Starting round about
Independence Day weekend, Americans begin an annual ritual. They
pack the car, hit the road and unwind for a bit of rest and
Being prepared for a
road trip could make the difference between a vacation youíll
always remember and one youíll want to forget. So a few days
before leaving, have all of the systems checked, including tires,
belts, brakes, air conditioning, battery, wipers and cooling system.
For example, nothing
else affects your car as much as an underinflated tire, leading to
unsafe handling and lower fuel economy. So check your tires. The
proper inflation is posted on the driverís side front door jamb on
newer cars and trucks. Also, make sure your vehicleís spare tire
is properly inflated and usable.
While youíre at it,
check the tread. Take a penny and place it upside down into several
places across the tire. If the top of Abe Lincolnís head is
showing, replace the tire. Also, check the state of the tread
itself. If a tire is worn on both edges, it is underinflated. If
itís worn in the center of the tread, itís overinflated. If you
spot cups or dips in the tread, have the suspension or steering
Be sure to have your
carís alternator, voltage regulator, belts, connecting cables and
brakes checked by a mechanic. If the wipers are streaking, replace
Finally, if you
canít remember the last time your vehicleís cooling system was
flushed, check your records and your vehicleís ownerís manual.
Be sure to use the proper coolant. Many newer vehicles specify a
new, longer-life engine coolant, not the traditional green type.
Finally, replace any dried-out, cracked hoses.
Have someone stand
outside the car to ensure all lights work.
But youíre not
Since youíll be
spending a lot of time in it, be sure to clean the car thoroughly,
inside and out. Wipe down all surfaces, vacuum the interior
thoroughly and remove any trash. Donít have the time? A
professional car detailer will make your ride sparkle.
Finally, be sure that
you pack an emergency road kit, including jumper cables, road flares
and a first aid kit. Donít have one? Theyíre readily available
at auto parts stores.
Once youíre sure
that your car is ready, be sure that you pack items to wile away the
hours. OK, youíre going to bring along a mobile phone, not to
mention a tablet. Be sure to augment it with other items, such as
CDs, DVDs, an MP3 player or audio books.
If you have children,
bring along their favorite toys and books, take along a goodie bag
to reward good behavior. Also, pack pillows and blankets for naps
ó and a bit of peace and quiet. And this may sound obvious, but
donít forget your driverís license, vehicle registration and
auto and medical insurance cards. And of course, you are taking a
mobile phone with car charger, right?
For those at home,
make sure that someone has a trip itinerary, so people can find you
in an emergency.
When it comes time to
pack the car, place heavier items as close as possible to the center
of the vehicle for optimal weight distribution and optimal handling.
Secure loose items so they donít hit passengers during a panic
stop. And remember that you may need to access to the spare tire.
Donít overload your
ride, as this can lead to unsafe handling. The maximum load capacity
for your car, truck or SUV is listed in the ownerís manual.
And if youíre using
a navigation system, itís a good idea to enter destinations ahead
Finally, itís a
good idea to carry a spare set of vehicle keys, and if youíre
older, your doctorís phone number and any prescriptions that might
With a little
forethought, your vacation can be hassle free.