Larry Printz: Summerís here. Are you ready for your road trip?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 1, 2019

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 relaxation.

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 systems checked.

Be sure to have your carís alternator, voltage regulator, belts, connecting cables and brakes checked by a mechanic. If the wipers are streaking, replace them.

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 done.

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 of time.

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 be needed.

With a little forethought, your vacation can be hassle free.