You're Ready for Spring Break – But is Your Vehicle Ready?
So, you are about to don your favorite pair of shades and head for the beach, with every mile of the trip putting distance between you and those dreary days of winter. The last thing you want bursting in on your sunny Spring Break getaway is a breakdown. Before you load up and hit the road, let's go over some preventative maintenance tips to make sure your vehicle is as ready as you are!
Check Your Battery
If you have a multimeter to test the battery, it should measure at 12.6 volts or above. Otherwise, you can do a test using the electrical system by starting the car and turning on the headlights. If they are dim, that indicates the lights are running off of the battery, and the alternator is producing little or no charge. If the lights get brighter as you rev the engine, it means the alternator is producing some current, but may not be producing enough at idle to keep the battery properly charged. If the lights have normal brightness and don’t change intensity as the engine is revved, your charging system is probably functioning normally. Look for any corrosion at the battery terminal as well as any cracks or leaks on the battery case. To keep the battery itself clean, you can use a little baking soda and water to wash away any dirt and grime.
Check Your Tires
Inside the driver’s side door jamb in every car, there’s a small placard with the info about the proper tire size and tire pressure for your vehicle. Check that all tires, including the spare, are filled to the manufacturer specifications.
Warning signs to look for include bald spots, worn inner or outer tread, tires that wobble, cracks, gouges, or bubbles on the sidewall, dry rot, and cracks in the treads.
Check Your Fluids
Check these five fluids when your engine is cool and has not been running recently.
- Engine oil – Remove and wipe clean the dipstick, then insert it for a clean read. The dipstick should have a normal range indicated. If the oil is low, add more following recommendations in your owner’s manual. Be careful not to overfill. Make sure, also, to change the oil as per the schedule in your car’s owner’s manual.
- Coolant – Look for the clear overflow plastic container near the radiator. If the liquid is below the minimum line, fill with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze.
- Power steering fluid – The small tank, located near the firewall, at the windshield’s base. Liquid should be between the minimum and maximum levels.
- Brake fluid – Usually in a clear reservoir marked with minimum and maximum lines. Fill if it’s low, but then have the system checked: there could be a leak or the brake pads may be wearing.
- Windshield washer fluid – Keep it full. It’s important to keep your windshield clean, esp. when there is sun glare.
Check Your Defrosters & Wiper Blades
Visibility is essential for safe driving. Your wiper blades are made out of rubber, and with time they'll crack, split and deteriorate. It's suggested that you replace your windshield wipers every six to 12 months.
Get A Basic Emergency Kit Together
- Spare tire, wheel wrench, and jack
- Jumper cables
- Basic tool kit and/or multipurpose tool
- Local road maps (in case your GPS and phone are without power)
- Flares or reflective triangles
- Car cellphone charger
- Drinking water
- Food (non-perishables, like protein bars or dried fruit)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Duct tape
It’s always a good idea to have roadside assistance.
Short on Time Before The Big Trip?
If you want peace of mind without all the hassle, you can always leave it to the Professionals here at NHA! Schedule an Appointment at one of the convenient North Hills Auto locations for our 120 point vehicle inspection and let us make sure you’re road ready. Take advantage of our night drop or shuttle services to add even more time back into your busy schedule.
Taking time to prepare can help ensure that your Spring Break road trip is nothing but a day at the beach!