It is easy to get a bit complacent about car maintenance or routine safety inspections. This is especially true of newer cars that have not had any service issues or breakdowns. A problem with your car close to home is an inconvenience. If it happens while traveling for the holidays, it could ruin your trip. Also, before setting out with your vehicle loaded down with family and luggage, you want to make sure it is safe. Here are four tips to make sure your vehicle is ready for your holiday road trip.
Inspect Your Tires
You should not drive anywhere on tires that have little tread left. Even if the tread on your tires can pass the minimum requirements for a safety inspection, it may not be enough tread to minimize the chances of hydroplaning on wet roads. Look for damage to the sidewalls on both sides of each tire. Check the tread thoroughly for foreign objects. Check the air pressure in all tires too, including the spare. The proper inflation pressure is printed on a sticker on the driver’s side door or door frame. If you are going to rack up a lot of miles, an alignment may help prevent excessive uneven tread wear.
Check Your Brakes
If you hear squeaks or a grinding sound, or feel vibrations or a spongy brake pedal when applying the brakes in your vehicle, get them checked before taking a holiday trip. Your emergency brake should also be fully operational. Brake problems often come with plenty of advanced warning, but some drivers do not notice the signs. Even pulling to one side when braking is a sign of a problem. You are likely used to driving a car with the windows rolled up and the radio on. You may not even be aware of sounds your brakes are making. When it comes to the lifesaving necessity of your car’s brakes, you should have them checked out by a brake service, such as Dualtone Muffler Brake & Alignment, before taking a holiday trip.
Change Wipers and Check Fluids and Lights
New wiper blades are inexpensive and will help you see better if you drive through bad weather on your holiday trip. Taking the time to thoroughly clean your windows and applying RainX to the windshield also will greatly help improve visibility in bad weather. Before heading out you should also make sure your oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolant are at their full marks and do not need changed. In addition, be aware that incandescent headlight bulbs diminish in output over time. They are easy to swap out with new ones to brighten up nighttime travel. Make sure all your exterior lights work. Consider putting in new headlight bulbs if your car is a few years old.
Check Your Vehicle’s Maximum Load Capacity
Many families embark on road trips for vacation and holiday travel in vehicles that are overloaded or have weight unevenly distributed. This can negatively affect handling, increase stopping distances, and cause overheating of tires and the engine. Many car owners are surprised to discover that just the weight of the family in the vehicle is close to the maximum load carrying capacity. You can find the passenger and cargo weight limits on a sticker on the frame or edge of the driver’s door. With everyone in the car and the storage spaces packed with luggage and gifts, you can easily go over the maximum weight limits of a standard passenger vehicle.
Do not take safety for granted. Be proactive in making sure you do all that you can to make your vehicle safe for holiday travel. If you are going to drive into snow country, make sure you put on snow tires and have tire chains if they are required where you are traveling.