The sun is shining and the grass is growing, it must be driving season! Most people travel more in the summer. The kids are out of school, the weather is nice, let’s go somewhere! If you are going to take a trip this year it is important that you can trust your car to get you there and back. Car trouble will definitely mess up your road trip. There are a few easy things that you can do that can keep you off the side of the road.
Check your tire pressures. Most tires need to be a pressure of about 30 to 35 psi (pounds per square inch) to perform correctly. If they are too low not only will this affect your gas mileage, but it could cause a blowout. Obviously this can be very dangerous. Even if you notice the tire has been running flat and has not blown yet, the tire is likely to be damaged beyond repair. The sidewall of a tire is not designed to make contact with the road, and if it does you will have a bad tire in a very short time. If you own an all-wheel drive vehicle you will need four tires, not one. In addition to the safety issues, proper inflation will make your tires last longer. Tire pressure gauges are attached to air filling stations, and you can buy an inexpensive one at a parts store or a hardware store. If a tire is going flat you should be able to tell that it looks mushroomed out at the bottom relative to the other tires.
Check your oil. Cars are more likely to burn or leak more oil on long trips. Often on long trips we are on the highway, so we are traveling at high speeds for long periods of time, so oil loss is more likely. With most cars you can check your oil when you get gas. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, and then pull it out again to check the level. If it is low add some oil. Most cars take 5W30 or 5W20 oil, however there is a saying “any port in a storm.” If your oil is low most motor oils will be fine. It is ok to have it be a little overfull, but don’t get carried away! If you are driving a Subaru you will not get an accurate reading unless the car has been off for a while. Check it after you have stopped for a bit, maybe after eating. It is best to check it on flat ground. If your oil pressure light comes on take that very seriously. If you do not stop immediately you make have a catastrophic engine failure. If you are going on a long trip, or if your oil change is due soon, you may wish to change it before you leave.
On the subject of fluids, coolant is an issue as well. Check your temperature gauge once in a while. It should stay about 1/3 of the way up the gauge. If there is a sweet smell, you may have a coolant leak. Do not ever open a radiator cap when it is hot! It is under a lot of pressure, and you could get seriously burned.
Fill up your windshield washer jug before you go. New wiper blades may be a good idea if they are getting streaks. It is very annoying to not be able to see well for hundreds of miles.
What if your check engine light comes on? If the light comes on solid, and the car seems fine it is most likely not a serious issue. If the car is displaying symptoms obviously you should have it checked. Many chain parts stores will check the code for free. Some garages (like Twisted Wrench) do not charge you to see why the light is on. Some (garages that are not Twisted Wrench) do charge for that. IF your check engine light is flashing on and off this is an indication of a serious problem and you should get the car checked as soon as it is safe to do so. There are inexpensive tools available now ($60 to $100) that you can easily plug into your car to see why the light is on.
We recommend a vehicle check over before long trips if it has not been done recently. The peace of mind is worth it, and no one wants to get half way to where ever the road is leading you. Have a safe trip!