For most Americans, summertime means long road trips. Before taking off on your family vacation, take time to make sure your vehicle is ready for the wear and tear, and extreme summer temperatures.
If you’re like most people, you probably give very little thought to your tires. The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates that only about 10 percent of us check their tire pressure and tread wear on a regular basis. Summertime is especially hard on your tires, and improperly inflated, balanced or aligned tires can be extremely dangerous.
Tire pressure fluctuates about two pounds per square inch for every additional ten degree increase in ambient air temperature. Underinflated tires can create stress on the sidewalls which can cause tires to rupture or “blow out.” Overinflated tires are equally dangerous, as they can cause the tread to wear unevenly, and can cause hydroplaning when driving in wet conditions. Consult your owner’s manual or the tire sidewall for proper inflation.
Before embarking on your trip, you should also check the tread on your tires. The simplest way to do this is by inserting a penny into the tread grooves. If any portion of Lincoln’s head is visible once the penny is fully inserted into the groove, you might want to consider replacing the tire. Perform this test on all four of the mounted tires, as well as the spare.
If it’s been more than three months, or you’ve put more than 3,000 miles on your vehicle since the last oil change, it’s time to do it again. Summer heat, combined with the higher temperatures generated by highway driving can cause motor oil to lose its effectiveness. If you’ve recently changed your oil, it’s still a good idea to check the level and top off the reservoir if necessary.
It’s also advisable to check the transmission, power steering, differential, windshield wiper and brake fluids, as well as the engine coolant to make sure the fluids are at the correct levels.
While you’re under the hood, check the hoses, belts and wiring and replace any that show excessive wear. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to know if these parts need replacing, so this step is usually best left to your local auto mechanic.
Other items that should be inspected and, if necessary, replaced include the air filter, windshield wipers, headlights, brake lights, license plate and turn indicator lights. Although burned out bulbs won’t leave you stranded on the side of the highway, they can definitely result in your being stopped and possibly ticketed, and let’s face it – vacations are usually costly enough without the addition of a traffic fine.