Labor Day Weekend Trip Checklist: Ready Your Car for Your Road Trip

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campers enjoying their Labor Day weekend tripIt’s almost time for the traditional Labor Day weekend road trip to celebrate (or mourn) the end of summer.  Whether you’re heading up north, out with your camper, or just for a day trip, it makes cents (literally) to take time to check your car, truck, and camper (find out more in our camper towing checklist here) over before you head out on your trip—so you’re not stranded on the side of the road calling for a tow or facing a huge repair bill that ruins your fun Labor Day weekend trip.

Schedule an oil change.

A car engine without oil, enough oil, or very dirty oil, is an engine with a death wish that’s not going to make it through many road trips. Schedule regular oil changes (and keep them!) and check your oil periodically between appointments—especially when you’re about to take a long trip. To check your oil:

  1. Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel.
  2. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick.
  3. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end.
  4. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out.
  5. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line).
  6. If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done.

If you find your oil level is consistently low, mention it to your mechanic at your next appointment so they can check for a leak or if another problem is causing your car to burn through oil.

Make sure you have working headlights and taillights.

Having working headlights, taillights, brake lights, and blinkers is incredibly important for your safety on the road.  Don’t wait until a police officer pulls you over or you’re stranded with no working lights.  Check your headlights, taillights, and blinkers in your driveway or on the street:

  1. Turn on your car and leave it in park.
  2. Turn on your lights (usually on your dash).
  3. Walk around your car and make sure every light works.
  4. Turn on your blinkers/turn signals (one at a time).
  5. Walk around the car to make sure that every blinker/turn signal works.
  6. Have another person assist you in checking your brake lights.
  7. Press your brake pedal while your car is still in park.
  8. Ask the other person to stand behind the car and tell you if each brake light works.

If you find that one of your car lights is not working, you can change the light yourself or schedule a quick appointment for your mechanic to change it (it’s important!).

Inspect your tires.

tire tread that needs to be inspected for air leaksIf you want to “hit the road” on your next Labor Day road trip, you’re going to need your tires to literally hit the road without a flat—and efficiently so you can get the best gas mileage.  Here’s how you can make sure your tires are ready for your Labor Day road trip:

  1. Find the right PSI (pounds per square inch-tire pressure) for your tires in your car’s owner manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame on the driver’s side.
  2. Get a tire pressure gauge like the one in the picture. (We’ve also found this great video as a reference.)
  3. Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)
  4. Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.)
  5. The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.
  6. Repeat for all your tires, including the spare tire.
  7. Check the tread of all your tires by putting a penny into the tread. If you can see all of Abraham Lincoln’s head, ask your mechanic for recommendations for new tires—and for what quality tires they have in stock so you can get new treads on before you leave on your trip.

Flat tires or tires low on air can be unsafe—especially for a long trip—and can cause more damage to your car and your gas mileage.  The same goes for tires with low tread, which can make driving through wet weather more hazardous and can cause random flats that could interrupt your fun Labor Day weekend trip.

Make sure you have brakes when you need them.

Be aware of these signs that you need new brakes before your trip:

  • Squealing sound when you step on your brakes,
  • a grinding noise that goes away you press the brakes,
  • a soft or pulsating brake pedal,
  • when your car pulls to one side.

If your car is pulling to one side, there could also be other car problems which could cause more damage to your car. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to get a diagnosis so you can head out on the road safely.

Check your fluids

Before you hit the road, make sure you—and your car—has all the fluids you need for a long road trip:

  1. Fill your windshield washer reservoir.
  2. Double check your windshield wipers to confirm they can do the job.
  3. If your transmission fluid has never been flushed, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. Your car uses transmission fluid to shift gears, so a dirty transmission fluid can cause a very expensive transmission failure. To keep your transmission shifting, and on the road, make an appointment to have your transmission fluid flushed every 30-60,000 miles (or as low as 15,000 miles for vehicles that tow on a regular basis or drive with heavy loads).

Pack an emergency travel kit.

As much as you plan and check your car over before your road trip, prepare for the unexpected—just in case.  Start by making sure you have your roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number (920-261-8111). Program these numbers into your cell phone, and carry your card, and copies of your cards, at all times.

  • Flashlight. Test the flashlight from time to time, and make sure the batteries are still strong.
  • Jack and lug wrench. Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench for changing a tire, but some of the smaller, more compact car models do not.
  • Jumper cables. For step-by-step instructions on how to use those cables, read our recent post.
  • First aid kit. Your first aid kit should have gloves, bandages, scissors, hand cleaner, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Blanket. No matter how warm the weather, you may need a blanket during an emergency. For the sake of space, find a small blanket that’s easy to store.

If you find any issues on your car that could slow or hamper your road trip, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for your car (even a last minute one).  A few minutes in the shop now can save you a load of hassles and wasted time spent on the side of the road—time that could be spent having fun on your trip.

4 Common Car Owner Mistakes That Lead to Costly Repairs

money piling up for car repairs from car owners' mistakesFor one of our friends, it was spark plugs in her truck.  Though the truck needed new spark plugs, she waited too long to replace the plugs which led to a clogged catalytic converter—more than doubling her original repair bill.  We see mistakes like this all the time from truck and car owners—mistakes that end up costing them more in the long run.  Here are a few of the most common (and costly) errors car owners make with their vehicles.

Driving on a flat or with little tire tread

A flat tire can just be that: a flat tire that needs to be changed—or it can be the cause of serious (and costly) damage.  A blown tire at high speed can damage car suspension and body parts.  If you drive on tires with low pressure, you can actually damage your tire more; instead of just needing tire pressure or a tire fix, you need a new tire.

How you can avoid this mistake:  Check your tire pressure regularly (here’s how) or have your tire pressures checked every time you schedule an oil change appointment.  If you find that your pressure is low, add enough air so your tire meets the pounds per square inch (PSI) that is specified on your driver’s door decal or in your manual.  Most importantly, don’t ignore a tire that is repeatedly low.  Schedule an appointment to see if your tire can be fixed; often the cause of your low tire can be inexpensively fixed instead of replaced.

Ignoring squealing brakes

Squealing brakes is a sign that your brakes need to be replaced.  If you ignore those annoying brake sounds, you could end up in a car accident or in the ditch after your brakes fail.  Both scenarios can lead to costly body and part repairs and replacement.

How you avoid this mistake:  Watch for signs that your brakes need to be replaced, such as a squealing, grating sound, or a soft brake pedal.  If you have any concerns about your brakes, ask your mechanic to check your brakes when they change your oil or rotate your tires.

Not being vigilant about a failing AC

A car AC system blowing cool air is a wonderful thing.  That same system can become vulnerable to breakdown if one part of the system starts to malfunction or if there is a leak.  Waiting too long to repair one part of your AC system can cause the whole system to stop working.

How you avoid this mistake: If you want to keep that blast of cool air, be watchful so leaks can be fixed promptly.  We’ve listed signs of a failing car AC unit here.  A car or truck air conditioner with a leak is an air conditioner that’s not going to keep working.  If you notice that the air blowing from your AC is not as cool or that it takes longer for the air to cool, schedule an appointment to have your AC system inspected.  If there is a refrigerant leak, the system needs to be repaired and recharged.

Ignoring warning lights

It’s one of the biggest—and most common—mistakes made by most car owners today: driving with a warning light on because, “it’s not a big deal.”  While it may not harm your car right away, driving with your check engine on—or any of your critical warning lights—can cause more damage, both in the amount of parts and the cost of repairs.

How you avoid this mistake: When a light comes on, ask your mechanic to check your car at your next oil change, or make an appointment to get the problem diagnosed.  Though we all love to procrastinate, waiting too long can cost you more in the long run.

What’s wrong with my car’s AC?

woman sweating because car ac is not workingA summer steam bath.  That’s what it feels like we’re living in when the temps spike and the humidity peaks—and what we’re driving in.  If you’re driving in a steam bath inside your car because your AC doesn’t work (or partially works), it’s only natural to find some relief from the heat.

Common causes of Car AC problems

Compressor

The compressor is one of the most important parts of your AC system, and the source of many truck and car AC failures.  A failing compressor can be very noisy, especially if a compressor internal bearing is at fault.  In addition to the noise, one of the first symptoms of a compressor that’s giving out is air that blows into your car that isn’t as cool as it once was.  A failing compressor can lead to irreparable damage to your condenser, meaning both your compressor and condenser needs replacement.

Refrigerant leak

On one of the most common myths (with an emphasis on myth) is that over time refrigerant evaporates out of the system and needs to be recharged.  The truth is that a truck or car AC system is a sealed system.  If your system is low on refrigerant (or has no refrigerant at all), most likely there is a leak in the system.  Recharging an AC system with a leak is only a very temporary fix.

There’s more bad news: a truck or car without refrigerant (or low refrigerant level) can cause the compressor to give out, which can also cause the condenser to fail.  If you suspect your car has low refrigerant, contact your mechanic to repair the refrigerant leak and prevent system failure.

Condenser

If you’re not an experienced mechanic, a failing condenser can be harder to diagnose.  The most telling sign of a failing car AC condenser is a system that’s not working as efficiently as it used to.  Usually, when a condenser fails, it starts to leak—more so than the regular drip of a working car AC system.

Evaporator issues

Car evaporators are susceptible to a host of problems.  At the least, debris that comes in contact with the evaporator core can cause the air-conditioned air that comes out of your vents to smell horribly.  At the most, an evaporator can fail from corrosion and leaks.

How you can prevent car AC problems

Don’t procrastinate when the air in your vehicle starts blowing hot or the air flow from your AC weakens.  As soon as you start experiencing problems with your car or truck’s AC, schedule an appointment to have your problem diagnosed.  If you wait too long (which isn’t that long), your problem is only going to worsen—and your repair bill increase—because a small problem in your AC system can cause other parts to fail.  Avoid tackling the problem as a do-it-yourself project; improper handling can damage the environment, your car, or could even injure you.  Remember, the sooner you get your truck or car’s AC system checked and fixed, the sooner you can cool down the steam bath inside your car.

How to Avoid Your Next Flat Tire

tire tread that needs to be inspected for air leaksEven with all the advances in tire technology, we’re not going to lie to you: you’re probably still going to have to change a flat tire (or call for help to get it changed) during your lifetime—sometimes more than one (here’s how to deal with a recurring flat).  An occasional flat tire on your car is not fun to change (and incredibly inconvenient!), so use these tips to avoid your next flat on your car or truck.

Know the proper air pressure—and maintain it.

Unfortunately, you can’t eyeball correct tire pressure or rely on your TPMS sensor (it may not activate until your tires are 20% underweight)—and the effects of low tire pressure can leave you stranded.  Low tire pressure can cause premature flats, compromise your ride, and decrease your gas mileage. Instead, use a tire pressure gauge to check your truck and trailer tires. Fill all low tires up to the correct air pressure.

To check your tire pressure, first find out what is the right tire pressure for your car. You can find it on the sticker at the bottom of your driver’s side door frame. Unscrew the cap on your tire stem, and push the top of the tire pressure gauge into the stem. Depending on the type of pressure gauge you have, the amount of tire pressure should show up digitally or via looking at the numbers on the white bar that pops up.  If you don’t have time, ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at your next scheduled oil change.  They can check and correct the problem so you don’t end up with a flat.

Check your tire tread.

Uneven tire tread wear is another cause of a flat tire. Not sure if you have enough tread? Use the old coin trick. Put a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need to shop for new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.

Rotate your tires.

A regular rotation of your tires, usually at every oil change, can go a long way to prevent a pain-in-the-butt flat.  Tires wear differently depending on the position on your car (think front vs back, left vs right) so a regular rotation ensures that your tires wear evenly, and, as a bonus, can also clue you in to any problems with your suspension before it becomes an issue.

Be careful around road construction and debris.

tire debris that causes flat tiresIt only takes one nail, a piece of metal, shard of glass, or debris from another blown out tire to make you have to pull over, call a tow, or have to get your jack out.  Be aware when you are in a road construction zone.  Try to avoid pulling over on the side of the road (where a lot of debris sits) and watch for anything that could send you to the shop for a tire repair or cause your next flat tire.

How to Keep Your Car from Overheating

Very High Scorching Temperature Shown On A Big ThermostatWhen you usually hear the words “overheating car,” the immediate image is a car on the side of the road with steam fogging up from under the hood.  In reality, an overheating engine is just one of many threats your car faces when the temperatures rise and the humidity hits.  As our Wisconsin summer turns into a steam bath, take these steps to keep your car going during the heat:

Check your battery.

Contrary to popular belief, summer—not winter—is the hardest time of year for batteries. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can actually cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery. Make sure to have your battery tested every summer and look for signs that your battery is dying:

  • Inconsistent starting & consistent recharging. If your car starts fine most of the time, but is suddenly dead and needs to be recharged—not every time, and unpredictably—you may need a new car battery. Yes, a car battery does die if you leave on interior lights, or some other accessory; but if the battery dies without any reason from time to time, it’s time to buy a new car battery at a local auto shop.
  • Slow, rough starting. This is the most obvious sign, the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when starting your car. Eventually the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a battery now—and have your mechanic double check for other causes—-so your car starts consistently.

As a general rule of thumb, battery performance usually declines between 3-5 years.  Sometimes a battery can die suddenly—without warning—so make sure you add a pair of jumper cables to your emergency roadside kit.

Top off your fluids—and keep them full.

Your car needs antifreeze and motor oil during the summer more than ever for cooling your vehicle.  Check both or have your mechanic check your levels at your next oil change, and make sure your car has an adequate level.  If you think either fluid may be leaking, put a piece of cardboard under your car to determine what kind of fluid is dripping (we’ve given you a guide to determine the kind of car fluid leaking here).  If there is a leak, have your mechanic inspect your car to diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate repair or replacement.

If you tow with your truck, you should also be concerned about having clean transmission oil.  If you have dirty transmission oil, it’s harder on the transmission during towing and can cause serious problems with your transmission.  For the record, clean transmission fluid is red.  Dirty fluid is brown or black and leaves a metallic residue on the rag you check it with.

Inspect your tires.

Between the heat, hot surface, and severe weather driving, summer is a very hard time for tires.  Fortunately, there are a few ways you can keep your car tires in top shape:

  • Know the correct air pressure, and maintain it. The correct air pressure for your car or truck is not on the tires, as the common myth says.  Actually, the correct air pressure is on the inside of your vehicle door or in your owner’s manual.  Elevated summer temperatures also tend to make your tire pressure rise so avoid filling your tire pressure up to the maximum (that can cause an inconvenient flat).
  • Don’t procrastinate replacing your tires. If your tires are showing signs of wear, don’t wait too long to purchase a new set.  Tires with little tread or very hard tires along with the hot temps can cause an impromptu flat or damage to your suspension.  Be vigilant about your tires and driving on the road, and you and your car can survive our hot summer temperatures.

6 Truck & Camper Checks to Do BEFORE You Go Camping

campers enjoying their camping trip after checking their camper connectionsIt’s one of Wisconsinites’ favorite past times—and a great way to spend this weekend.  Before you head out on the road with your camper or RV, however, make sure you double check more than just your camping supplies so you’re not stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow.

Connections

Make sure all your connections are secure on your hitch, then check your camper lights to see if they work.  Test all your interior and exterior lights, and drive your truck and camper back and forth to see if everything works.

If your camper is hooking up to electric and water at the campground, make sure you have everything you need for the connection—so you’re not stuck in the dark or without water.

Brakes

Get down on your hands and knees and check the brakes on your truck to see if they are in good shape.  When you test drive your truck and camper back and forth, make sure your vehicle stops promptly and doesn’t show any signs of brake replacement.  You don’t want your brakes to fail at a key point when you’re towing, such as on a hill or at a stop sign.

Tires

Tires low on air pressure, or over the maximum air pressure, are vulnerable to blow outs and can affect the gas mileage of your vehicle.  As such, check the tires on your truck and camper carefully.  Don’t forget to pull out your spare and make sure it’s inflated in case of a flat.  In addition to ensuring your tires have the correct tire pressure, check for any small punctures and scratches on your truck and camper tires.

Hitch

Campers coming off trucks…it is rare, but it does happen.  To ensure that it doesn’t happen to you, double and triple check your hitch.  Make sure it’s securely connected so you don’t end up in the police blotter because of a runaway camper.

Fluids

Check your truck’s oil, coolant, and transmission fluid to ensure they are filled, clean, and ready to tow.  If any of your fluids are consistently low, or are dirty, make an appointment so your truck is ready to hit the open road, you’re not damaging your truck’s engine or transmission, and you’re not stuck on the side of the road calling for a tow.

Weight

Before heading to the campground, make sure you know the weight of your camper and if your vehicle is rated to tow it.  Pulling a camper too heavy compromises the safety of your vehicle, can damage your truck, and keep you from enjoying your camping trip.

12 Must Haves for Your Summer Car Emergency Kit

Driving car in rain on hot summer day. Tree in the field through the wet windowStanding out in the hottest summer Wisconsin days is unbearable enough; standing on the side of the road because your car broke down—with no way to fix it or take care of yourself—can be undoubtedly worse.  That’s why it pays to take a few minutes to pack your summer car emergency kit—before you need it.

Everyone’s emergency kit is different and customized.  For example, if you need medication for an emergency situation, make sure to add that to your list of ‘must haves’ for your car emergency kit:

  • Flashlight with new batteries. Make sure you test the flashlight from time to time, and that the batteries are still strong. You never know when you need a flashlight for car repairs, and you don’t want to be left in the dark.
  • Water. Carry a few bottles of water so you can stay hydrated while you’re waiting for help to arrive. A supply of water can also be helpful if your car needs coolant. If your coolant level is low enough that you need water in your car, make sure to schedule an appointment to find and repair your coolant leak.
  • Snacks. Pack non-perishable snacks that last until you need them, such as energy or granola bars.  This is particularly important if you have a medical condition that requires food when your blood sugar is low.
  • Duct tape. Duct tape can be a ‘must have’ for any number of roadside emergencies.
  • Paper towel. This may not sound like a must have, but a roll of paper towels come in handy when wiping off grease, trying to determine what fluid is leaking from your car, or checking your oil.
  • Jack and lug wrench. Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench for changing a tire, but some of the smaller, more compact car models do not. Make sure you have everything you need when you have a flat tire.
  • Multipurpose tool. Choose a tool with a Philips and flathead screw driver and knife—along with any other tools you could use.
  • Jumper cables. Contrary to popular opinion, summer heat is a worst case scenario for car batteries. Carry a set of jumper cables all year long for those sudden car battery failures.
  • First aid kit. Always carry a small first aid kit with band-aids, gloves, bandages, hand sanitizer, and all the other essential items you need in case of an illness or injury.
  • Gloves. During summer, a pair of gloves comes in handy if you have to change a very hot tire.
  • Road flares. Cars break down during the day and night. A set of road flares or road hazard signs can keep you safe during night time breakdowns or during late night emergency repairs.
  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number. Don’t be left scrambling trying to find a phone number at the last minute. Program the Tire-rifik tow number (920-261-8111) into your cell phone so you can call a tow truck in case of emergencies, and a paper copy in case your phone is dead or broken—just like your car.

3 Common Summer Car Problems (and how to prevent them!)

open road for road tripThis summer, you should be heading out on a road trip—not stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow.  Those same temperatures that can make your road trip so much fun can also cause your car to break down—unless you take a few simple steps to combat the problems that cause some of the most common summer car problems (and breakdowns).

Dead battery

Believe it or not, the heat of our Wisconsin summers is actually harder on our car batteries than the winter. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery.

How to prevent this problem: know the age of your car battery, and the signs of a failing car battery.  Most car batteries need to be replaced every 3-5 years.  If you have to charge your battery randomly or your car is consistently starting rough, make an appointment to replace your battery before you head out on your road trip.

Overheating

The cause of this problem is two-fold, so stop solely blaming summer’s hot temperatures.  The other cause is a faulty cooling system, making your car work harder to maintain a healthy temperature.  If the warning light comes on or there’s steam coming out from under (not above) your hood, the problem is serious.  Pull over and call your local repair shop immediately.

How to prevent this problem: check your fluids regularly, or have your mechanic check them at every oil change.  Don’t miss an oil change, and check under your car randomly to see if your car is leaking (beyond the regular dripping from your AC, that’s normal).  If you do have a leak, use this guide to pinpoint the kind of fluid.  Use that information to make an appointment with your mechanic and get the problem fixed and prevent overheating.

Flat Tire

Summer is hard on tires.  Hot roads can make your tires flex more, and can add stress to tires that are filled to the maximum air pressure.  In addition, road construction can add to the amount of debris left on roads, leaving drivers stranded with a flat.

How to prevent this problem: know the right tire pressure for your car (hint: the correct number is not on the tire) and check it regularly (directions can be found here).  If you happen to roll over a random nail or piece of metal, follow these steps for replacing your flat tire.  Don’t automatically dispose of the damaged tire; make an appointment.  Your mechanic may be able to make a repair and get you more miles out of that tire (on your summer road trip!).

9 Tips to Prevent Your Next Car Accident

danger sign showing car accident is aheadOur friends were recently riding their motorcycle when a car in front of them was hit square in the hood by another car’s tire.  No lie.  The truth is that we’ve all witnessed an accident or two—or have been part of a car accident or two or three…(ahem).  They’re not pleasant, but they can be avoided—sometimes—if you take these basic driving and maintenance tips to heart, and to the bank when you’re not paying for another car accident (or losing a tire or…).

Check your brakes

To avoid sliding through an intersection or running into something (you know the “I need to stop now…now…no…now!!!”), pay attention to your car.  If your brakes show any signs of replacement, such as a grating sound, squealing, shaking during braking, or one of these other tell-tale signals, get your car in ASAP for an appointment.

Keep good tires on your car

Your car’s tires are your direct contact on the road, which is why tires with little tread wear can cause an accident.  Check your tire tread wear regularly (here are directions for checking tire tread here) or replace your tires when they get hard (this is common for tires that don’t get a lot of miles on them).  If you have any questions about when is the right time for new tires, ask your mechanic.

Anticipate

Keep your eyes on the road, and always be ready to avoid potential accidents.  Plan an escape route at all times, and scan the road and ditch for obstacles (think deer) or problem drivers.  Use this same philosophy in parking lots, where one wrong move can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Know who (and what) you can and can’t see

Every vehicle has blind spots.  Being aware of where your blind spots are is critical to avoiding accidents on the road—and in the parking lot.  In addition to knowing the limitations of your mirrors and visibility, know the blind spots of the other drivers around you.  Do not, DO NOT, drive in their blind spots—unless you want to get in a car accident.

Be distraction free

We can hear the sighs and feel the rolling eyes coming on already:  another lecture about distraction-free driving.  This is one of those times where you need to listen to the lectures; study after study has proven that drivers without distractions are safer drivers.  Keep your hands on the wheel, your kids in their seats (and not fighting), your eyes on the road, your cell phone put away, and all other distractions to a minimum when you’re on the road.

Leave plenty of room in front of your car

We admit that this isn’t always possible, like when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic.  When it is possible, leave room in front of your vehicle when driving—and even more than that when conditions are slippery, like during a storm or winter weather.

Avoid drowsy driving

Try to stay off the road when you’re tired.  Tired drivers can’t anticipate as well, and react slower than alert drivers.  Get some shut eye when you’re not on the road, so you can drive your best when you are.

Don’t mix drinking and driving

Just don’t do it.  If you even think you may be impaired by alcohol, ask a friend for a ride or call a taxi.  It’s not worth the ticket, or the accident, from one too many.

Slow down

You don’t have to crawl down the freeway, but you should be smart about your speed.  This is especially true during heavy rains and wintry weather, when traction is at a premium.  Even when the weather is perfect and the road is clear, remember you’re not driving in the Indy 500. You’ll have more time to react, and fewer tickets and accidents on your record.

The Short (& Sweet) Road Trip Checklist for Your Car

Rural road with sunset perfect for next road trip to get your car checked forThere are few feelings more awesome in life than hitting the road for a long weekend trip.  There are few feelings more crummy than being stuck on the road trying to get to your destination.  To make sure your car is safely on the road—and not waiting roadside for repair, take a few minutes before your long weekend road trip to check these important parts of your car:

Brakes

The last thing anyone wants to deal with on vacation is failing brakes.  To avoid an accident or the ditch, schedule an appointment to make sure you have adequate wear left on your brake pads, shoes, and drums.

Tires

Your car tires are your primary contact with the road, so make sure you have enough tread to drive over hot, greasy pavement and am able to stop on a dime.  Have a mechanic check the tread wear indicators, or check them yourself. When you put a penny in the tread of your tires, you shouldn’t be able to see all of Lincoln’s head. If you can, it’s time for new tires that can battle through the snow.

Battery (and battery connections)

Don’t want to be stranded at your next rest stop (and we don’t know anyone who would)?  Get your battery tested to avoid any unexpected battery failures—and read our instructions on how to restart your battery just in case someone leaves a cabin light on all night.  If you have any doubts about the health of your car battery, or have experienced any signs of battery failure, schedule an appointment to have your battery tested, your battery connections inspected, and any corrosion or rust cleaned off.

Headlights

You need to be able to see the road, right? Avoid a ticket and an accident by having your headlights checked and replaced for a (hopefully) smooth and visible road trip.

Windshield wipers

Don’t overlook the importance of a good windshield wiper.  Windshield wipers may not take up a lot of space on your car, but they make a big difference when you’re driving through a rain storm on your next spring trip.  To get your windshield wipers, headlights, brakes, battery, and tires checked quickly so you can concentrate on important things—like packing!—take your car into your local repair shop to get your road trip check complete and your car safely off on your road trip.