Truck Repair & Maintenance Tips that Keep Your Truck on the Road

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truck working in field with combineAsk any pick-up truck owner and they’ll tell you: a truck is more than just a truck.  It’s a workhorse, a heavy hauler, a tow truck when needed, and a reliable part of your vehicle fleet.  Maintaining the latter part—reliability—of your truck requires a truck maintenance and repair schedule that minimizes breakdowns and keeps your workhorse working.

Make preventative maintenance a priority

When you’re busy hauling or your truck is working fine, it’s easy to just keep working. But don’t let that purring engine and reliable tow fool you; preventative maintenance is essential to extend the life of your truck—and how long it can work for you.

Establish a regular schedule of oil changes, transmission oil changes, and tire rotation with a local mechanic to keep your truck going (or maintain the schedule yourself).  Package as much of your service and maintenance together into one visit to limit the days your truck is out service.  In between scheduling oil changes and maintenance, check your oil and tire pressure on a regular basis.  Don’t let your TPMS sensor tell you when to check your tire pressure; we’ve seen customers whose tires were more than 10 pounds low without triggering the TPMS sensor.  If you don’t have time, find a mechanic who you can trust with your truck—and can get it done quickly so you can get back to work.

Put good tires on your truck

As tempting as it may be to purchase and mount the first set of tires you find, do your homework and select the right set of truck tires. Look for tires that can handle the weight of the loads you haul, provides maximum off-road traction, and on-road handling.  Buying the right kind of truck tires is not only an investment in daily driving; the right tires wear correctly, preventing breakdowns and protecting suspension parts.

Once you have the right tires mounted, check your tire pressure regularly for a smooth ride, protected suspension parts, and optimum fuel efficiency. Check your tire pressure when the tires are cold (have not been driven for three hours) on a regular seasonal basis.

Keep the number of a good road service company handy

When your workhorse pickup does break down, store the number of a good road service company in your wallet or phone.  A good road service company responds to your breakdown and gets your pickup working again—saving you time and getting your truck (and you) working again.

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Tires Last Longer

cars on highway with tires that last a long timeOver the life of your car, new tires can be one of the most expensive replacements—and one of the most important safety aspects of your car, especially when you need traction (like when it’s raining and snowing!).  Here’s how to get the most out of your next set of tires—both for performance and budget.

Check your tire pressure.

An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires, causing you to need new tires sooner. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road, accelerating the wearing of certain parts of your tire tread. The result: you need to replace a tire because parts of it are more worn than others. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. Tires not wearing properly can cause blown tires and needs more frequent tire replacement.

To avoid uneven tire tread wear, check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to fill your tires to the proper pounds per square inch (PSI) listed in your owner’s manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame (driver’s side). Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires. One final warning: don’t wait for your TPMS warning light on your dashboard to come on to check your tire pressure.  By, then it may be too late because many TPMS lights don’t appear until your car is 20% under standard air pressure.

Tires can actually lose or gain pressure with the seasons. Check your tire pressure seasonally, or ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at every oil change appointment.

Rotate your tires.

Tires need to be rotated to maintain even wear on each tire, which extends the life of your tires. This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles which use the front tires primarily for traction. There is no hard-and-fast rule for when your car needs a tire rotation, but a good general guideline to use is every 5-8,000 miles (sometimes less for the warranty-ask your mechanic or tire salesman). Usually that number coincides with an oil change appointment depending on how many miles you drive.

Remember too, that the way you rotate your car may vary from the traditional front to back and cross in the front.  Asymmetric and uni-directional tires, or vehicles with different size tires on the front and back, may need a different tire rotation.  Check your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to find out when, and how, your tires need to be rotated.

Check for uneven tire wear—and car alignment.

Uneven tire wear can occur on a car out of alignment, so a tire rotation is also a good chance to check the wear patterns on your car for signs your car needs an alignment.  You can also tell in another way: when you drive.

An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases. A car out of alignment can wear down your tires prematurely, as well as your car’s suspension parts.

Be aware of worn car suspension parts.

Worn car suspension parts can wear your tires unevenly and prematurely.  Watch for signs of worn suspension parts, such as if your car leans abruptly forward when you brake, oil on your shock, sudden pulling to the right or left, or a lot of bouncing when driving.  Include your vigilant driving with regular tire maintenance and checks and you’ve done everything you can to make sure your tires are a long-term investment—and not a short-term mistake.

Does my flat tire need a fix or replacement?

mechanic repairing flat tire on carYou’re stranded because of a random flat tire puncture. You’re annoyed because you have to keep adding air to your tire that keeps going flat. You’re irritated by the tire that is stuck in your tire.  You’re frustrated—all because of a flat tire on your car when you need to get somewhere.  Unfortunately, your flat could be more than an inconvenience; it can also be an expensive inconvenience.  How expensive is determined by a number of factors, but the good news is that flat tire may not mean you automatically need to replace your tire.

Your options for a flat tire

Liquid tire fix kit-Those liquid tire sealant repair products on television may allow you to drive on that flat tire, but it’s a temporary repair.  The caveat that comes with these repair kits is that they are only useful for small tire punctures that occur in the tread and require you to take your car to a repair shop for a long-term fix.

Tire fix-There are a couple of different ways that a small tire puncture can be fixed, either with a plug or a patch.  Both are more than temporary fixes, but need to be done properly for long-term results.  If you want to take on fixing your tire as a DIY project, make sure you do your research so you don’t do any more damage to the tire and don’t compromise safety.  If you’re not confident, contact a repair shop to repair your tire for far less than the cost of replacement (depending on the tire model and type).

Replacement-This is the most obvious solution to a flat tire, but where to put the flat tire for long-term use is not as obvious as you think.  You can purchase a whole set of tires for a smooth ride, or a pair for a nice ride.  Ask your mechanic whether to put the tires on the front or back.  If you have to purchase one tire, contact your mechanic for a tire rotation (if one hasn’t been done recently) with placement of the tire in the optimum location.  If you just throw a new tire on your car, you are going to have a bumpy ride and can damage other parts of your car and affect your alignment.

When your tire can’t be fixed

When the puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder-Because of the flex of these parts of your tire and for the long-term safety of your car, tires with punctures in these areas—-even small holes—cannot be fixed.

When the damage is a large cut-If the damage to your tire is large (usually more than a quarter inch as a general rule) or is a long, straight cut, a patch or plug is not going to do the long-term job.

When it’s been fixed multiple times-If you are a repeat offender with numerous punctures and patches, another patch is not recommended especially if the holes are close together on the tire.

When you’ve been driving around with a damaged tire for awhile-If the nail has been stuck in the tire for awhile, or you’ve been driving with the damage for any period of time, the damage to your tire (interior and exterior) may be too severe to fix the tire.

Fix or replace?

If you don’t know whether to fix or replace your tire, head to a mechanic so the tire can be inspected and you can get back on the road again.

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

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.