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Car Maintenance

A photo of a mechanic checking the condition of a car engine prior to a road trip.

Check all fluids and the spare tire before you go.

If you want to avoid a breakdown, then here’s the car maintenance that must be done before you hit the road.

Always take your car to the dealer, or favorite mechanic, for routine maintenance, before heading out on a road trip. Some people think its better to get the work done when you get back, but it’s not. Do the work before you go, so the car gets better gas milage and you can have a worry free trip.

If your car is still under warranty, then there should be no issues. Just tell them about the road trip on the maintenance appointment before the trip. That way they’ll check all the fluid levels, brakes, filters, tire pressure and the spare, so you don’t even have to think about them.

If you have an older car, or do your own maintenance, you may want to give it a new air filter, oil change and check for fluid leaks before you go. Inspect the radiator coolant / antifreeze, brake & clutch fluid, battery levels, terminals, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, plus all belts and hoses for wear.

I like to get all the signal lights checked at this point. If it’s been a couple of years, I get them to change the headlight bulbs and brake bulbs. You don’t need one of these burning out on the trip and giving police a reason to pull you over.

Check the tire pressure and adjust it if need be. Look for any signs of cuts, bulges or uneven wear. If you need new tires, get them before you go, not after. Otherwise, you’ll be risking a blowout, or flat along the way.

You might think that using old tires, will save a lot of wear over buying new ones, but that’s not the case. Any mechanic will tell you, that tires are all about turning and traction. City driving is much harder on them than the highway, so don’t worry about putting some highway miles on new tires.

Make sure that your spare tire (if you have one) is inflated and in good condition. If you get a flat tire and plan on fixing it yourself, you’ll need a car jack and socket wrench to remove the lug nuts. You might also need some WD-40 to loosen any rust. So be sure that all of those items are in the trunk, along with the car manual.

Some newer cars don’t come with a spare tire. The come with a can of puncture sealant instead. If that’s all you have, check the expiry date on the can and get a new one if need be.

Last but not least, get any windshield chips filled and the wipers replaced. There’s nothing more annoying than driving on a strange road, in pouring rain, with a crack, or streak, right where your eyes need to focus.

To get rid of the annoying grime and wiper smear I rely on a product called 20 /10 windshield cleaner. It’s an amazing product for cleaning windows, but it can be a little hard to find, so stock up a few bottles when you do find it.

For other car care tips, check your local automobile association. That would be the AAA in USA, CAA in Canada, RAC in the UK, ADAC in Germany. They have websites and publications with all sorts of tips for better trips.

I’ve been a member of the CAA for as long as I can remember. They fix flat tires, bring gas, jumpstart batteries, open locked doors, and if they can’t fix your car on the spot, they’ll tow it to the nearest garage or town, depending on your membership level. Personally, I wouldn’t own a car, without also belonging to an auto association.

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