Let's make no bones about it; planning a road trip can be stressful and time consuming. From figuring out how often the kids will need to stop, to seating arrangements at the family reunion table, to my family's favorite "OH MY GOSH HONEY WHAT ABOUT THE DOG." While they may be the great unofficial American pastime, road trips are stressful for everyone involved, including your car. Adding one more thing to worry about might be a minor annoyance at a time when figuring out what shoes to bring is nearly tantamount to breathing, but nothing ruins a road trip faster than car trouble.
Trust your Mechanic
The days before a big trip are no time to ignore that inconvenient knock, or turn up the radio to drown out that obnoxious squeal. Get little problems taken care of before they become big problems, and that isn't just pre-road trip advice, or even just car advice. Man I'm good, maybe I should apply to be a host on LoveLine.
In all seriousness though, putting off maintenance is bad enough, but ignoring problems before a road trip is a recipe for disaster. Weigh the consequences, getting a problem fixed will take a little time and put a dent of some sort in your wallet (a much larger one if the make of your car ends in olkswagen) but having your car break down on a desolate highway will be a major inconvenience at best, and a scene from The Hills Have Eyes at worst.
Rain-X is Your Best Friend
Thankfully, my childhood was before the era of DVD players in cars, and thus I have some memories of road trips with my parents. One of my most vivid memories is of my mother working herself into an OCD frenzy over my father's constant fiddling with the wiper-blade speed.
While this problem may be specific to the dysfunctionalities of my parents, Rain-X really is great for road trips. From light sprinkles to full-on Midwest thunderstorms, Rain-X improves your visibility and lets you focus on tuning out the screaming kids in the backseat rather than the wiper blades. You may threaten to pull the car over, but it won't be because you can't see.
Clean Your Machine
This may seem counter-intuitive, after all what is a road trip if not an excuse to trash your car? In all likelihood, your upholstery will end up at least partially covered in nuclear-orange Cheeto pollen, your windshield a Jackson Pollock of hapless insects, and your dashboard looking like an awareness ad for Type Two Diabetes. Starting out in a clean car is more comfortable, smells better, and is easier to clean come the end of your trip.
If you're due for an oil change, by all means, get it done. Oil changes are pretty cheap and a great way to catch those little problems early. Failure to change your oil can speed engine wear and eventually lead to a full breakdown. Having to call a tow truck because you put diesel in is embarrassing, having to do so because you didn't change your oil for 40,000 miles is just plain stupid.
Top it Off
Driving at highway speeds for hours on end takes a toll on your car's radiator. Especially in the summer months, heat, speed, and hills can cause your car to overheat. Make sure your radiator is full, but not too full. If your coolant levels are a little low, it may be time to replace the cap on your radiator. Faulty caps can cause coolant to evaporate and escape and your car to overheat. While fumbling with a steaming engine may be a clichÃ©, I can personally attest that it's really no fun.
Chances are you aren't road tripping to see the inside of far-away hospital, but that's where you could end up without safe driving and the proper precautions. I hate to sound like my Driver's Ed teacher, but buckle up and slow down. Getting there a few minutes early isn't worth a trip to the hospital. Chances are you aren't the only ones lucky enough to be taking a road trip that weekend, so be aware of the extra traffic. Also keep in mind that truckers can't slow down as fast as you or see as well, give â€˜em a wave too, their life is basically one big version of what you're doing minus the yelling and plus a lot of nicotine and loneliness.
With summer fast approaching and road trip season in full swing, its time to pack up the car and make like the Griswold family, but don't forget about that dog-sitter.
The author of this article is Dylan Jones. If you are interested in more articles about auto repair please join our Facebook page. No matter where you go, trust the experts at AAMCO for Denver Transmission Repair.