Deep down you know your car should be checked before hitting the road, but with so many other things to do, some folks put it off. Bad idea, says the Car Care Council, an automotive consumer education group, especially when motorists don't realize that in as little as 10 minutes, they can determine if their car is ready for long-distance travel.
- If you're towing a heavy trailer or caravan with a car that has an automatic transmission it's worth having the transmission fluid changed.
- Have the radiator hoses checked for leakage and have them replaced if they show cracks and signs of a leak.
- Check engine drive belts for condition and tension. If they appear worn or damaged have them replaced, if they appear loose have them checked and adjusted. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
- Check the inflation pressures and reset them to the recommended pressures, which might mean setting them higher if you're loaded up with holiday gear or towing a trailer.
- Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
- If you're towing a trailer or caravan check that the lights on the towed vehicle are working correctly.
- Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
"In a very short amount of time, motorists can identify how road-ready their vehicle is and then take steps to have the problems fixed before heading out for vacation," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "It's a small sacrifice compared to the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down many miles away from home."
The council also recommends that wipers and interior and exterior lighting be checked prior to a road trip, and that motorists restock their emergency kit. As a rule of thumb, wipers should be replaced every six months and lighting should be checked monthly.