Safe Travels: Four Car Maintenance Procedures You Should Perform Before Your Next Road Trip

by Felix Ray

There's nothing worse than having car trouble when you're far away from home. Even a minor part failure can leave you stranded on the side of the road and completely ruin your vacation. Before you embark on your next road trip this summer, perform these four maintenance procedures to ensure that your car is up to the task of tackling the interstate highway.

1. Top Off the Engine Oil

Use the indicator on the engine dipstick to ensure that your oil is properly topped off. Generally, dipsticks feature two vertically-spaced marks. The bottom mark indicates the minimum oil level required and the top mark indicates the maximum level. Since you'll be putting a lot of miles on your car, add oil to the engine until the level reaches the top indicator mark. That way, if your engine burns a bit of oil while you're on the road, you have some leeway before more needs to be added.

2. Inspect the Brake System

You'll be traveling at high speeds for long distances on the freeway, so you want your brakes to be up to snuff. If your brakes make a screeching noise when you come to a stop, this sound indicates that your brake pads need to be changed. Even if your brakes aren't producing any unusual noises, consider having your pads and rotors inspected by a reputable shop to ensure that everything is in perfect working order for your trip. You should also check the brake lines for any signs of damage or corrosion and replace the lines if necessary.

3. Top Off the Coolant

Check the coolant level in your radiator to ensure it's filled to the proper level. Some engines burn a bit of coolant when traveling long distances on the highway, so top off your coolant if it's even slightly low. After all, you don't want your engine overheating in the middle of your trip. While you're at it, check the radiator hoses for any signs of damage or corrosion, and ensure the hoses are tightly clamped to the radiator and engine.

4. Inspect and Inflate the Tires

Visually inspect your tires for damage such as tears or bulges in the sidewall. Bulges indicate that the internal wire frame is broken, and the tire needs to be replaced immediately to avoid the risk of a blowout. Your tires also need to be replaced if the tread has worn down to the wear indicators between the grooves. Remember, your tires are the only things connecting your car to the road, so you want some healthy tread to keep you safe when you're traveling long distances.

You should also check the pressure in your tires before you set off. The recommended pressure for your tires can be found printed on a sticker in the driver's door jam as well as in your owner's manual. Inflate all four tires to the recommended pressure to ensure that they deliver proper handling performance on your trip. 

A little bit of preventative maintenance goes a long way in keeping your car safe and reliable on long-distance road trips. Remember to always drive carefully and, most importantly, have fun. For more information about car maintenance, contact a company like Godfrey Brake Service & Supply.