If you’re one of millions of American families expecting to take to the road this holiday season or planning another getaway trip in the near future, you’ll want to ensure that your vehicle is road-ready. November and December are two of the most important travel times of the year. Don’t spoil your plans by neglecting your car. Avoid breaking down on your next trip by staying current with your routine maintenance and completing upcoming tasks that could become a problem when you’re far from home.
Additionally, these three tips will help ensure that you arrive at your destination without a hitch.
1. Get Acquainted With Your Owner’s Manual
Every vehicle is different. The manufacturer knows your car best and has left an instruction book known as an owner’s manual in the glove box. Acquaint yourself with key information about your vehicle by turning to the manual’s maintenance schedule.
Scheduled maintenance items are listed by the number of miles driven or by the monthly intervals when they should be completed. For example, at 60,000 miles or 72 months, the manufacturer may recommend replacing the transmission fluid. Whichever of the two thresholds is reached first is when you should complete this task.
Review the manual carefully and if you discover something was overlooked during a previous service check, then perform those duties too. However, if you operate your vehicle under severe duty conditions such as a car service, then follow that schedule instead.
2. Never Ignore Instrument Panel Warning Lights
Today’s cars are much more sophisticated than the vehicles our parents drove. Advanced computer systems control many functions, therefore when a problem does occur, it typically is displayed on the instrument panel in the form of a symbol.
Again, your owner’s manual should be consulted, especially if the symbol is not easily understood. The manual will explain what the symbol represents and include a recommended fix. Resolve these issues before you take to the road and you will have one less matter to worry about on route.
3. Use Your Senses to Detect Problems
Certain automotive problems may not be as apparent, especially if you do not always make use of your senses — sound, smell and sight — while driving or when the car is parked. Before your planned trip, take your vehicle on the road, turn the audio system off and pay attention.
If something sounds out of the ordinary, such as an odd clunking noise when you turn the wheel, the steering rack or the ball joints may need maintenance. If you detect a peculiar odor, such as an acrid burning smell, this can point to brake problems, which can become apparent when applying the brakes on a steep hill.
Use your eyes to detect problems with the tires, such as uneven wear. A suspension problem may be present, necessitating an adjustment of the camber, toe or caster. If the problem has gone undetected for too long, you may need to replace your tires to avoid breaking down on your next trip.
Just in Case
There’s always a chance you will miss something when you take to the road. Besides taking a cell phone and a charger with you, an emergency kit and a road service contract can prove beneficial. The kit should include the tools you need to make repairs and the roadside assistance plan should provide emergency backup for when all else fails, enabling you to quickly resume your travel plans.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to avoid breaking down, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Matt Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.