Plan for summer vacation road trips

A little advance planning for road trips can save time and trouble on down the highway. Here are some tips from AAA.

Fluids Are Key

  • Check the engine oil level. And get an oil change if needed.
  • With the engine warm and running, check the automatic transmission fluid level. Top it off if needed. Be careful not to overfill.
  • Check the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze/coolant and water. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. If the radiator is not completely full, have the cooling system checked by a professional. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot.
  • Brake fluid does not require topping off provided the level is between the full and low marks on the reservoir. A fluid level near or below the low marking could signal worn brakes or a leak in the system. Have the system inspected by a professional.

See And Be Seen

  • Replace windshield wipers that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass with a single swipe.
  • Make sure all vehicle lights, including headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are functioning properly.
  • Top off the windshield washer fluid reservoir with an appropriate cleaning solvent.

Check For Wear And Tear

  • Ensure the battery cables are securely attached and the terminals are free of corrosion.
  • With the engine off and cool, check the drive belts. Replace any that are cracked, glazed or frayed. Check belts that don’t have an automatic tensioner for proper tension; there should be no more than one-half inch deflection when the belt is pressed midway between two pulleys.
  • Check the radiator and heater hoses for visible wear, soft spots or bulges, and look for leaks around clamps and the water pump.


  • Check and adjust tire pressures to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended settings – check your owner’s manual or door jamb for these numbers, and don’t forget the spare, if you have one. Inspect the tire sidewalls for bulges, and check the tread for excessive or uneven wear that indicates the need for wheel alignment and/or tire replacement.
  • For maximum life, rotate your tires at the mileage interval specified in your owner’s manual. Note that some vehicles use differently-sized tires front and rear that cannot be rotated.

Know Where You’re Going

  • Get up-to-date, accurate maps and routing information before leaving home.
  • Share your travel itinerary with friends and family.
  • Leave a few lights on and perhaps a radio inside your home.
  • Stop newspaper and mail delivery.

Pack Smart

  • A few basics to have on board during road trips include a small first aid kit, your vehicle owner’s manual, a flashlight, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, paper towels, extra water and snacks.
  • Always keep a fully charged cell phone with you so you can call for help in case of a breakdown. Carrying a car charger for your cell phone is also a good idea.
  • Check your vehicle’s payload capacity, that is, the maximum combined weight of all cargo and passengers that can safely be carried. You can typically find this figure on a sticker attached to the driver’s door of the vehicle.
  • Limit any load on top of your vehicle to a maximum of 18 inches in height and no more than 100 pounds.
  • Do not overload the trunk or rear cargo compartment. Items in a vehicle’s open cargo area or on the roof should be properly secured to prevent shifting of the load.

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