Before heading out on your fall road trip, be certain your car is prepared for anything you might encounter. This includes collecting car insurance quotes that meet your long and short term needs, checking the viability of the battery and making sure the tires are properly inflated and have good tread. As the nice weather comes to a close, you wouldn’t want your last summer-inspired vacation to be more headache than pleasure.
Check the Windshield Wiper Blades
The weather is getting cooler which means you’re likely to encounter mist, rain, fog and other type of precipitation. The windshield wipers are your first defense for visibility so you’ll want to be certain they are operating properly. Just like everything else, wipers break down, tear, and can create havoc for you by limiting visibility and blurring oncoming lights. Before you leave, gauge their quality by taking note beforehand: are they streaking? Do they leave big patches of moisture behind? Do they skip over the windshield? Anything other than leaving behind a streak-free, clean windshield means they should be replaced. While you’re at the auto parts store getting a new pair, get 2 so you can leave one in the car in the case of an emergency.
Check the Tires
If you’re heading to parts unknown it’s safe to assume you could come into contact with some snow or ice this fall. You’ll want to check your tires and see if they pass the penny test for proper tread. Insert a penny (Lincoln head down) into the tread. If his head is still completely visible, your tires don’t have enough tread and need to be replaced.
All tires need to be properly inflated to work well, so keep a tire pressure gauge in the car and periodically check the pressure. Over time and use, tires deflate and naturally need to be inflated. This also happens more quickly as temperatures drop, putting you at risk of a poor gas mileage and a possible blow out.
Check the Fluids
If you live in an area with tremendous temperature swings between winter and summer, the fluids in your car will need to be changed more often. When temperatures fall, fluids get thicker and move more slowly through the engine. It’s best to drain coolant and then have it replaced to a 40:60 mixture (60% coolant).
If you aren’t comfortable checking fluids yourself, take it to your local mechanic. Other important fluids to check include the power steering fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid.
Check the Battery
Cold weather is going to bring out the failings of your car battery if you have not been taking care of it. Of course, you want to make sure it’s fully charged and in tip top condition before heading out on your fall road trip. Getting stranded with a dead battery on the side of a lonely road is nobody’s idea of fun. Look at the terminals for signs of corrosion. You can clean the corrosion with an old toothbrush and a mixture of water and baking soda. Clean it off with water in a spray bottle and then dry.
You can test the viability of the battery by turning on the “accessories” of the car. That is, one click so all of the lights on the dashboard appear. If you notice that the dashboard lights are not as bright as they normally are, your battery has a low charge. If they don’t come on at all, you’ll need to jump start the battery.
Pack an Emergency Kit
While nobody wants to be broken down and waiting for help it helps the situation if you are at least prepared. An emergency kit doesn’t have to take up a lot of room but it will give you peace of mind knowing it’s there – just in case.
- Cell phone power bank (already charged)
- Extra car fuses
- Paper road maps
- Blankets; mittens; hats
- Jumper cables
- Bottled water
- Extra engine oil
- Small shovel
- Flares/glow sticks
- Non-perishable snack items
- Before heading out, check to make sure the spare tire is properly inflated and that the jack and tire iron are also in the vehicle.
- Put an extra pair of polarized sunglasses in the glove box
- Make sure you have all of your necessary documents in easy reach (usually the glove box). Registration, insurance cards, etc.
- Clean your car before leaving – inside and out so you can find everything you need easily and you know exactly what you’re taking with you.
With just a little bit of prep work, you and your car will be ready for that last gasp of summer.