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Preparing for Summer Road Trips

With the kids home from school for the summer, many families decide to pack up the family vehicle and hit the open road to visit family or see Canada. Being confined to an enclosed space can be stressful enough, so basic preparations before the trip can help keep unexpected disasters to a minimum.

First up is checking the condition of all the tires. With gas prices still high, an easy way to save at the pump is to make sure the tires are properly inflated. Check the sticker on the driver’s door jamb or look in the owner’s manual for the recommended pressures, and make sure all four tires and the spare are up to spec. Be sure to check if an alternate inflation pressure is recommended when carrying heavy passenger and cargo loads.
While you’re at it, do a visual inspection of the tires and replace any tires that are showing excessive or uneven wear. If abnormal tire wear is noticed, before traveling, get the wheel alignment checked and adjusted if needed.

While checking the spare, don’t forget to take out the jack and make sure it’s working and all the parts are there. If your wheels have locking lug nuts, you wouldn’t want to get stranded with a flat tire that can’t be removed, so make sure the lug nut key is in your vehicle. Keeping a first aid kit in the vehicle is also always a good idea.

Cranky kids confined to a steamy car on a hot summer day are not conducive to a fun family outing, so if you haven’t already checked out the air conditioning, make sure it’s properly chilling the cabin air. If necessary, get it recharged with refrigerant or have other repairs done.

Don’t forget to check under the vehicle after it has been parked to make sure there are no leaks. If there are signs of any fluids other than water (which may just be condensation from the air conditioning evaporator), have it checked and repaired.

If you are planning a long trip and your car is close to the interval where it needs an oil change, take it in early to get it done before you leave. If your trip extends beyond the distance interval for the next oil change, get it done at a dealer while you are away – don’t finish your trip on contaminated oil.

No matter how much you prepare for a trip, the unexpected can sometimes happen. Thankfully, roadside assistance services are always ready to come to your aid. Many automakers now offer complimentary roadside assistance that includes towing, tire changes, emergency fuel delivery and other services during the warranty period on new and sometimes pre-owned vehicles. Cell phone providers also frequently offer similar assistance services for just a few dollars per month added to your bill. For those that prefer the traditional approach, automobile clubs like CAA are also a great option. No matter what service you opt for, make sure you know your account number and program the phone number into your cell phone.

Speaking of cell phones, remember to bring a 12-volt charging adapter so you can keep the battery charged while driving. If you are planning to use a Smartphone as a navigation device, check out your local cell phone store for a windshield or dashboard mount for the phone - holding it in your hand while driving is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Thanks to modern consumer electronics, kids can also stay entertained while on the road, listening to whatever music they like or using laptops or tablets to play games or watch movies without annoying parents. The batteries in those devices have a habit of running down at inopportune times, so having suitable charging capabilities is important.
Get a couple of 12-volt adapters for USB chargers and, if needed, a multi-outlet adapter to connect to the vehicle’s 12-volt power socket. If using a laptop while on the road, investing in a 400-watt power inverter will provide one or two AC outlets just like at home, so everyone can stay occupied.

Stop by the dealership today and let us make sure your car is in the right shape before you take it out on a long road trip. Some basic preparation will help minimize the chances of avoidable disasters during your travels and allow everyone to come home with memories of a great trip.