For millions of families, the holiday season means at least one road trip to visit far away friends and relatives. Some families will take upwards of five different trips in a week or less just to see everyone and exchange gifts. Of the estimated 94 million people that will travel this year, 91% of them will go by car, AAA reports. That equals nearly 86 million travelers at risk for being delayed or stranded by car troubles. Preemptive inspections and routine maintenance are smart before any long trip, but it’s absolutely vital for safety when driving in inclement weather common around the holidays. Get your vehicle in shape before setting off for Grandmother’s house.
Tires are at the top of every winter driving maintenance list because they’re the most susceptible to wet, icy or snowy conditions. Whether you’re traveling west to see family living on California’s sunny coast or north to Montana where the weather’s a bit more dicey, you live in Northern Colorado, and here, snow and ice are the norm every winter. That’s why leaving on your holiday road trip with bald or bulging tires is a major mistake.
- Consider a new set of all-weather or winter tires as a holiday gift to your family. Fresh tread and appropriate grip patterns provide a smoother, safer ride – and the tires may still be ready to go for next year’s trips if you pick the right brand.
- Have your tires inspected professionally no matter their age. Damage to the edges and interiors are impossible to spot until the vehicle is up on a lift.
- Pull out the spare and inspect it as well. A leaky, dry rotted or missing spare is no use when you’re stuck on the road with a flat tire. A quick stop by Scott’s Fort Collins Auto & Repair gives you the chance to swap out a bad spare for a good one.
- Once you’re on the road, check the tire pressure every 500 miles or after each day of driving. If the tires are getting old or have pressure issues, stop every 200 miles. Driving too long with low air pressure leaves you burning excess fuel and potentially damaging your wheels.
If your car is within 1,000 miles of needing an oil change, schedule one before your trip, even if your mileage won’t exceed 500 miles. Any trip that takes hours of driving stresses the engine. New oil is the best way to absorb the shock of that stress and keep everything running just as it should. Bring a quart or two of oil along on your trip as well. A little top up is often needed after a day or two on the road.
Don’t neglect other fluids during your holiday road trip preparations. While the engine oil should be your first concern, also check:
- Transmission Fluid: This fluid need changing every 30,000 miles or so. Taking your car on a road trip could damage the transmission if you’re past the 50,000 mile mark. It does take some time to exchange the fluid for a fresh batch, so have your system inspected to see if it’s necessary first.
- Power Steering Fluid: All too many drivers take their power steering for granted. Taking a tight curve in a big SUV is a pain in the elbows without the extra power provided by the pump and fluid system. Top this fluid off if you hear any noises when turning or feel resistance in the steering wheel. Deal with leaks promptly to keep the pump from burning out and leaving you responsible for all the turning power.
- Coolant: Take the time to top of your car’s coolant system with antifreeze before departing for your holiday travels. A 50/50 mixture with water is required, so either purchase premixed fluid or have a professional handle it for you.
Hoses and Belts
Examine your car’s belts and hoses for cracking and other signs of wear. The rubber used for these parts is quite durable, but exposure to high temperatures on a daily basis takes its toll. Fraying belts and disconnected hoses can rob you of power when traveling, and the strain of a long trip often breaks them entirely.
Dim or broken headlights could put you in dangerous situations, especially if your plans involve traveling at night. Don’t forget that a police officer could ticket you in every county along the way if you drive with only one working headlight. Replace any burned out bulbs and pack one or two extra just in case.
Brakes are only second in importance to tires when driving in the winter. Worn pads greatly reduce your stopping abilities, warns J.D. Power. A loss in responsiveness could be dangerous when coupled with icy conditions and other drivers. You may just need new brake pads, which is a quick replacement we can handle here at Scott’s. Our mechanics will also inspect the rotors to make sure they can handle stopping demands on your trip.
Finally, check up on your car insurance before leaving on your big trip. Most states now verify compliance digitally, but it never hurts to make sure you’re carrying a physical copy of your insurance card. Find out if you have any road side assistance and how to use it before departing as well. Once your car is safe and ready to go, all you need to do is double check the directions.
Before heading off on your much-anticipated holiday road trip, bring your car in to Scott’s Fort Collins Auto & Repair. We can tune up your car and make sure your vehicle is trustworthy. Stop by at your convenience! You can also schedule an appointment online or call ahead at (970) 682-4202.