You might like to include a road trip in your vacation. For you the fun is probably also in the 'getting there.' A little prudence of course still needs to be practiced to make sure you do arrive at the destination as safely as possible. A vacation is after all supposed to relieve you of stress and one of the things that will quickly do the opposite is having the designated automobile giving out in the middle of the road and possibly involving you in an accident.
- Check the car's vital fluids. The brake fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid are all important. Read your car's manual to know the appropriate measurement for each fluid type and the proper procedures for checking and adding them. You can identify each by its color. Transmission and power steering fluid is usually reddish. Engine oil is commonly black or brown. For brake fluids, make sure the color is clear. Otherwise you should replace them and flush out the brake system. Some car models also have translucent containers for these various fluids so you can easily check their levels and conditions without getting your hands greasy.
- Test for leaks. Place a large piece of light-colored cardboard underneath your car. Then start the car's engine and let it idle for fifteen minutes until it heats up to its running temperature. After a while check to see if there are any spots or stains on the cardboard. If there are leaks you can perform the maintenance yourself if you feel competent enough or simply bring the car to a mechanic.
- Ensure the belts and hoses are intact. Immediately replace any belts that are tattered, loose, severed or have portions missing. Inspect each hose and look for punctures, cracks, or bulges. You can also squeeze them to see if they're still firm but flexible. Any hoses that feel soft or brittle should also be replaced.
- Ascertain the good condition of the car battery. Take off the battery caps and see if the battery's electrolytes are filled to the proper amount. Most batteries these days are 'maintenance-free' which means their caps are sealed. In case what you have still has removable caps, don't take the manufacturer's word for it; go ahead and check it anyway. Make sure that the terminals and cables are clean and securely attached to their respective connections. If it's covered with "snow" which is accumulated battery acid, take out the cables and terminals and clean them. A mixture of baking soda and water would be helpful to counterbalance the battery acid. Wipe these with a cleaning brush or some cloth. If the terminals seem to be disintegrating from corrosion, replace them. Connect everything back securely after cleaning. Colorless lithium grease is effective in shielding the connections from further corrosion. Last but not the least; inspect the battery casing for holes or cracks.
- Check the brakes. Bring the car in for a check up if you notice any of the following: crushing noises or abnormal vibrations when you step on the brake pedal or the vehicle leans towards one side. Brake failures can easily lead to road accidents.
Besides a check up before the trip, bring along some of these handy emergency materials: jumper cables, flares, a gallon of anti-freeze, a gallon of water, three quarts of oil, and some quarts of automatic transmission fluid (ATF). A check up doesn't guarantee an accident free road trip but you'll feel so much more at ease if you do it.