12 Most Important To-Dos For Mid-Summer Driving
Grills, kids, parks and pets–your vehicle helps make summer fun happen.
Here’s our list of to-dos and should-haves for July driving adventures, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Air conditioning. Summer heat causes your vehicle air conditioner to work harder. Check A/C performance before traveling. A/C is not simply a matter of comfort; elderly, passengers with health concerns and pets are particularly sensitive to heat-related issues.
- Belts and hoses. Summer heat causes rubber-based parts such as belts and hoses to decompose faster. Give a visual check for bulges, blisters, cracks or cuts in the rubber. The NHTSA also recommends checking clamps for a snug fit to prevent seepage or separation.
- Vehicle recalls. Use the NHTSA Recalls Look-up Tool or call your service advisor before heading out of town. The look-up tool offers information about critical safety issues for your specific vehicle and how to get recall repairs done for free. You also may send automatic alerts to your phone when any issues are published.
- Tire inflation. According to NHTSA, underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure. Tires that lose air may not be punctured; a small amount of tire pressure escapes every month even from new tires.
- Look at your vehicle owner’s manual or the side of your vehicle door for proper tire pressure. Front and rear tires may require different amounts of air pressure.
- Are you towing a boat or ATV? Tire pressure recommendations may be different when hauling a trailer.
- Do not inflate tires to the pressure listed on the tire itself–that shows only maximum pressure for the tire and not the recommended pressure for your vehicle.
- Check inflation of your spare tire. Full-sized spares require attention so they’re ready for emergency use.
- Tire tread. NHTSA recommends checking tire tread monthly and before road trips, the same frequency as checking tire pressure.
- Replace tires which show uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread depth should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
- Use built-in “wear bar” indicators to determine when it’s time to replace your tires.
- Alternatively, use the “coin test” to determine tread depth. Place a penny or coin in the tread, head first. If you can see the top of the head, your tire needs to be replaced.
- Ask your service advisor about getting a tire rotation–recommended about every 5,000 miles or every oil change service.
- Look for cuts in the sidewalls, punctures, bulges, scrapes, cracks, or bumps. Let your service advisor know immediately if you discover any tire abnormalities.
- Wheel alignment. Hitting a curb, pothole or obstruction can throw off alignment and make your vehicle pull to the side. It also causes uneven tire wear. If your vehicle tends to pull to one side or the other, get an alignment inspection before traveling.
- Cooling system fluid. Make sure you have enough coolant in your radiator to keep your vehicle cool on the hottest days. Check to see if the vehicle owner’s manual contains the specific recommendations for your vehicle.
- Other important fluids. These include brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering. Make sure each reservoir is full; if you see any signs of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.
- Windshield washer reservoir. Add fluid depleted during winter and spring storms. You’ll need a full tank when dusty summer roads, insects and pine pollen turn your windshield into a grimy mess.
- Wiper blades. The rubber in blades takes a beating from exposure to sun and heat. Frayed, cracked blades cause window streaks and impair vision. Install a new pair to improve visibility.
- Battery terminals. A vehicle battery can go bad overnight as heat places extra strain on your vehicle’s electrical system. Get a battery charge check before leaving town.
- Exterior lights. Walk around your vehicle while a family member activates headlight settings, presses the brake pedal, uses turn signals and the emergency flashers. Bulbs are inexpensive safety equipment, and they can be replaced quickly.
Take-alongs to prepare for the unexpected
Most of the items on this list are easy to forget in the excitement of vacation. Set the following items aside days before your road trip so they don’t get left behind in a last minute rush.
- Extra cell phone banks and power cords. Look for chargers with multiple ports to charge multiple items simultaneously. Some power banks support solar charging.
- LED Flashlight with extra batteries. Keep it in the glovebox for handy access.
- Flares and a white flag for emergencies.
- Jumper cables to help yourself or stranded drivers get back on the road.
- Battery-operated inflators for filling water toys, topping off tires and volleyballs.
- Ground mat when you need to change a tire, kneel or crawl under your vehicle.
- Work gloves and a change of clothes for changing tires and other messy jobs.
- Basic repair tools and some duct tape for temporarily repairing problems such as a leaky hose.
- Emergency blankets, towels and coats if your family finds itself returning to the hotel after dark.
- Weather app to check road and weather conditions to avoid closures and delays.
- Traditional maps, often supplied at park ranger stations, to augment digital routing when you’re out of cellular range.