BY PATRICK CLARKE
Nearly 75 percent of Americans plan to take a road trip at some point this year, with many of those travelers hitting the highway this summer.
No matter the destination or the route you take to get there, a successful trip is contingent on having a dependable vehicle.
With some help from a leading auto expert, we’ve singled out a few simple ways to ensure your car, truck or SUV is up to snuff so you can pull out of the driveway with confidence.
Check the tires
Consider investing in a tire pressure gauge if you don’t have one already.
They only cost a few dollars and will give you an accurate reading of your tire pressure. Also, make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure and not the maximum pressure.
“Many people mistakenly think that the correct inflation pressure is located on the tire’s sidewall.
What’s listed on the sidewall is the maximum inflation pressure for the tire,’’ Jamie Bullis, lead technician at Minnetonka, Minn.-based Firestone Complete Auto Care, told TravelPulse.
Check for your tires’ recommended pressure on the driver’s side door jamb or in your owner’s manual,” Keep in mind tire pressure will change as you drive because of shifts in temperature.
Check your fluids
Although a full tank of gas will be first on your priority list, it’s important to pay attention to the other fluids that keep your vehicle running.
Oil and transmission fluid are critical.
“Regularly scheduled oil changes will help keep your engine clean and avoid the potentially engine-damaging effects contaminated oil can inflict,” added Bullis.
“By keeping up with your vehicle’s recommended transmission fluid change schedule, you can keep your transmission in good working order and decrease the likelihood of costly transmission repairs down the road.
In many cases, a transmission fluid exchange is due every 30,000 miles or two years,” said the former Bridgestone Retail Operations/ASE Master Technician of the Year.
Plus, don’t forget coolant, which prevents boiling, freezing and corrosion. Bullis points out that coolant is basically “a warm blanket in the winter and a misting fan in the summer.”
TRIP is an acronym for Tail lights and turn signals, Roadside emergency kit, Inflation pressure and Penny test.
Before you leave home, make sure all of your lights and signals are in working order. That’s as simple as turning them off and on while one of your passenger watches from outside the car.
A roadside emergency kit can also come in handy during the event of a breakdown. Things to consider are a blanket, a flashlight, flares, long jumper cables and a tow rope. Extra snacks, water and clothes won’t hurt either.
Finally, once your tires are properly inflated, use the penny test to ensure they have enough tread.
Place the upside down penny in the tread and look to see if any part of Lincoln’s head is covered. If so, you should be ready to ride. Otherwise, it’s probably time for some new tires.
“To maximize tire tread life, rotate and balance your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles by taking your car to a trusted tire dealer or automotive service center,” said Bullis.