Despite historic high gas prices, peak summer getaway season is underway, so it’s time to get your car ready before you start your road trip. These common sense car care tips can help prevent costly breakdowns and even accidents.
The AAA expects to rescue 7 million American drivers this summer, mostly for dead batteries and flat tires, and being locked out of vehicles.
Simply, summer heat takes a toll on vehicles, and an AAA survey shows that 4 out of ten drivers are unprepared for emergency breakdown situations.
With high gas prices and high prices and cancelled flight chaos for airline travel, this still could be a banner year for the great American Road Trip.
That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news, from that same AAA survey:
- two-thirds of American drivers have never proactively had their car battery tested
- 1 in 5 of us do not know how to change a tire
- 4 in 10 of us do not carry an emergency kit in our vehicle.
Schedule a check-up
Take your vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out.
Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.
AAA’s Mobile Battery Service offers free battery testing for AAA members, and Firestone Complete Auto Care centers also offer free battery testing.
With low-profile tires and the elimination of spare tires, many newer vehicles are especially susceptible to roadside trouble, so give your tires extra attention before setting off on your road trip.
Check for tell-tale bulges, bald spots, and uneven wear. Be sure tires are properly inflated according to manufacturer recommendations.
Over-inflation can lead to blowouts, under-inflation will reduce fuel efficiency.
Never leave home without one.
Purchase a packaged emergency kit that contains the following – or create one yourself – and leave it in the trunk or cargo area.
- mobile phone and car charger,
- flashlight with extra batteries,
- first-aid kit,
- tire pressure gauge and adjustable wrench,
- windshield washer solution,
- jumper cables and emergency flares or reflectors,
- drinking water and extra snacks and food for travelers and pets,
- a blanket.
Keyless ignition on late model vehicles has a downside – more of us are forgetting to take the fob and lock ourselves out.
Always take the key fob or keys when exiting the car and bring a spare car key on every trip.
Avoid exposing keyless-entry remote or smart keys to water and always replace the key or fob battery when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
If you have a breakdown
Safely steer your car off the roadway. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other drivers.
Driver and passengers should get out of the vehicle on the side facing away from traffic if possible. Once everyone is in a safe location, request assistance from a road service provider, or from an onboard service like OnStar.
Comply with the Move Over Law
Observe the Move Over Law when law enforcement or emergency vehicles are on the side of the road. This is the law in all 50 states.
Change lanes or slow down to give sufficient clearance.
Avoid texting or other distracting activities while driving, including interacting with a cell phone, talking with passengers or looking at other objects in the vehicle.
This article was published originally in Spring 2017 and has been updated and re-published in Summer 2022.