This Thanksgiving, AAA projects that more than 55 million Americans will travel by automobile or more towards their destination. That’s the highest travel volume since 2005. Before you head out, make sure your vehicle is ready to go by checking this quick holiday road-trip checklist. If needed, make an appointment to have your car looked at by a professional mechanic.
Quick Road-Trip Checklist
Battery: Measure Its Strength
Car batteries draw more energy while operating in the winter months. As temperatures dip, your car’s battery is more susceptible to dying. Head off a dead battery with a check (often a free service by most auto repair shops) so you have a sense of how much more life it has left. If you belong to a roadside assistance service, ask them to test your battery’s voltage with a multimeter tool. – You can have this done even if you do not belong to a roadside assistance service.
If this advice has reached you too late, here’s how to jump your battery.
Tires: Do a Visual Test, Coin Test + Pressure Gauge
Tires are among the most important safety items on your vehicle. They’re also often among the most expensive. Tires ensure your vehicle is glued to the road, making it less likely to lose control over wet leaves, rain, and snow. Also, properly inflated tires will increase the number of miles driven per gallon of gasoline.
– Give your tires a look-over.
Be sure you don’t see any cracks or bubbles and always check your “wear bars.” According to most states’ laws, tires are legally worn out when they have worn down to 2/32″ of remaining tread depth. To help warn drivers that their tires have reached that point, tires sold in North America are required to have indicators molded into their tread design called “wear bars” which run across their tread pattern from their outside shoulder to inside shoulder. Wear bars warn drivers when their tires no longer meet minimum tread depth requirements. If you see any signs of imperfections or wear, your tires need replacing.
– Do the coin test.
Different U.S. currencies can substitute for a tire tread depth gauge as tires wear to the critical final few 32nds of an inch of their remaining tread depth. For example, If you place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire and part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32″ of tread depth remaining. Once you have determined the approximate remaining tread depth in the first location, complete your measurement by placing the coin into additional locations at least 15 inches apart around the tire’s central circumferential groove, as well as in its inner and outer grooves. This will help detect uneven wear.
– Measure the air pressure in your tires.
Check your car manufacturer’s guidelines to understand what the tire pressure should be. Manufacturer’s tire pressure guidelines can be found on the tag inside of the driver’s side front door. There are multiple readings for operating your vehicle in colder temperatures and for operating with the same pressure all year round – make sure you set the pressure when the vehicle tires are “cold” and have not been driven on.
It’s a great idea to keep a digital tire gauge in your car so you can check the tire pressure regularly. If you don’t have one, bring your car to a service station and enjoy the (sometimes free) air. For accuracy use your own trusted digital gauge once you’ve added air to your tires. You can’t be sure the service station gauge is as accurate as yours. Proper inflation will help keep your tires from wearing unevenly and increase your gas mileage.
Oil: Check or Change It
The importance of regular oil changes can’t be underestimated. The more miles you drive the more oil breaks down, thus reducing its viscosity and ability to lubricate your engine. A properly lubricated engine ensures it will run smoothly — the last thing you want is to create undue wear on your engine, which would lead to a very pricey repair. Follow our 6-easy steps to learn how to check your engine oil.
Coolant: Check It
No matter the time of year, your vehicle needs coolant in order to properly cool itself down. Lack of coolant can lead to head gasket damage, engine block damage, or even seizing the engine itself. Be 100% sure that you’re using the proper coolant for your vehicle to ensure it doesn’t gum up, thus doing more harm than good. Learn how to check engine coolant.
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