As Labor Day draws near, many Americans load up their vehicles, head out on the road, and unwind for one final period of leisure and relaxation before the fall. However, preparing for a road trip can mean the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and one you’ll wish you hadn’t taken.
In order to prepare for your Labor Day Weekend as well as upcoming cooler weather, it’s a good idea to have all of your vehicle’s systems tested now. This inspection should cover the cooling system, wipers and blades, air-conditioning, battery, tires, belts and brakes.
Nothing else has as big of an impact on your car’s handling and fuel efficiency as an underinflated tire. So, inspect your tires. On contemporary cars, trucks and SUVs, the correct inflation is displayed on the driver’s side front door jamb. And don’t overlook the spare tire, if your car has one. Ensure it’s operational and properly inflated.
Check the tread while you’re at it. Take a penny and insert it upside down on numerous times in the tire tread. Replace the tire if the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible. Additionally, look at the tread’s condition. A tire is underinflated if both of its edges are worn. It’s overinflated if the tread is worn in the middle. Check the suspension and steering systems if you see cups or dips in the tread.
Make sure a mechanic inspects your car’s alternator, voltage regulator, belts connections and brakes. Replace the wipers if they are streaking. If you can’t recall the last time the cooling system in your car was flushed, check your records and the owner’s manual, being sure to use the appropriate coolant. Instead of the conventional green kind, many contemporary automobiles require a new, longer-lasting engine type. Replace any damaged or dried-out hoses. You also will want to have someone stand outside the car to ensure all headlights, brake lights, fog lights, daytime running lights and turn signals work.
If you have a plug-in gas-electric hybrid or battery electric vehicle, be sure to include your charging cords. For EV owners, you’ll naturally want to plan your trip and the chargers that are available along the route. Check ahead of time to make sure they are operational, and check out any nearby chargers in case the ones you expect to charge at are in use for out of service. Many EV navigation systems will route you with your vehicle’s remaining range and available chargers in mind.
Regardless of the type of vehicle you’re driving, if you’re using a navigation system, entering the destinations ahead of time can save a lot of stress.
But you haven’t finished.
You should give your car a cleaning inside and out, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in it. Clean all surfaces, thoroughly vacuum the interior and remove any trash. Don’t have the time? A professional car detailer will make your ride sparkle.
And since you can never expect the unexpected, bring along a first aid kit, jumper cables, and road flares in an emergency road kit. Don’t have one? Auto parts stores sell them. Or, if your vehicle has access to an emergency roadside assistance service, make sure you have access should you need it.
More importantly, pack items to pass the time once you’re certain that your car is prepared. Naturally, you’re going to bring a phone and/or tablet with you. But don’t forget to include CDs, DVDs, an MP3 player, or audiobooks, be they physical or digital. And of course, you are taking charging cords, right?
If you have children, bring over your kids’ favorite toys and books, and pack a goodie bag to reward good behavior. To ensure some peace and quiet, take pillows and blankets for naps.
Don’t forget your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and auto and health insurance cards, even though it may seem apparent. Also, make sure someone staying at home has a trip itinerary so that someone can locate you in an emergency.
When it comes time to pack the car, place heavier items as close as possible to the center of the vehicle for ideal weight distribution and optimal handling. Secure loose items so they don’t hit passengers during a panic stop. And remember, you may need to access the spare tire, so pack the car with the thought you may have to unexpectedly unpack it. Additionally, consider the total weight of your cargo and passengers. Overloading your vehicle can lead to unsafe handling. The maximum payload capacity for your car, truck or SUV is listed in the owner’s manual.
Finally, you might want to carry a spare set of vehicle keys. And if you’re older or have a health condition, bring along your doctor’s phone number and any prescriptions that might be needed.
It is possible to have a hassle-free, labor-free Labor Day road trip with a little planning.