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Friday, May 15, 2009

Prepping the Car for a Summer Vacation

Travel experts predict that, with the poor economy and the high price of airline tickets, fewer people will be flying and more people will be driving to nearby summer vacation destinations this year. If you are one of those planning to drive this summer, prepping the car in advance will save you a lot of grief and help make your vacation a memorable one.

Engine – At the very least, before you leave, you should have your oil changed and all your fluid levels checked. Have all belts checked for wear and proper tension. When driving on an interstate in Florida or Arizona, the last thing you want to lose is your air conditioner, so a pre-summer check of your air conditioning system should be done. While checking your engine, take time to make sure that the headlights and signal lights are functioning properly.

Tires – All tires (including your spare) should be checked for wear and proper inflation. Worn tires should be replaced before the trip. Long hot roadways and worn tires are not a good combination. Properly inflated tires will also help improve your gas mileage. Make sure you have a functioning jack and tools for changing a tire if necessary.

Windows – Make sure your windows are clean and kept clean. The rising or setting sun or an inconsiderate driver's high beams reflecting on a dirty window can blind you to the road ahead.

Emergency Kit – At a minimum, a car's emergency kit should contain:
• A flashlight with extra batteries
• Emergency signaling devices (reflective triangles, "help needed" flag, flares)
• A small tool kit (or a pliers/screwdriver/knife combination tool)
• A knife
• Duct tape
• Plastic insulating tape
• A gallon jug of water
• Brake fluid
• Spare fuses and signal light bulbs

GPS – If you have a GPS device, take time to program those important destinations before you set out. Taking your eyes off the road, even momentarily, to program a GPS can be very dangerous.

Cargo Racks – If you are adding a luggage or bicycle rack, make sure that it is properly and securely attached to the car. If your luggage rack is enclosed, make sure the locking latch is secure. Enclosed luggage racks should be mounted to prevent them blowing open in the wind. Items in the back of a pickup truck should be securely fastened and covered.

Trailer hitch – If you plan to tow a trailer, inspect the trailer hitch and electrical connections. If you don't normally tow a trailer, make sure your engine is rated for the weight of the trailer. You don't want to stall trying to pull too heavy a weight up a mountain road.

Packing – In the rush to pack a car, don't forget to pack those items, such as child care items that you will need frequent access to, last. You don't want to delay your trip by completely unpacking the trunk to look for that critical item.

Following these tips will help you have a safe and memorable vacation.

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