Preparing Your Vehicle For Vacation Travel

There are a few things you should check before taking your vehicle on a long drive to avoid car trouble should occur on the open road. Of course, you should always take water and snacks in the event of a breakdown in an isolated area, as well as medications and first aid supplies.

Your vehicle will be doing most of the work, so you must consider its potential needs before starting off on vacation.

Inspecting your vehicle

Checking the battery and charging system

Your battery will be strained by the increased demands of a long trip, so you must be sure that it is in good working order. Perform a physical check of the battery terminals to be sure that they are not dirty from corrosion. You can do this by loosening the nuts on the cable clamps that secure the battery cables to the terminals, the cable clamps can then be lifted from the terminals.

If you see a white powdery substance (corrosion), remove it with light sandpaper or an emery board. Clean the inside of the cable clamps also. Corrosion will interfere with the charging of the battery if not removed. After cleaning, replace the cable clamps and tighten the nuts securely.

You can check both the battery's charge and the efficacy of the charging system with a plug-in battery tester. These testers are placed into one of the power ports of the vehicle. When the key is turned to the accessory setting, the battery's voltage will be displayed and should read at least 12.0 on the tester. If you then start the vehicle, you can test the charging system, which should show at least a 14.0 setting on the tester.

If either setting is less than those stated, you should take your vehicle to an auto repair shop for further inspection.

Checking your spare tire's pressure

Many drivers will routinely check and fill the four tires that are mounted on their vehicle but skip the spare tire. While many newer vehicles have sensors that activate a dash light when one of the tires has lower air pressure, some older vehicles do not. 

You'll need an inexpensive tire pressure gauge to check the spare tire. Simply remove the tire stem cap and press the gauge firmly against the tire stem to see the pressure on the gauge dial. If it is lower than the suggested tire pressure (written in raised letters on the side of the tire), you'll need to find a service station with an air pump. Check all of the other tires and fill them to their proper pressure also. You will have better control of the vehicle, especially on hazardous road surfaces, as well as better gas mileage.

Checking hoses and belts

Belts should be free of cracks and pliable, but not loose. If your belts are making squealing noises when you start or accelerate, or the inner surface is shiny instead of dull, they should be adjusted or replaced according to need. Hoses should be free of bubbles and cracks, as well as soft and pliable to the touch.

Contact an auto repair company for more information and assistance.