The 4th of July has been celebrated for the past 244 years and has become a defining event in the lives of every American. Road trips, barbecues, and fireworks have become the favorite way of celebrating the event. As you hit the road to celebrate this year, the last thing you want to happen is to be caught in a breakdown with a car full of kids. We’ll take you through seven items you should check on your car to avoid that.
According to a study by the AAA, 49-million Americans will be hitting the road this 4th of July, jumping 4.1% from 2018. A USA Today article states that a study conducted by road authority INRIX indicates the worst travel times are on Wednesday 4:30 to 6:30 pm. With a great influx of drivers on the road, congestion is bound to happen. Don’t be the cause of a traffic jam because of a mechanical failure you could’ve prevented.
What should I Check before a Road Trip?
1. Battery – It’s hard to actually tell when a battery’s operational life is about to come to an end. Picking up on the symptoms of a dying car battery could save you from a future headache. The very first thing you should check is the age of your battery. The lifespan of a battery typically lasts four to five years. Consider cleaning off corrosion and buildup from the battery poles. If your car has difficulty starting and the headlights are running dim, consider getting your battery inspected. These are telltale signs that a battery isn’t efficiently charging.
2. Lights – Fireworks are best viewed at night. Driving to your favorite place to watch with your family requires you to have functioning lights. Consider inspecting all the lights, not only the headlights. Tail lights are as important as headlights. See that all the bulbs are still functioning and replace those that are burnt out. Turning signal lights, fog lights, and even high mounted lights should be working also. Take time to clean or restore your headlight lens for maximum illumination at night.
3. Oil – Oil can be compared to the blood coursing through our bodies. It is essential to keeping the engine performing at its best. Because of oil’s lubricating qualities a drop in oil levels will create heat within the engine and possibly overheat it. Check your oil levels and quality through the dipstick. Pull out the dipstick and give it a quick wipe down, then return it in the tube to get an accurate reading. The level should be in the middle of the testing area. Too much oil is also as bad as having too little oil. Check that the consistency is like honey. If the oil is pitch black or watery, change your oil and oil filter before setting off on your road trip.
4. Water – Keeping the engine at an optimum operating temperature is essential to getting its full potential and efficiency. Topping up the radiator with water and coolant is key to preventing an engine from overheating. If you’re planning on traveling a long distance, consider draining out your cooling system and replacing the coolant.
5. Brakes – Failing to stop in an acceptable distance is one of the causes of road accidents. If your brakes are squeaking or making a grinding noise when you press on them, have your brake pads replaced right away. Going to a trusted mechanic will cost money but it will be worth every penny to protect your family from danger. Have your brake fluid checked also in case you need to top up or have a leak in the system.
6. Air – Changing a tire is fairly simple but having to do it with cars passing you at high speed is quite dangerous. On top of that, having a tire blowout at freeway speed can cause you to lose control and possibly get into an accident. Checking your tire pressure and make sure it is up to standard based on the owner’s manual. Use a tire pressure gauge on each tire to check the air. Some cars have an onboard tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) which can check the air pressure of the tires with a press of a button.
Beyond air pressure, check that the tread is still good on your tires using a Penny. Insert the penny in the ridges of the tread with Abraham Lincoln facing down. If the tire’s tread covers the top of Abe Lincoln’s head, then your tire is still safe, but is suggested to be replaced soon. If the tread is below his head, then your tire needs to be replaced immediately.
7. Gas – It may be the most obvious but also the most looked over. Have enough gas for the entire trip or at least to get you from your home to a rest stop. Breaking down because of an empty gas tank in an unfamiliar area is quite scary and dangerous, especially if you’re traveling alone. If you run out of gas and stop on a busy freeway it could cause an accident.
4th of July is a yearly tradition but checking these seven items should be done more than one year. As an extra precaution, carry an emergency kit complete with extra tools, an early warning device, and first aid. More importantly, check yourself! Being that it is summer, it’s understandable that you’d want to crack open a beer to cool yourself down. If you are drinking, remember not to drive and if you are driving, do not drink!