anywhere from safety to long-term cost-effectiveness for your vehicle.
Even drivers that don’t have much experience with car maintenance at all will find that some maintenance can easily be done at home. For the tricky or time-consuming tasks, simply drop off your car at a professional auto center in Rocklin for a tune-up before you hit the road.
Before you embark on a new adventure with the family, read through this road trip car checklist to make sure your vehicle is safe and ready for a road trip. Make sure you have your owner’s manual handy while you go through this guide so you can follow your automaker’s recommendations.
1. Tires & Tread
Check the air pressure
The best way to check the pressure of a tire is by using a tire pressure gauge. It’s important to check the pressure when your tires are “cold.”
According to Bridgestone Tires, tires are deemed cold when your car:
- has been parked for 3+ hours
- hasn’t been driven over 1 mile at a normal speed (i.e. – not on the highway)
Once the tires are cold, insert the gauge into the valve and then compare the pounds per square inch (PSI) to the PSI found on the sticker inside of the driver’s door. If it’s low, make sure you top them off before your road trip.
Examine the tread depth
One simple way to maximize your safety and performance of your vehicle is to check your tire tread depth.
You can do a quick test at home with a penny or a quarter. Insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with the top of Lincoln’s head inside of the groove. If you see Lincoln’s head, then your tread depth is less than 1/16 of an inch thick. If you use a quarter and the tread touches the top of Washington’s head, you have about 1/8 of an inch of tread left.
Rotate or replace tires
If your tire tread is 1/16 of an inch thick or less, then you should plan to get new tires immediately. If your tread is 1/8 of an inch, then you should be prepared to change your tires soon. Rotating tires can help prevent uneven tire tread and should be done every 6,000 – 8,000 miles.
Make sure your spare tire is in good condition
It is important that your spare tire is in good condition in case you hit a big pothole or run over a nail on your road trip. Replacing a tire is much cheaper than towing a vehicle, and it will save you time if something were to happen while on vacation.
2. Vehicle Fluids
Check radiator fluid
Check the radiator fluid by opening the hood of the car and then finding the radiator cap. Make sure to let the engine cool and then remove the cap using a rag to avoid being scalded by hot liquid and air. If your coolant level is low or the coolant is old, Five Star Auto Center can service your vehicle with a Cooling System Drain & Fill in Rocklin.
Assess brake fluid levels
Brake fluid is an important function of your vehicle’s braking system. Without it, your car wouldn’t be able to stop when you push on your brake pedal. Brake fluid should be checked by finding the brake fluid reservoir and checking inside to see if the fluid is up to the fill line or within half an inch of the cap.
Check power steering fluid
Without power steering fluid, your vehicle would be much harder to turn. You are able to indicate whether or not your car needs power steering fluid when your car makes a squeaky noise while turning the wheel. It’s recommended to periodically do a Power Steering Flush to prolong the life of your power steering pump and rack.
Examine transmission fluid
In order to check automatic transmission fluids, keep the car in neutral while the engine is on. Then pull out the dipstick. If you touch your index finger to the end of the dipstick, a pinkish and/ or clear residue should be on your finger. If it has particles in it, it is time to change the fluid. It is also equally important that the fuel reaches the full line. If it does not, add some in.
Five Star Auto Center in Rocklin can service your vehicle with a Auto Transmission Pan to check for debris in your fluid or perform a Auto Transmission Fluid Exchange to add clean transmission fluid to your vehicle.
Check windshield washer fluid
Next on your road trip car checklist, you’ll want to top off your windshield washer fluid. This will ensure that you can wipe away bug debris, dirt, or mud on a long drive. Start by looking for the washer fluid reservoir. If the tank is half full, you will want to add more washer fluid.
Gauge motor oil condition
If you’re checking the motor oil, do so when the engine is cold unless your automaker recommends that the engine has been warmed up. Pull out the dipstick, wipe off the oil on it, and then insert it back into the tube. Take it back out to examine if the oil streak is between the two designated pinholes or letters on the dipstick.
If it’s in between the two, the oil level is fine. If not, then it is time to come into Five Star Auto Center for an Express Oil Change in Rocklin.
Inspect brake pads
You can check your brake pads by looking at the thickness of the pad and by listening for screeching sounds as you step on the brakes while driving. Your pads should be about 1/4 of an inch thick at the very least — if not, it’s time to schedule a Basic Brake Service with Five Star Auto Center.
Check the car lights by turning them on and off, then pump the brakes to make sure your brake lights are working. If you have a headlight that doesn’t turn on, it’s usually time to replace the bulb. Occasionally you may have a problem with a socket, wires or connectors.
If your headlights are dim, it may be an indicator that your car battery or charging system is beginning to fail.
If you want to test your battery, put on a pair of rubber gloves and safety goggles first. With the vehicle and all lights turned off, use a voltmeter to see the state of charge. Fully charged car batteries should measure at 12.4+ volts or above.
If you suspect your car battery is not working properly, visit your Five Star Auto Center for a Charging System Diagnostic in Rocklin.
6. Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers can typically be overlooked when planning car maintenance before a road trip. But it is important that they are checked frequently as it’s recommended to replace them every 6 to 12 months. It is especially important to have wipers that are in good condition when you plan on driving in harsh weather and conditions such as rain, sleet, or snow.
7. Drive Belts and Hoses
Depending on which belt type your vehicle has, belts should be replaced every 40,000 to 90,000 miles — your owner’s manual should specify when it’s time for a replacement. If you see cracks, splits, or signs of “glazing,” it’s likely time for your belt or belts to be replaced.
Elements such as dirt, oils, temperature, and even old coolant can promote electrochemical degradation (ECD), which can lead to cracked or ruptured hoses. The first indicators of a deteriorating hose are cracks, frayed edges, or any sign of coolant leaking. If you suspect an issue, hoses should be replaced before your next road trip.
9. Glove Box and Emergency Kit
Before you hit the road, double check that you have the following documentation in your glovebox:
- Up-to-date registration
- Auto insurance
- Roadside assistance numbers
In the event that you are pulled over or something happens to your vehicle, you’ll be prepared.
It’s also a good idea to bring an emergency kit with you with a small amount of extra cash, snacks, water, bandaids, tools, etc. just to be safe.
Are You Ready to Hit the Road?
Your vehicle’s condition is the backbone of your road trip plan. By going through a car checklist before a road trip, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done all that you can to prevent common vehicle malfunctions from surfacing.
Vehicle performance is one thing, but safety is paramount. As you plan for your new adventure, your Rocklin Five Star Auto Center is ready to help you prepare. Take a look at our current special offers and give us a call if you have any questions about our services.