|By Tommy Garcia, BG Proving Ground–Shop Foreman||Read time: 4 minutes|
The holiday season is filled with family, good food (tamales for me and mine!) and road trips. Oftentimes, we forget the importance of checking our vehicles before hitting the road.
The last thing you need is to worry about vehicle repairs halfway between here and grandma’s house. Follow these simple tips to ensure your car is ready for holiday travel. If you’re uncertain about how to perform any of these checks, take your car to your trusted advisor for a multipoint inspection. Many shops offer them for free.
It’s important to pay attention to the signals your car is sending. If there’s a light or a leak, you need to listen up.
If you see leaks of any type of fluid, your car is telling you something is wrong. Learn more about what could be leaking in your car here. Don’t ignore a fluid leak if you want to make it up the mountains and through those long and lonely midwestern plains.
If your check engine light is on, get that looked at before you head out. Most auto parts stores will do a simple scan of your engine for free. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as replacing a gas cap. If it’s more severe, you probably shouldn’t take that vehicle on the road.
Remember, covering the check engine light with a piece of tape doesn’t make it go away. (Hey, I’ve seen it, so I have to say it!)
Tires are what connect your car to the road. If you’re driving for hours at a time or in inclement weather, those tires need to be in tip-top shape.
First, check the surface of your tires. You want to look for any notable damage or problems, like nails or air bubbles. Also, look at the tread depth. Most tires have a tread depth indicator that runs perpendicular to the tire tread. Once the tires are worn down to be flush with the indicator, they need to be replaced. You can also use the coin method to measure your tire tread.
Next, make sure to check your tire pressure. (Don’t just air up your tires without checking.) If your tires are overinflated, they’ll wear in the middle. If they are underinflated, they’ll wear on the sides and edges. You can find the right air pressure for your tires on a decal located on the inside of your fuel door or inside the driver door-jam.
Tire integrity is crucial to keeping your family safe on the road.
Of all the steps, this is probably the most complicated to check if you pop the hood and don’t really know what you’re looking at. If your drive belt fails, you may have a total engine shutdown. Your engine won’t be able to charge the battery and your vehicle will start overheating.
The easiest way to know if your belt is having issues is to listen for squealing or screeching noises when you start your car. You also may want to check the drive belt for any cracks or chunks missing. If you haven’t replaced it in the last 60,000–100,000 miles, you’re most likely due for a new belt.
When checking hoses, look out for leaks, bumps or bulges in the hose itself. Think of it like a garden hose; if you see a bulge in your garden hose or it has a leak, something is probably up. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take your car to a trusted shop.
This step is pretty straightforward. You want to make sure your wipers aren’t streaking and leaving lines of water on the windshield. If you’re having trouble seeing, they need to be replaced. Before hitting the road, use the windshield washers to spray and test your wipers.
If you’re like me, and you tend to get a bit trigger happy with washer fluid, you might have to replace your wipers more frequently than most. Washer fluid will deteriorate blades if you use it often — I replace mine 2-4 times a year!
Last but not least are the external lights. Turn your headlights and blinkers on and do a walk around inspection to make sure they’re all working. I always have my wife help me check the brake lights too. If you’ll be driving at night, you’ll want those lights working right — especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place. Plus, you won’t get a ticket for something as simple as a burnt out light.
For best results, you can always take your car to the nearest BG shop to do these checks for you.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to grandma’s house with your good-eatin’ sweatpants on — I know I will!
Be good to your car and it will be good to you. Stay safe and have a great holiday season.
Your trusted advisor in automotive maintenance,
by Tommy Garcia
BG Proving Ground–Shop Foreman
Tommy has 20 years of experience in industrial maintenance. He is a hot rod enthusiast and lover of all things automotive.