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By now school is out all across the country, and if you’re like most families you’re about to embark on some type of summer travel. This year we have a number of trips planned to Chicago, Huntsville, Omaha and more – all by car. We try to make the vacations as much about the journey as the destination, but after a couple days cooped up inside of a vehicle with three other people, things can start becoming a little less-than-pleasant.
Thanks to these types of trips over the years, we’ve found that preparing your car, truck or van ahead of time for the long hours you’ll be inside can make the venture so much more bearable. We’ve put together a checklist of sorts that will hopefully give you some ideas of things you can do to your ride that you may have overlooked before you head out into the summer heat.
A beautiful car is a joy to drive. Fortunately making it look good from 20 feet isn’t a lot of work!
Wash & Wax – Whether you do it yourself in the driveway or take it to a local car wash, getting all that winter grime off your car (and from underneath) will have the biggest visual impact. Looking at your refreshed car will motivate you to make sure the rest of our list is adhered to!
Check Lights – When is the last time you checked to make sure ALL of your lights are working properly? You’re about to head out on a trip, maybe through states with not-so-friendly State Troopers. Don’t give them a reason to pad their coffers. Get a family member to help you make sure your brake lights, turn signals, headlights and backup lights are all in working order.
Check Wipers – After a long winter there’s a good chance there is damage to one or more of your wiper blades. Turn them on and activate the washers – if you see any streaking at all, it is time to replace them. Do it now before you hit the road and the eventual thunderstorm.
This is where you’ll spend the most time and you need to pay the most attention!
Clean Dash and Windows – We’re starting from the top and working down. Clean the insides of the windows and wipe all the dust off of the dash and console. I’ve found using the new wipes specifically made for autos quite convenient.
Clean Seats – If you have cloth seats, you’ll do this when you do the next step (vacuum). If you sprung for leather, now is the time to give them an annual treatment of conditioner so they stay soft and crack-free. We’ve highlighted a couple brands in the past, but our favorite by far is this one.
Vacuum – Now it’s time to recruit the kids. Let’s face it, the majority of the mess on the floors are from them. So, they should be responsible for cleaning it up! Show them how to get in the nooks and crannies, and don’t forget to remove the floor mats and get underneath!
Restock – Whether it is the box of tissues, empty garbage bags, first aid kits or DVD’s for the entertainment system, make sure they are all topped off for your trip. You never know what ailment will hit, so try to be prepared for any emergency.
Freshen – I don’t always recommend an air freshener in your car, but if you haven’t given it some attention in quite some time, some fragrance help may be necessary. Choose from the classic tree-from-mirror or splurge on one of the new sticks that go inside your air vent. Either way, they are sure to mask those months of fast food and dirty feet.
Under the Hood
The most overlooked section of the car, but the most important. Don’t have your trip ruined by breakdowns!
Change Your Oil – Even if your car isn’t technically due for a change, with the miles you’ll put on it in one trip it is a good idea to start it off with a fresh oil change. Getting ready for your trip can be time-consuming, and we’ve found that letting Walmart’s Automotive Care Center take care of it while we’re stocking up on snacks and drinks (and the various supplies for the previous tasks), is a much better use of our time than trying to do it ourselves.
In fact, Walmart also believes so, and from June 10 through September 9th, Pennzoil Oil changes will be on Rollback! We choose to use synthetic oil in our new minivan, and the sale price using Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic is nearly the same price as just buying the oil myself – and it includes the filter and labor!
Many of you know that I have a Viper I love to race. Every new Viper from Dodge/SRT has Pennzoil in its high-performance engine. If it is good enough for SRT, it is more than great for my minivan! Pennzoil also offers a free warranty that covers 15 engine parts that could fail due to engine wear or which experience abnormal wear due to friction. And no other motor oil provides better protection from friction. Learn more about Pennzoil by checking our their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram timelines.
Get A/C Checked – There is nothing worse than travelling on the highway with the windows rolled down. The noise and smell from all the other cars will make the trip seem longer than necessary. Many mechanics offer a free A/C check this time of year to make sure you have enough refrigerant and it is operating at its best efficiency.
Check Water Level – Summer travel is hard on your engine, and just by the nature of warmer weather, you engine will operate at a higher temperature. Check the overflow reservoir to make sure your water level is safely between the MIN and MAX levels marked on the bottle. If you need to add a little, mix anti-freeze in a 50/50 mix with distilled water and pour it in. Do NOT pour it directly into the radiator, always use the overflow reservoir.
Check Wiper Fluid Level – While you have the hood open, make sure you haven’t used up all your wiper fluid. Those new wipers you just put on (above) won’t do much good if you can’t use the washer because it has dried up. Wiper fluid is cheap and you should always have a bottle handy in the garage. Now is the time to top it off.
Rotate Tires / Air Pressure – If regular rotation isn’t part of your maintenance schedule, then shame on you. Rotation ensures even wear and vastly extends the life of your tires. Get them rotated before you head out and make sure the tire pressure is well within the manufacturer’s recommendation for your vehicle. You’ll save on gas by increasing your mileage and will be safer by having them inflated properly.
Implement our tips and your next summer vacation will be much more pleasant and event-free. Where are you planning to travel (by car) this summer?