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Planning a Family Road Trip: Preventative Maintenance 101

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Taking a family road trip is the staple American vacation and can be fun for the entire family. By allowing you to see multiple cities and potential states in a single trip, you can essentially take multiple vacations in a small span of time. However, road trips take a serious toll on a vehicle, and there are a number of dangers on the road that can exacerbate this toll. To keep you and your family safe, taking care of preventative maintenance on your car prior to your trip should always be top of mind.

Common Dangers on Road Trips to Be Aware Of

While a road trip may not seem like the most dangerous vacation for a family to take, there are unknown issues that may arise. In fact, travel by vehicle is the most deadly out of all potential travel methods, including train, bus, and airplane. While not all road trips will end in disaster, below are just some of the most common dangers that a family may be faced on the road:

  • Driving while drowsy due to prolonged time behind the wheel
  • Car accidents resulting from actions of other drivers on the road
  • Mechanical breakdowns resulting in being stranded in an unknown area
  • The potential to be exposed to poor weather conditions that you are not familiar with driving in
  • Additional strain on your already stressed vehicle

Each of the above problems comes with its own risks, but mitigating some of that risk comes from implementing strong preventative maintenance habits with your vehicle.

What is Preventative Maintenance?

To those who’ve never heard the term, preventative maintenance on a vehicle simply refers to the regular and routine maintenance of parts under the hood of your car to avoid larger and more expensive problems from emerging in the future. But the engine and electronics aren’t the only things that need attention. A crucial, yet often overlooked aspect of preventative maintenance involves paying attention to your car’s tires. Over time, they can become victims of what’s known as ‘dry rot tires.’ This refers to when the rubber of the tire deteriorates due to factors like age, heat exposure, and lack of use. Dry rot can lead to cracks in the tire surface and, eventually, tire failure. As indicated by the name, this form of maintenance is preventative in nature rather than reactive. This form of maintenance saves people money in the long run by reducing the likelihood of a serious mechanical breakdown.

6 Preventative Maintenance Tips to Follow Before Your Trip

Whether it’s road defects, poor weather conditions, reckless drivers, or something else, there is no shortage of ways in which a road trip can be dangerous. Fortunately, the following six preventative maintenance tips can help to ensure your vehicle is in working order prior to your trip:

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Change Out Your Oil

The engine is one of the most important parts of your vehicle, essentially serving as the car’s heart. However, without blood flow to the heart, it will not pump. This is why changing your oil on a regular basis is so important. The oil keeps the mechanical components of the engine lubricated to reduce the friction they have against each other while moving.

In addition to this, oil clears out any built-up gunk or sludge from the passageways it travels through. It’s recommended to change your oil every 5,000-10,000 miles, depending on your vehicle.

Rotate Your Tires at a Regular Intervals

The tires of a vehicle are another extremely important part of a vehicle that is often overlooked. It’s important to rotate your tires so that the treads wear down evenly, rather than one tire going bald faster than the rest.

Serving as a good rule of thumb, consider rotating your tires every 5,000 miles to ensure that they stay good for as long as possible. Tires will need to be replaced every six years on average, which is another important metric to keep in your head before starting your vacation.

Check the Brakes on Your Car

The last thing anybody wants to do when taking off on a road trip is to discover that their breaks no longer work. This is an extremely dangerous situation that can result in many injuries should an accident occur due to this reason. Double-check that your brake pads still have life left in them, and have a mechanic look at your brakes before you take off on your road trip.

Double-check Your Battery Level

The battery of a vehicle is responsible for the initial spark that gets your engine going, along with providing power to the electronics of your car as you drive. If this battery dies unexpectedly, you will be dead in the water unless you can get a jump. Before heading out on a road trip, it’s best to double-check your battery level to ensure it is holding a charge as it should be.

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Batteries will generally only last five to seven years, depending on the car, so consider if it’s time for a replacement.

Get New Windshield Wipers if Applicable

Depending on the time of year that you are your family are taking a road trip, and it’s possible that you may be exposed to poor weather conditions. If this occurs, the last thing you need is windshield wipers that don’t work at all. Prepare your vehicle for the weather conditions you will be taking it into.

Pack an Emergency Kit in Your Car

Finally, all vehicles should have an emergency kit inside the trunk. An emergency kit should have items such as flares, emergency blankets, water, non-perishable food, and other similar items. While getting stranded on your trip isn’t ideal, it’s a possibility that must be considered when planning your vacation. Having an emergency kit can keep you and your family comfortable until help arrives at your location.

Keep You and Your Family Safe on the Road

The best part about tackling preventative maintenance is that the majority of the tasks which need to be completed are cheap and quick. On top of this, most preventative maintenance tasks can be completed on your own without the help of a mechanic. This means you can handle this maintenance in your own free time before your vacation. Once you have all of your tasks complete, you can have peace of mind taking your family on an extended road trip in your vehicle.