Tips: Getting Road-Trip Ready
Want to avoid a July 4 breakdown? Here's how...
DENVER (July 1, 2019) – If you're one of the 41.4 million Americans hitting the roads for Independence Day, the last thing you want is a breakdown distracting from your holiday fun. All told, AAA expects to rescue more than 367,000 motorists at the roadside this Independence Day holiday, with dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts coming in as the leading causes of car trouble. Luckily, a little preventative maintenance before you head out can prevent a breakdown and keep your ride road-trip ready.
1) Check tires and tire pressure
Inspect all four tires and, if you have one, the spare tire as well. Look for cuts, gouges, or sidewall bulges. Insert a quarter upside down into the grooves to check tire tread. If you see the top of George Washington's head, it's time for new tires.
Check tire pressure only when the car has been idle and the tires are cool. Inflate as needed to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure, which you'll find listed in your owner's manual and on the sticker of the driver side door jamb. Don't use the number on the tire sidewall.
2) Listen to and feel the brakes
If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop for a brake inspection. A service professional will check the brake system for fluid leaks, and the pads, rotors, shoes, and drums. If repair or replacement is required, use our Repair Cost Estimator to help anticipate costs.
3) Secure and test the battery
Check your car battery to make sure cable connections are clean and tight, and that the hold-down hardware is secure. If your battery is more than 3-5 years old; if you hear a grinding, clicking, or buzzing sound when you turn on the ignition; or if your headlights brighten when you rev the engine, it might be time for a new battery. Have a service professional conduct a battery check to determine remaining capacity. AAA members can request a free battery check.
4) Top off engine oil and other fluids
Check that engine oil, coolant, and brake, transmission, and power steering fluids are at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation. When adding fluids, use products that meet the specifications listed in the owner's manual.
Note that newer car models may have sealed automatic transmissions without a dipstick, and electric power steering that may not use fluid.
5) Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner
Rubber wiper blades deteriorate over time -- which is why you'll want to replace them as often as every six months, for optimal operation. If your wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, replace the blades. Fill the windshield washer reservoir with fluid formulated to remove insects and other debris, and test to make sure the nozzle spray adequately.
6) Check belts and hoses
Reinforced rubber drive belts power the engine water pump and accessories such as the alternator and air-conditioning compressor. It's critical that you inspect them, and replace any that are cracked, glazed or frayed.
Note that modern multi-rib or drive belt materials do not show easily visible signs of wear. As a general rule, replace drive belts every 60,000 miles.
Inspect and replace worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft radiator hoses. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump.
7) Keep the AC running cool
Take a test drive with the air conditioner running. If you notice a decrease in cooling capacity, take the car to an auto repair shop for diagnosis. Also have the cabin filter inspected and replaced as needed.
8) Replenish emergency kit supplies
AAA recommends keeping a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle. Include a flashlight and extra fresh batteries, first-aid supplies, drinking water, non-perishable snacks for people and pets, car battery booster cables, emergency flares or reflectors, a rain poncho, a basic tool kit, duct tape, gloves and shop rags or paper towels.
9) Plan ahead for vehicle service
In the event you should need vehicle maintenance, know ahead of time where to find an auto repair shop and technician you can trust. No matter where your travels take you, you can use AAA.com/Repair to access AAA's network of nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities. Each shop meets AAA's service and customer satisfaction standards. AAA members receive auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and assistance in resolving repair-related issues.
10) Enjoy the ride!
From all of us at AAA Colorado, we hope you make the most of your hard-earned time off. If you need us, we're only a phone call away: 1-800-AAA-HELP. And even if you don't have a destination in mind quite yet, we've got your back: Find a trip you'll never forget at AAA.com/RoadTrips. Happy Fourth!
About AAA Colorado
More than 695,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit AAA.com.