Next Friday is the first day of summer, and many motorists are already busy planning holiday road trips across the province and the country.
However, one part of the planning process that often gets overlooked is preparing your vehicle.
Over the years, I’ve heard tales of motorists whose cars break down far from home. They have to spend thousands on repairs and lose precious vacation time while their vehicles are being fixed.
These breakdowns are often the result of driver negligence. Before embarking on a road trip, it’s important to take stock.
Is your vehicle ready for extended driving in hot weather?
Are there signs of engine trouble (oil leaks, strange noises or warning lights)?
Is your tire tread adequate for braking and steering on wet roads?
If you have doubts that your vehicle can withstand a road trip (especially with friends or family members on board), then maybe it’s time to consider upgrading to a newer vehicle. Such an investment might be overdue and it would offer peace of mind.
The first thing you should do before a road trip is to get a pre-trip inspection by a qualified automotive technician. The cost of this service runs about $45 and covers an inspection of brakes, engine coolant, belts, hoses, fluids, tires, lights, battery and other essential components.
A technician can spot a potential problem before it becomes serious. It’s usually easier and less costly to address a mechanical problem when the first symptoms appear, rather than at a later date.
Although a pre-trip inspection is recommended before any long road trip, the wise car owner will be pro-active. Here are three considerations to keep in mind:
Tires: Change snow tires to summer tires, and inflate them to the levels recommended by the manufacturer. This will result in more uniform tire wear and better gas mileage. Improperly inflated tires also pose a safety risk.
Safety first: Make sure that all major mechanical components (brakes, steering, cooling and electrical systems) are in good operating condition. Seat belts, air bags, booster seats, wipers and side-view mirrors should also be in working order.
It’s also a good idea to equip your car with emergency items, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, bottled water, and food that won’t spoil. You could wind up stranded in a deserted area and need some of these items.
Drive smart: Driving in sunny weather is far preferable than snow, sleet, rain or fog. But the problem is drivers tend to be more reckless and impatient in the sunshine — hence the higher percentage of traffic accidents on holiday long weekends.
Drive safe. This means obeying speed limits and traffic laws, avoiding reckless driving, and avoiding other illegal activities, such as drinking and driving, texting and driving, etc. One bad decision can negatively impact lives forever.
When you get behind the wheel of an automobile, there is a tremendous responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving. Do yourself, your loved ones and your fellow motorists the courtesy of driving with care and caution.
If you plan your trip carefully, if your car is in good mechanical condition, and if you drive with caution, there is no reason why your adventure can’t be thrilling and memorable.
On behalf of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, happy holidays and safe driving!
This column represents the views of TADA. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit tada.ca. Benny Leung, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new-car dealer in the GTA.
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