If summertime beckons you to go on a road trip, make sure safety preparations are at hand. Or else, once on the road, it may be too late to avoid a motor vehicle accident that possibly could have been prevented.
The following safety tips recommended by consumer reports will help get you to your summer destination safely on four wheels. Their tips include a “truly complete car emergency kit”, so that you can get back on the road this summer with renewed peace of mind. However, their experts emphasize that properly packing your vehicle is equally important.
When packing for your road trip:
You’ll want to stow the heaviest items low, especially in SUVs, to reduce the chance of rollover. Check your owner’s manual for weight limits and remember to take into account passenger and cargo weight combined; do not exceed the total weight limit as per your vehicle’s manufacturer. Finally, reconsider placing heavier items on top of the cargo pile, simply because they can become dangerous projectiles in a panic stop or a crash.
Before you hit the road, you’ll want to check your vehicle for the following maintenance/repairs:
You’ll want to start by verifying what the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is. This information will be printed on the owner’s manual, as well as the inside of the door frame or doorjamb. Once you know, check the tire pressure on all four tires, including the spare. You’ll also want to do a visual inspection for abnormal or uneven wear, cracks, cuts, and any sidewall bulges.
To verify if there’s a wear concern or enough tread left on your tires, you’ll need a quarter and a penny for the following test.
Take a quarter and place it upside down in a groove on your tire. The distance from the coin’s rim to George Washington’s hairline is about 4/32 inch. If you see all of Washington’s head in any one groove where a tread wear indicator appears, you might want to start shopping for new tires while you still have some grip left.
Use a penny to check for uneven wear. That can be a sign of misalignment, improper inflation pressure, or aggressive driving. Any major groove worn to 2/32 inch, the distance between the top of Lincoln’s head to the edge on a penny, should warrant tire replacement.
Silence is golden. You might need to get a comprehensive checkup if when you apply the brakes you hear any grinding noises. Also, listen for any unusual vibrations in the brake pedal or steering wheel, and make sure the vehicle does not pull to one side. Otherwise any or all of these factors are indicative that there may be a problem with the braking system.
Be sure to check all exterior lights. This includes taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and fog lamps. Make sure lenses are clean to ensure that lights will be as bright as possible. If there are any dead bugs on your windshield, they are probably on your headlights as well. You can easily clean this with a squeegee, which is complimentary at most gas stations.
Based on Consumer Reports’ tests, windshield wiper blades last about six months. For just a few dollars, you may want to consider replacing them before a long trip–especially if they’re nearing the end of their life cycle. If the wipers are newer, then just clean the blades with washer fluid or glass cleaner.
Finally, make sure you don’t travel without an emergency kit in your vehicle.
Your “Truly Complete” Car Emergency Kit should include:
- Basic Tools such as screwdrivers and pliers
- Tire Tools including a lug wrench, jack, or mobility kit.
- A Flashlight that is standard or head mounted
- Jumper Cables or a Jump Starter
- A Reflective Vest for nighttime breakdowns
- A Warning Light such as a flare
As helpful as this kit may be, if your car does not have a spare tire or you do not know how to change a tire yourself, investing in roadside assistance will be a must. For more tips on how to plan and prepare for the best road trip, you can go online to ConsumerReports.org.