That’s my husband. He’s really good at fixing cars. If I start hearing an interesting sound coming from under the hood, he has me replicate it for him (which can be pretty interesting) and he can usually tell me two or three things it might be. And one of them is always right. He keeps our wheels running smoothly which includes a routine check up before we go on any roadtrips. Since taking care of your car is important, especially when you’re driving long distances, I asked him to put together a checklist of things you need to look at before you leave. So without further ado, here is what you need to know before your car goes for a long drive, straight from my in-house mechanic:
It’s that time of year again folks, everybody and their brother heads out to someplace to enjoy some time doing some thing different. This, of course, usually involves driving long hours in an automobile in hot weather at high speeds (usually exceeding the posted speed limit…) with a few rush-hour worthy traffic jams thrown into the mix. If you find yourself making plans to do something similar, it is my intention today to give you a basic check-list to help ensure towing and repairing your car won’t be a part of your day. So let’s get started.
1. Tire Pressure (Don’t forget your spare tire! It’d be a shame if you ended up needing it and it was flat too.)
2. Engine Coolant Level (Make sure you have extra in the trunk)
3. Engine Oil Level (Should have an extra Quart of Engine Oil in the trunk)
4. Break Fluid Reservoir Level
Before we get started, here’s a quick list of what you’ll need to do this:
A. Tire Pressure Gauge (can be found at any auto parts store for only a few dollars)
B. Flashlight (for coolant)
C. Rag (for oil)
– First, you can find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure on the bottom or side of the driver-side door frame. The spare tire pressure will also be listed there.
– Next, move to the outside of the vehicle and pick a tire to start with, locate the Stem on the tire, then remove the Stem Cap (remember, righty-tighty, lefty-loosy).
– Press the pressure gauge onto the valve. It should “hiss”, then stop once you’ve fully seated the gauge in the correct position. (easier said than done…)
– The gauge should now show you the tire pressure. Note it, then remove the gauge from the valve and put the cap back on.
– Repeat this for all tires on your vehicle and be sure to check any spare tires as well.
– The pressure in all tires should be at the recommended level. If any are low, you can pump them up with a bike pump or air compressor (most gas stations have an air compressor you can use for a couple of quarters). If they are high, you can release the extra pressure by taking off the cap and letting it “hiss” out with the pressure gauge until it’s at the correct level.
Engine Coolant Level
– Note: if the vehicle was running anytime in the last three hours or anything under the hood isn’t cool to the touch, you should skip this step and come back to it once the car has completed cooled.
– Not all cars are the same, so this procedure may vary. You should be able to find specific instructions for your vehicle in the owners manual. (or using Google, Bing, etc)
– Usually the easiest way to check your coolant is to locate the coolant over-flow tank (if you have one) and check to make sure the coolant is up to the “Cold” line. Coolant over-flow tanks are generally located under the hood near the front of the vehicle, and are most-often white or clear in color. A lot of times it helps to shine a flash-light in the coolant tank so you can more clearly see the coolant level.
– If your coolant is low, you can bring up to the correct level by adding distilled water, or the specific type of coolant your vehicle requires.
– If you don’t have an over-flow tank, than you can check the level by removing the radiator/coolant cap. (again, usually located near the very front of the car and has written on it “Caution! Do NOT open when HOT!”) The coolant should be just below the cap, if it’s not, you can add distilled water, or the specified coolant for your vehicle.
Engine Oil Level
– The oil dip-sick can be located in vastly different places depending on your vehicle. However, as a general rule, it’s usually yellow in color, or says “Oil” or “Engine Oil” on it. To find where yours is located, you’ll need to check your owners manual (or google/bing it)
– Once you’ve located your oil dip-stick, get your rag, pull it out the dip-stick and wipe it off. Then examine the end off it. They’re usually marked with a patter or lines where the oil level should be, and will have a spot marked “Add”.
– Now put the dip-stick back in the hole (all the way), then pull it back out and look at the tip to see where the oil level is. If it’s at (or very near) the “Full” or top line, you’re good to go! If it’s at (or near) the “Add” (or middle line) you’ll need to add about one quart to top it off.
– To add oil, you’ll need to remove your Oil Cap, which usually has written on “Engine Oil” and is located on top of a Valve Cover (if you know where that is). Again, the owners manual will tell you what type of oil to use, and where to find the cap.
– To add a quart you remove the cap, and dump 1 quart of oil in the hole, then repeat the dip-stick process above to make sure it’s up to the correct level. Be sure to put the dip-stick and oil cap back on once you’re finished.
Break Fluid Reservoir Level
– Note: For older cars (imo, 2001 and older) the Break Fluid reservoir is usually fairly easy to access. However manufacturers have made a bad habit of putting them in odd and hard to reach places these days, so this may be more complicated if you happen to have a vehicle that was designed without thought for the maintenance man.
– The break fluid reservoir is usually small and white in color but with enough transparency for you to be able to visually ascertain the level of the fluid inside. It is almost always located under the hood at the firewall, (the part under the hood that is closest to you when you’re inside the car) and usually has some small steal lines (at least two) running to/from it. Your manual will usually at least mention the type of break fluid your vehicle requires, and if you can’t seem to find the reservoir, just search for it on Google or Bing. (example: “02 honda accord break reservoir location”)
– As long as the fluid is between the “min” and “max” lines on the reservoir, you should be good to go. However, if is below the “min” line, you’ll need to add some break fluid, and I’d highly recommend someone (or yourself) inspect the breaks and break lines to see if there’s a line somewhere that needs to be repaired.
And that’s it! You’re done! You’ve now read through the Basic Roadtrip Checklist and hopefully you’ve learned something that will help you prepare your vehicle before going on your expedition!
This is the reason I let him do this! He’s so stinkin’ smart…. and cute. 😉 Thanks Dearest Carl!
Soooo? Was this checklist helpful? Was it already on your radar? What did you think?