(NUI) - Many of the car problems that occur on long trips can be easily avoided by some simple pre-trip inspections. Jim Moritz, an ASE certified technician at Snap-on
Diagnostics, offers some tips and checkpoints for the family car before your big trip this summer:
Time for an oil change? If it's been three months or 3,000 miles since the last oil change, take your car to the local service station and have it done professionally.
Check your fluid levels. This includes your coolant, washer and power steering fluids. Replenish if low. Every three years or 36,000 miles or as recommended by the manufacturer, you should have your entire coolant system flushed out.
Visually inspect your belts and hoses for cracks. Tugging on belts may not indicate wear or a need for replacement. Many of today's cars have special devices which maintain the correct amount of tension on the belts, regardless of the wear. Belts typically should be replaced every 20,000 to 30,000 miles.
Check for excessive tire wear. To test for the absolute minimum amount of tread allowed on a tire (3/32 of an inch), take a penny and put the top of it in the groove of the tread. Even the most worn part of the tread should still cover the top of Abe Lincoln's head.
Assess air pressure of tires. Check the door jambs for a sticker with the manufacturer's recommended pressure or refer to the owner's manual. For an accurate reading, check the pressure while the tires are "cold" or after your car has been resting for about 30 minutes.
Inspect tires for uneven wear. Uneven tread may indicate bad alignment, worn steering components or poor suspension, all of which inhibit driving performance and lower your gas mileage - important factors on long trips.
Test the "bounce" of your car. Take your body weight, push down on your front and rear bumpers, then let go. Count the number of times your car bounces up and down. If it's more than two times, it could be a sign of worn out shock absorbers or struts.
Beware of the "Spare Tire Surprise." Check to make sure not only that you have your spare, but that it's fully inflated and that you have the jack and tools to change it.
Replace your windshield wipers. For about five dollars you'll be amazed at the difference a fresh set of blades makes.
And last but certainly not least, Moritz adds, the night before the trip make sure you get a good night's sleep. The family sedan will be in peak performing condition - the driver should be as well.