(NUI) - Cruising the information highway and surfing the Internet might be the latest craze in cyber-travel, but millions of families will pack up the kids and go on the real thing this summer - the traditional automobile vacation. Unfortunately, some of these trips will become a virtual mess, due to mechanical breakdowns.
To help lessen the chances of mechanical troubles, the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers the following advice:
* Start preparing your vehicle well ahead of your vacation. Automotive components already weakened by last winter's harsh conditions are poised for failure in summer's heat and stop-and-go traffic.
* Make automotive maintenance and service a year-round investment. Your vehicle will last longer, and you will gain peace of mind.
* Read the owner's manual, follow recommended service intervals and keep good records.
* Inspect your vehicle periodically for unusual sounds, odors, changes in performance and handling, leaks, drips, etc. Be prepared to mention these symptoms to your auto technician.
* If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, find a shop with a courteous staff, qualified technicians and modern equipment. Reward good service with repeat business. Ask friends for their recommendations and check the reputation of the shop with your local consumer organization.
* Look for repair facilities that employ one or more ASE-certified technicians. These technicians have taken national exams to prove their competency to their employers and to you. They wear blue and white ASE insignia; their employers display the blue and white ASE sign and often post their technicians' credentials in the customer service area.
* A summer inspection should cover the following: air conditioning system, condition and tightness of belts and hoses, engine performance and fluids. Also check the radiator, brakes, tires (including spare), suspension and steering, all lights and bulbs, the battery and windshield wipers.
* Carry some basic tools, road flares, a car phone or CB radio, and a flashlight for emergency use. And keep plenty of windshield-washer fluid on hand to fight road dust and insects.
To help ensure smooth vacation driving, the experts at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence have prepared a brochure on summertime auto maintenance. For a free copy of "Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Summer," send a self-addressed, stamped, #10 envelope to: ASE Summer Brochure, Dept. NU-V96, 13505 Dulles Technology Drive, Suite 2, Herndon, VA 22071.