Don’t Wreck Your Road Trip with Poor Vehicle Maintenance

June 27, 2011 Updated Jun 27, 2011 at 4:01 PM EDT

By WKBW News

...

Don’t Wreck Your Road Trip with Poor Vehicle Maintenance

June 27, 2011 Updated Jun 27, 2011 at 4:01 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y., (WKBW-Release)

-- With an estimated 32.8 million people taking to the roads this Fourth of July weekend, there’s no doubt that the summer driving season is in full swing. That’s why AAA Car Care Plus is reminding road-trippers to perform these simple and effective vehicle maintenance tasks to keep their vacations rolling smoothly and prevent breakdown.

“The secret to a successful and fun-filled summer road trip is advanced planning and preparation of your vehicle,” said Vern Martell, Manager of AAA Car Care Plus in Clarence. “AAA encourages travelers to take time prior to their road trip to have their vehicles inspected and perform any necessary maintenance to avoid breakdown.”

AAA Car Care Plus’ top five summer road-trip vehicle maintenance tips:

1. Inspect your tires

Twelve percent of all AAA service calls over Fourth of July will be related to tire damage. Begin every tire inspection with a pressure check and don’t forget the spare. Always check tire pressure when the tires are at ambient temperature and the car has not been driven recently. Use a quality gauge to make sure all five tires are inflated to the pressures recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Be sure to also inspect the tire sidewalls for bulges, and check the tread for excessive or uneven wear that could indicate the need for wheel alignment and/or tire replacement. For maximum tire life, rotate your tires at the mileage intervals specified in the owner’s manual.

2. Test and clean your battery

Summer heat breaks down car batteries internally and accelerates the rate of corrosion on battery terminals. These conditions can lead to insufficient electrical power and can leave motorists stranded without warning. Check the battery cables and ensure they are securely attached to the terminals. Clean the terminals if there are signs of corrosion. Most car batteries have a three to five year life. If a battery is nearing the end of its lifecycle, have it tested to determine if replacing the battery prior before your road trip might be a good idea. Fifteen percent of road service calls over the Fourth of July will be related to a faulty battery.

3. Check your fluids

Several fluids are required to keep your vehicle running efficiently. Be sure to check proper levels of engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. If the mileage for service is due or will be reached while on your road trip, it’s a good idea to have the necessary maintenance performed before you leave. For transmission fluid, check the level while the engine is warm and running. If the level is low, top it off; be careful not to overfill. Check the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water. If the engine is cool, check the coolant level in the radiator as well. If the radiator is not completely full, have the cooling system checked by a professional. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot.

4. Inspect your brakes

Motorists should not wait until the brake warning light in their vehicle illuminates to have their brakes inspected. Often the first sign of worn brakes is a brake pedal that seems to require more pressure to stop the vehicle. Scraping, squeaking or chirping noises are other signs of potentially excessive brake wear. Because brakes cannot be thoroughly inspected without removing the wheels, motorists should specifically ask for an annual brake inspection when taking their vehicle into an auto repair shop for service. Additionally, most manufacturers recommend that the brake system be flushed every two to three years. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended service interval.

Pads: Located at the top of each brake disk, brake pads work with the disks to stop the vehicle. Over time these pads wear away and must be replaced. Pads with less than 1/8” thickness should be replaced.

Disks/Rotors: These are key to stopping the movement on the wheel when pressure is applied to the brakes. Each disk is checked for rough spots or signs of damage. If a disk or rotor is damaged it should be replaced immediately.

Lines: Over time brake lines can become cracked and rigid. During every brake check, brake lines are visually inspected to ensure their condition is safe.

Fluid: Brake fluid transfers hydraulic pressure from the pedal to your brakes. It can absorb moisture and lose integrity, and should be replaced periodically with a brake fluid flush.

Caliper lubrication service: Per your vehicle's scheduled maintenance plan, brake calipers must be lubricated so your vehicle maintains its brake capacity.

AAA Safety Scanner: The AAA Safety Scanner is a state-of-the-art diagnostic tester. This dynamic system check examines each bolt, shock, spring and bushing of your suspension system, along with you’re your brakes, alignment, and even tire pressure. AAA members receive a free safety scan and report card on breaks, alignment and suspension. It only takes 5 minutes!

5. Check wiper blades and refill washer fluid

Replace windshield wipers that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass with a single swipe. Rain, insects, grime and other debris on a windshield will compromise vision and safety. A supply of the proper washer fluid, delivered effectively to the glass, helps the wipers remove these contaminants. Be sure to top off the windshield washer fluid reservoir with an appropriate cleaning solvent and test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before leaving on a trip.

“While drivers can perform these simple maintenance tasks before a summer road trip, they are not the only services your car needs to stay in top notch operating condition,” added Martell. “It’s important to have your vehicle inspected before every road trip and keep up with regular recommended maintenance to extend the life of your vehicle.”

AAA Car Care Plus offers a free-30 point vehicle maintenance and safety check for AAA members that includes a visual inspection and assessment of exterior lights, wipers, mirrors, fluid levels, belts, the cooling system, battery testing, tires, hoses; and a computerized test of brakes, alignment and suspension. Each inspection also comes complete with a comprehensive vehicle report card.

AAA Car Care Plus provides full service repair and maintenance for members and non-members by AAA-trained and expert ASE-certified technicians in two locations, 2131 Eggert Road in Amherst and 8120 Main Street in Clarence. For more information, or to schedule an appointment for a free 30-point vehicle inspection, visit www.AAA.com/carcareplus.

As Upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.