Every seasoned traveler has a checklist that they swear by – and for good reason! While most have that list ready to go for flying, we’ve noticed many don’t have one for driving because that is something they do every day!
Unfortunately, this is where problems can start coming in. No matter the season, but especially when traveling in winter, it is essential to perform a thorough check of your vehicle before you hit the road.
Let’s start with the basics – the obvious immediate checks that should be performed on a regular basis (not only before traveling long distances) include tires, brakes, and fluids.
- Your tires take the most abuse of all when driving, and it is important to check the tread and pressure prior to setting out. While we understand most folks won’t really do these checks every time they fill the tank, it really should be done when you’re heading out of town, and especially in the winter. Aside from considering the treacherous roads, an underinflated tire can increase your car’s rolling resistance, and end up costing you more in fuel due to inefficient driving.
- Next on the list is your brakes – important to remember that your brakes are made up of three main parts which are the pads, the calipers, and the rotors. While the most common part to become worn out is the pad, it is wise to check the other parts as well when you are planning to travel long distances. Worn-out brake pads are easy to diagnose, and typically cause the brakes to sound squeaky or shrill, however, worn-out brake pads can also be a sign of a caliper that needs to be repaired. This is also indicated if your car starts to pull to one side, or you hear clunking sounds when you try to brake. A tell-tale sign of faulty brakes is the fluid you may see left on the floor when you drive away. Not to be confused with air-con overflow – make sure you can tell the difference! Last but not least, the rotors will also ‘tell’ you that they need to be repaired by causing the wheels to wobble or rattle under braking. None of these are a situation you wish to find yourself in on the road – and for this reason, you should be checking all parts of the brake system prior to traveling.
- Fluids – and yes, there are more than 2 to check!
- Brake fluid is a must – otherwise, your brakes may fail regardless of whether you have checked the pads and rotors.
- Radiator fluid – although it is winter, you will want to prevent your car from overheating.
- Transmission fluid – this is essential for your ability to change gears.
- Power steering fluid – no one wants to be struggling without power steering in the cold!
- Windshield fluid – check to ensure that you are able to clean your windshield from rain, bugs, snow, and any other potential debris.
- Engine oil – this should be a no-brainer, make sure your engine has lubricant to operate smoothly.
- Antifreeze – although many cars come with a built-in combination of antifreeze and radiator fluid, some older models still need to have this added separately, and ALL models should be checked for build-up at least once a year.
Now that you have completed the trifecta, the next step is to check all lightbulbs, mudflaps, and batteries. You might not plan on driving after dark, but in an unexpected blizzard or heavy fog they are essential to your safety. If your car has mudflaps, it is a good idea to make sure they are not worn or cracked, so that you avoid any unnecessary buildup along the way. Finally, your battery should be checked on a regular basis, but importantly if it is on the older side, you need to check the terminals and make sure there is no dirt buildup or acid corrosion that can affect its functionality.
The last and possibly most finicky part of the checklist has to be the weather and road reports. We all know how fickle the weather can be at this time of year, so it is a good idea to download a reliable weather app for use on the road. There may be changes in your route depending on blocked routes, dangerous passes, etc. so you will want to keep on top of that.
No matter the distance you are traveling, and no matter what time of year, we recommend keeping this checklist handy – and before you are heading out for the holidays, stop in for a quick check of all the essentials, we have everything you need at hand.
For more questions about safe winter driving or to upgrade your tires before the snow really starts to fall,
call us at (250) 860-7444 or book an appointment today.