You and the family have been waiting for this summer road trip for months. You have everything planned, right down to that rest stop in Albuquerque that boasts the world's largest hair ball. But have you factored in that the car you've driven all through the winter may not be well enough to drive across the desert right now? Here's a quick and proven list to get your vehicle up to snuff before you hit the road.
Hopefully by now your nose is in tuned in with the smells of your car and what they mean. Pop the hood with the car running and take a sniff. A sickly sweet smell means the coolant is leaking. Plus, a yellow-green streaking on the engine oil stick means it needs to be flushed out. Bring it to a professional!
Even if you don't need an oil change, at least take it in and have it checked. Also have them check the brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and for any possible sighs of leaks.
Double check that all belts and hoses, and even the timing belt, is in good working order and not time for service.
Check the power level on your battery, and check that your traditional battery isn't leaking. If you have a sealed battery you're off the hook. Hoping to camp out with the car along the way? Pack a new spare battery.
Have the cabin air filter check and replaced if necessary for better airflow and also better visibility when weather fogs up the windows.
Take a microfiber cloth and give the inside and outside of the windshield a very good clean. Change the winter wipers over to more flexible summer ones and top up the washer fluid while you're at it.
Have your mechanic take a good look at the whole braking system: brake material, master cylinder, calipers, wheel cylinders and brake lines.
Hopefully by now you're a whiz at changing a flat tire. If so, all you have to do is check the pressure on the spare and double check that all of the necessary tools—jack, cranking mechanisms, tire wrench and tire guage—are available. If you don't know how to change a tire, this is a good time to learn. You may also want to call AAA and make sure your membership was renewed.
Do a circle check of all your lights to make sure they work: brake lights, turn signals, reverse lights and headlights. Make sure your headlights are clean and bright.
Check the two most important things on your tires: the tread and the air pressure.