Be ready for your summer road trip with these tips from Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Take care of scheduled maintenance, such as oil changes or tune-ups. Check fluid levels and replace worn windshield wipers. Have brakes inspected and replace any worn brake pads. Be sure the battery has a strong charge; use baking soda and a little water to clean corroded terminals.
Inspect and replace any tires with worn tread. Tread depth is key to maintaining traction in slippery road conditions. Look for bulges or tears in the side wall and be sure tire pressure is at the level shown on the driver’s side door jam or in the owner’s manual.
Check for recalls. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, to find out about possible safety defects in your vehicle and help protect your loved ones and other motorists.
Stock your vehicle. This includes emergency supplies (such as a flashlight, blanket, first-aid kit and basic tools); games, videos and music to entertain children; as well as sufficient snacks and water for everyone.
Don’t overload the car. The recommended weight load for your vehicle, also found on the driver’s side door jam, includes passengers, luggage and other gear. Loading the roof rack with heavy cargo can make the vehicle difficult to handle in emergencies and increase the risk of a rollover. A lighter load increases fuel efficiency.
In addition to providing directions to your destination, a GPS navigation system can help in other ways. It can locate gas stations and places to eat, and it can suggest alternate routes. In an emergency, it can direct emergency services to your location. Portable GPS devices are available if your vehicle does not have a built-in navigation system.
Be patient. Expect traffic slow downs during peak driving times. If it’s an option, driving late at night or early in the morning may allow you to avoid rush hours and arrive earlier at your destination. Plan for periodic stops for refreshment and restroom breaks. Combining a rest break with a refueling stop can save time.
Buckle up. All passengers, including the driver, need to wear seat belts while on the road. Younger children should be in a car seat suited for their age and size, and all children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat.
Drive safely. Follow the rules of the road and don’t let a mishap spoil your vacation. Prepare well before setting out and observe good driving practices on the road to make the journey to your destination a pleasant one.