It’s Summer Road Trip Time – Make Sure You and Your Vehicle are Prepared

Summer is the perfect time for a road trip! Some travelers like to have a detailed plan and confirmed reservations, while others like to be a little more spontaneous and travel adventurously.  Whether you have a planned-out approach or a free-spirited attitude toward road trips, you should never leave without having prepared your vehicle for the journey. 

Summer Road Trip

Don’t let car trouble steal the fun and relaxation of your summer road trip. Be prepared for a worry-free trip by considering these vehicle checks:

Thoroughly Check Your Fluids

Your car relies on a number of different types of fluids to run smoothly. Before leaving for a trip, it is a good idea to check:

  • Engine Oil – Lubricates the engine and keeps it running smoothly
  • Coolant – prevents your engine from overheating
  • Transmission Fluid – proper levels ensure smooth shifting and extend the life of your transmission
  • Brake Fluid  – required for the proper functioning of your brakes
  • Power Steering Fluid – essential for smooth and easy steering

Confirm that all fluids are at the proper levels and that they are in good condition. If any fluids are low or dirty, have them topped off or replaced by a professional.

Inspect Your Tires

Safe travel is where the rubber meets the road… literally. Check your tires to make sure they are in optimal condition to deliver proper performance and handling:

  • Tread Depth – proper tread depth provides better grip and handling
  • Tire Pressure – correctly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency and safety
  • Tire Condition – cracks, bulges, or uneven wear can be a sign of potential problems
  • Spare Tire  – don’t overlook checking its condition, and make sure you have a jack and lug wrench

.Check Your Battery

A failing battery has the potential to ruin your trip. Consider these battery related items:

  • Signs of Corrosion – Corrosion on terminals or other areas can affect performance
  • Battery Age – if the battery is over three years old, consider having it tested
  • Jumper Cables – always travel with a set of jumper cables in case you have battery problems on the road

Check Your Brakes

Dependable functioning of your vehicle’s braking system is essential for safety. Always pay attention to signs of trouble like squeaking or grinding noises when braking, or unusual sensations or vibrations. Before a trip check these brake system components:

  • Brake Pads – worn brake pads can reduce braking efficiency
  • Brake Rotors – warped or damaged rotors can affect braking performance
  • Brake Fluid – make sure brake fluid is at the proper level and isn’t contaminated

Check Your Lights and Signals

Properly functioning lights and signals are essential for safety. Test your all of your system lights including: 

  • Headlights
  • Taillights
  • Turn signals
  • Brake lights

Have any burnt-out bulbs replaced to ensure you can see and be seen on the road.

Inspect Your Belts and Hoses

Confirming that your belts and hoses are in good condition is important for your vehicle’s safe operation. 

  • Have Belts Checked – signs of fraying, glazing, or wear may indicate replacement is necessary
  • Inspect Hoses – leaking, cracked, bulging, or damaged hoses should be replaced to prevent engine overheating

Additional Summer Travel Tips

Even with the best preparations, emergencies can happen on summer road trips. Be ready with a kit with a car kit that includes items like flashlights, extra batteries, portable cell phone chargers, tire repair kit and inflator, non-perishable snacks, bottled water, etc.

Planning your summer road trip route ahead of time can save you from unexpected surprises. Most drivers rely on cell phone GPS for guidance, but a good old-fashioned roadmap could be invaluable in the event of the dreaded ‘lost signal’ situation.

Taking the time to prepare your vehicle before a summer road trip can save you from unexpected breakdowns and ensure a fun, stress-free journey. If you’re unsure about any of the vehicle checks listed above, don’t hesitate to visit your local trusted auto service technician.

What Do I Do When My Tire TPMS Light Comes On?

Your car’s tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is a vital component that helps ensure your safety on the road. Since it is an essential safety feature, your vehicle is equipped with a TPMS light that lets you know if there is a potential problem. When the tire light comes on, it could be a warning that something needs your immediate attention. Below we will look at what you should know about the TPMS light, as well as steps you can take when you see that light on your dash.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System Dash Light

What Does the TPMS Light Mean?

The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light is designed to indicate when one or more of your tires is significantly under-inflated. This is important because overinflation can lead to poor vehicle handling, decreased fuel efficiency, and increased risk of a tire blowout. 

In some cases, the illumination of the TPMS light signifies a problem with the system itself, rather than tire pressure.

When see the TPMS light, do the following:

Check Tire Pressure

Use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure of all your tires, including the spare if you have one. Compare the readings to the recommended tire pressure listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb.

Inflate Tires to the Correct Pressure

If any tires are under-inflated, inflate them to the recommended pressure. Most gas stations have air pumps, or you can use a portable air compressor. Make sure not to overinflate, as this can also cause problems, such as uneven tire wear.

Inspect Tires for Damage

While checking the pressure, inspect each tire for visible damage such as cuts, punctures, or embedded objects like nails. If you find any damage, have it inspected by a professional as soon as possible. Sometimes a repair can be done, depending on the location of the damage and other factors.

Keep Up on Regular Maintenance

Regularly check your tire pressure, at least once a month and before long trips, to ensure they are at the correct levels. This can prevent the TPMS light from coming on and help you avoid unexpected issues. Additionally, regular tire rotations, alignments, and inspections will extend the life of your tires and improve your vehicle’s overall performance.

Call in the Pros

If the TPMS light remains on after you’ve checked and inflated your tires, or if it comes on frequently, there may be an issue with the TPMS itself. In this case, it’s wise to have a professional mechanic inspect the system. They can diagnose and fix any problems, ensuring your TPMS light is functioning correctly.

 

Understanding Hydroplaning: Causes, Prevention, and the Role of Tire Maintenance

Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle loses traction and the driver loses control on a wet surface. It is a frightening experience and a serious hazard for drivers. It is important for drivers to understand the causes of hydroplaning and know how to navigate through it. It is also helpful to know how proper tire maintenance can significantly reduce the chances of a hydroplaning occurrence.

Vehicles Driving on Wet Road

What Causes Vehicles to Hydroplane?

Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water develops between the tires of a vehicle and the road surface. This layer prevents the tires from making full contact with the road, leading to a loss of traction and control. Understanding hydroplaning includes recognizing factors that contribute to it:

  • Speed – Driving at high speeds reduces the tire’s ability to channel water away through its tread, making it more likely it is to hydroplane.
  • Water Depth – While even a small amount of water can cause hydroplaning, deeper water does increase the risk.
  • Tire Condition – Worn-out tires with insufficient tread depth cannot effectively disperse water, increasing the chances of hydroplaning.
  • Vehicle Weight – Lighter vehicles are more prone to hydroplaning.

Navigating Through or Avoiding Hydroplaning

To avoid or safely navigate through hydroplaning, drivers should consider the following tips:

  • Reduce speed on wet roads. Reducing speed gives the tires more time to scatter water and maintain contact with the road.
  • Avoid overreaction. Abrupt steering, braking, or accelerating can lead to loss of control. Gentle, gradual movements are safer.
  • Avoid areas with standing water when possible. Try to drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead, where water has already been displaced. Avoid large puddles when possible.
  • Maintain a safe following distance. Increase the distance between your vehicle and the one ahead to allow more reaction time if the car in front hydroplanes.

The Role of Tire Maintenance in Preventing Hydroplaning

Keeping tires in good condition is crucial for safe driving in general. The following are some tire factors that can specifically affect your vehicle’s resistance to hydroplaning.

Tread Depth – Tires should have a minimum tread depth of 2/32 inches, though more tread is better for wet conditions. Deeper treads channel water more efficiently. 

Proper Inflation – Properly inflated tires maintain optimal surface contact and water dispersion.

Regular Inspections – Addressing signs of tire wear, damage, or uneven tread early helps to assure a safer ride.

Rotate Tires – Regular tire rotation promotes even tread wear, enhancing overall traction and reducing the risk of hydroplaning.

By understanding hydroplaning, knowing its causes, practicing safe driving techniques, and maintaining your tires, you can significantly reduce the risk of losing control on wet roads.

Five Essential Vehicle Maintenance Tips Every Driver Should Know

As a driver, taking care of your vehicle is essential not only for its longevity but also for your safety on the road. But with all the things we have on our minds, calendars, and to-do lists, vehicle maintenance is easy to forget. Unfortunately, if you put off taking care of your car for too long, it will remind you when it breaks down or has another issue. 

Man Driving in a Car

Proper vehicle maintenance not only saves you money in the long run but also ensures that your car performs optimally. To save yourself hassles down the road, pay attention to these five essential vehicle maintenance tips that every driver should know:

1. Monitor Tire Pressure

Correctly inflated tires not only contribute to better fuel efficiency, they also enhance vehicle handling and safety. In fact, underinflated tires can increase the risk of blowouts and reduce traction, especially in adverse weather conditions. Invest in a reliable tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure at least once a month. 

2. Have Brake Maintenance Done

It is easy to understand why brakes are one of the most critical safety features of any vehicle. We all depend on them to perform properly every day, but in the meantime, brake components are subjected to wear and damage. Brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid levels should be regularly inspected. Squealing noises or a soft brake pedal are signs that your brakes may need attention. Addressing brake issues assures your car will be able to stop quickly, protecting you and your passengers from potential danger.

3. Schedule Regular Oil Changes

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine, keeping its components lubricated and running smoothly. It is easy to forget that oil degrades over time and requires proper maintenance. Neglecting oil changes can lead to engine wear and even failure, resulting in costly repairs. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil change intervals, typically every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

4. Check Fluids Regularly

While you or your favorite mechanic are under the hood checking that oil, make sure the other fluids your vehicle relies on for smooth operation are where they need to be. These include transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Check these fluids regularly and top them off as needed. Leaks or low fluid levels can cause mechanical problems and compromise vehicle performance.

5. Follow Your Recommended Routine Maintenance Schedule

Confused about what maintenance your car really needs and when it needs it. Who would  know better than its manufacturer? Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule outlined in your owner’s manual. This schedule typically includes tasks such as replacing filters, inspecting belts and hoses, and checking the battery. Adhering to this schedule helps to keep your vehicle in peak condition and helps prevent unexpected breakdowns.

By staying proactive with your vehicle maintenance, you not only extend the life of your car but also ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. Incorporate these essential maintenance tasks into your routine, and you’ll enjoy a smoother, safer driving experience for years to come.

Understanding the Basics of Tire Rotation and Its Benefits

The importance of tire safety cannot be overstated. According to the U.S. department of transportation, a total of 622 people died on the road in tire-related crashes in 2021. Though often overlooked, tire rotation is one of the most crucial aspects of vehicle and tire maintenance. Fortunately, tire rotation is quick, simple, and relatively inexpensive.

Tire Rotation Service

Understanding the basics of tire rotation and its benefits can significantly enhance both your driving experience and your vehicle’s service life.

What is Tire Rotation?

Tire rotation is the process of moving tires from one position on a vehicle to another. Tires are usually rotated from front to back and side to side, or in a diagonal pattern, depending on the type of vehicle and tire wear pattern. The primary goal of tire rotation is to ensure even tire wear across all four tires, extending their lifespan and maintaining optimal performance.

Benefits of Tire Rotation

  • Even Tire Wear – Tires experience varying levels of stress depending on their position on the vehicle. Front tires tend to wear more quickly than rear tires due to steering and braking forces. By rotating tires regularly, you distribute this wear more evenly, ensuring that all tires wear out at a similar rate.
  • Extended Tire Lifespan – Uneven tire wear not only impacts vehicle safety but also shortens the lifespan of your tires. By rotating them regularly, you can optimize the service life of every set of tires you invest in, saving you money in the long run.
  • Improved Handling and Performance – Even tire wear leads to better traction and handling, especially during cornering and braking. This can enhance the overall driving experience and improve safety on the road.
  • Enhanced Fuel Efficiency – Properly inflated and evenly worn tires reduce rolling resistance, which can improve fuel efficiency. By maintaining good tire condition through rotation, you can potentially save money on fuel costs over time.

When to Rotate Your Tires

The frequency of tire rotation depends on several factors, including your driving habits, vehicle type, and manufacturer recommendations. As a general rule of thumb, experts advise rotating tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, or during every other oil change. However, it’s essential to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific guidelines tailored to your car or truck.

Certain factors may indicate that your tires need rotation sooner, such as uneven tread wear, vibrations, or pulling to one side while driving. If you notice any of these signs, have your tires inspected to prevent further damage and ensure safety on the road.

Is Tire Sidewall Damage Putting Your Safety at Risk?

Tire sidewall damage is more than a cosmetic issue – it can compromise vehicle performance as well as your safety on the road. Every driver should understand the implications of sidewall damage and know how to address it effectively.

Sidewall of Vehicle Tire

 

What is Sidewall Damage?

Sidewall damage refers to any harm sustained by the tire’s sidewall – the part of the tire between the tread and the bead. Common types of damage include cuts, punctures, bulges, and cracks. These issues can arise from various sources, including road debris, improper inflation, and hitting curbs or potholes.

Why is it Dangerous?

Ignoring sidewall damage can have serious consequences. A compromised sidewall weakens the tire’s structural integrity, increasing the risk of a blowout or loss of control while driving. Even minor damage can worsen over time, leading to sudden tire failure and potentially catastrophic accidents.

Signs of Sidewall Problems

Regular inspections are crucial for detecting sidewall damage early. In addition to getting preventative maintenance and inspections, be on the lookout for:

  • Signs of cuts
  • Tire bulges
  • Unusual wear patterns
  • Tire pressure inconsistency
  • Embedded objects or protruding nails

Even though most of us drive every day, it is easy to overlook all of these signs. It is important to be intentional about regularly checking out tire condition.

How to Correct the Damage

If you notice sidewall damage, take immediate action. Small cuts or punctures may be repairable by a professional tire technician. However, larger or more severe damage often necessitates tire replacement. Attempting to repair extensive sidewall damage can compromise your safety and the tire’s performance.

How to Prevent Sidewall Issues

Preventing sidewall damage starts with cautious driving. Avoid potholes, road debris, and contact with curbs whenever possible. Also, maintain proper tire inflation according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, as underinflated tires are more susceptible to damage. Investing in high-quality tires with reinforced sidewalls can also provide added durability.

Protect Yourself by Protecting Your Tires

By understanding the causes of tire sidewall damage and recognizing its signs, drivers can ensure their safety on the road. Regular inspections, cautious driving habits, and prompt repairs or replacements are essential practices for every responsible driver. A little vigilance today can prevent a serious accident tomorrow.

4 Automotive Innovations Since the Last Leap Year

As we enjoy the extra day we get during this leap year, let’s take a look at the significant automotive innovations that have shaped the industry since the last leap year. From groundbreaking technologies to shifts in trends, many remarkable advancements have occurred in the automotive world over the past four years.

Electric Vehicle at a Charging Station

1. EV Rider – Electric Vehicle Market Expands

Since the last leap year, the automotive landscape has witnessed a remarkable surge in the electric vehicle market. Major manufacturers have committed to electric fleets, and electric vehicles (EVs) have become more accessible to the masses. With longer ranges, faster charging, and a growing charging infrastructure, EVs are no longer just a glimpse into the future but a tangible and increasingly popular option.

2. Driverless Cars Move Into Pole Position

Autonomous driving technology has leaped forward in the past four years, with major advancements in sensor technology, artificial intelligence, and real-world testing. Companies like Tesla have pushed the boundaries, bringing us closer to a future where cars can navigate the roads with minimal human intervention. The next leap year might usher in even more autonomous features and potentially commercial deployments.

3. The New Pickup Truck: Electric and High-Tech

The pickup truck market, a dependable segment of the automotive industry, has experienced a renaissance since the last leap year. Electric pickup trucks have emerged as a new frontier, with models like the Tesla Cybertruck and the Rivian R1T gaining significant attention. Traditional pickup trucks have also undergone a tech transformation, incorporating advanced control systems, driver-assistance features, and even hybrid powertrains.

4. Pushing the Performance Envelope with High Speed and Tech

The last four years have seen a surge in the development of high-performance supercars that redefine the limits of speed and technology. From the electric hypercars like the Rimac C_Two to traditional combustion-engine marvels like the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+, automotive engineers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, delivering unparalleled performance and aerodynamics.

It’s evident that the automotive industry has undergone a transformative journey since the last time our calendars had an extra day. Electric mobility, autonomous driving, and high-tech innovations in traditional segments have brought on an era of unprecedented change. With each passing milestone, the future of automotive technology becomes more exciting and promising. Looking ahead to the next leap year, expect the road to be paved with more automotive innovation, promising an exhilarating ride into the future!

Five Cold Weather Tire Considerations

Cold winter weather means unique and challenging conditions for our vehicles on the road. Something that is often overlooked is the impact of cold weather on tires. Ice, snow, and cold temperatures can significantly affect tire performance, traction, and overall safety. 

Cold Weather Tire Considerations

The following are five important tire related considerations to keep in mind when it comes to your vehicle’s tires during the colder months.

1. Tire Pressure

Cold weather can cause tire pressure to drop, leading to under-inflation. Insufficient tire pressure can lead to decreased fuel efficiency, poor handling, and increased wear. Regularly check and maintain proper tire pressure according to your vehicle’s specifications. Keep a reliable tire pressure gauge in your vehicle so you can keep an eye on your tire inflation.

2. Winter Tires vs. All-Season Tires

While all-season tires are designed for various conditions, they may not perform optimally in extreme cold or snowy weather. Winter tires, on the other hand, are specifically crafted to handle low temperatures and provide superior traction on icy or snowy surfaces. If you drive in an area with consistently harsh winters, swapping out your regular tires for winter tires could significantly enhance your vehicle’s performance.

3. Tread Depth

Adequate tread depth is essential for traction and safety, especially on wet or snow-covered roads. Insufficient tread depth can result in reduced grip and increased stopping distances, which is particularly problematic in slippery conditions. Check your tires’ tread depth regularly and replace tires once the tread becomes excessively worn down.

4. Tire Rotation

Regular tire rotation helps ensure even wear across all tires. This increases the lifespan of tires and improves their overall performance. During colder months, rotating your tires becomes even more critical because it helps maintain consistent traction and handling.

5. Strategic Navigation

Cold weather can mean the potential for more hazards in the roadway in the form of ice and snow, as well as potholes and erosion of road surfaces. It is important to pay attention to these road obstructions and navigate carefully to avoid them since hitting them can easily damage tires and rims, and put your vehicle out of alignment

Paying attention to your tires during cold weather helps to ensure a safe and smooth driving experience. Regular maintenance, appropriate tire selection, and mindful driving practices can make all the difference when winter throws extra road challenges our way.

Cool Car Care Tips: 7 Winter Car Care Maintenance Services

Winter leaves your vehicle vulnerable to the harsh elements. Cold temperatures, snow, and icy conditions can take a toll on your car’s performance and longevity.

Winter Driving

To ensure your vehicle stays in top-notch condition during the winter months, here are seven essential car care maintenance services you should prioritize:

1. Battery Check

Cold weather can significantly reduce your battery’s efficiency. Make sure your battery is fully charged and have it tested to determine its overall health. If it’s nearing the end of its lifespan, consider replacing it to prevent unexpected breakdowns in freezing temperatures.

2. Tire Inspection and Rotation

Proper tire maintenance is very important for safe winter driving. Check the tread depth and inflation regularly. Rotate your tires to promote even wear and improve traction. Consider switching to winter tires for enhanced grip in icy conditions.

3. Fluid Levels and Antifreeze

Cold temperatures can cause fluids to thicken, making it challenging for your engine to operate smoothly. Check and top up essential fluids such as oil, brake fluid, and transmission fluid. Keep antifreeze levels sufficient to prevent the engine coolant from freezing.

4. Brake System Inspection

Responsive brakes are essential for traveling icy roads. Have your brake system inspected, including the brake pads, rotors, and fluid. Replace worn-out components promptly to maintain optimal braking performance.

5. Windshield Wiper Maintenance

Visibility is essential for safe driving, but can be a challenge due to ice and salty spray on windows. Replace worn-out wiper blades and top up windshield washer fluid with a winter-grade solution.

6. Exhaust System Check

The exhaust system is more susceptible to corrosion during winter due to salt on the roads. Inspect the exhaust system for any leaks or damage. Prompt repairs can prevent harmful fumes from entering the cabin and ensure proper engine performance.

7. Heating and Defrosting System

A functioning heating and defrosting system is essential for your comfort and safety. Check the HVAC system, including the heater, defroster, and blower, to ensure they are working efficiently. Replace cabin air filters if necessary.

By prioritizing these car care maintenance services, you’ll equip your vehicle to get through the winter months safely and reliably.

Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Drivers on Your List

The holiday season is in full swing! Are you still searching for the perfect gifts for everyone on your list? We can help with gift ideas for the drivers in your life! Here is a list of thoughtful and practical last-minute gift ideas that will surely rev up the holiday spirit for your automotive enthusiasts. From convenience to safety, these gifts cater to all kinds of drivers, making them feel appreciated and ready to hit the road in style.

Christmas Gift wrapped in red with gold bow

Car Care Kit

Start with a practical gift that every driver can appreciate – a car care kit. This budget-friendly option is something you can assemble yourself. Include items like microfiber cloths, cleaning solutions, tire cleaner, and air fresheners.  

Phone Mounts and Chargers

Help your loved ones stay connected and hands-free on the road with a reliable phone mount and charger. Opt for versatile mounts that can accommodate different phone sizes and designs. Wireless charging options are a plus for added convenience.

Emergency Roadside Kit

An emergency roadside kit is a thoughtful and practical gift for any driver. Kits typically include items like jumper cables, a flashlight, a tire pressure gauge, and basic tools. It’s a gift that provides peace of mind during unexpected situations.

License Plate Frame

A themed license plate frame is a great gift for someone who has a favorite sports team, hobby, or other special interest. 

Car Organization Accessories

Help the drivers in your life keep their vehicles neat and tidy with car organization accessories. Consider items like seat organizers, trunk organizers, or even a portable garbage bin. These gifts make daily commuting a more organized and enjoyable experience.

Bluetooth Car Adapter

For those with older vehicles, a Bluetooth car adapter can be a game-changer. It allows drivers to stream music, make hands-free calls, and navigate using their smartphones without upgrading their entire car audio system.

Gift Cards for Gas or Car Washes

Practical and always appreciated, gift cards for gas stations or car wash services are excellent last-minute options. 

Need more ideas? Car and Driver has some additional ideas you can check out. We especially love the cigarette lighter adapter plugs and the gear shift hoodie:

 

 

Happy gifting and safe travels this holiday season!