Spring is in the air and Americans will be spending more time on the road. While getting stranded in the spring months doesn’t pose the same risks inherent in winter travel, drivers can minimize the hassle and inconvenience of a breakdown with a few simple prep steps before setting out.
“According to a survey of AAA’s certified Approved Auto Repair shops, consumers that forget or ignore recommended maintenance ultimately pay higher repair costs,” cautioned Chris Baldwin, Vice President of Automotive Services, AAA East Central. “These repair facilities estimate drivers can save an average of one hundred dollars per visit simply by properly maintaining their vehicle,” he added.
To prevent common roadside problems, AAA offers the following recommendations:
- Check all fluids. Just as with people, fluids are critical for vehicles when things start to warm up. Check your owner’s guide for the proper procedures to verify the following:
- Engine oil, including scheduling an oil change if it’s time
- Coolant level
- Automatic transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Power steering fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
- Check your battery. Corroded terminals, a bulging or cracked case are signs that a battery has been subject to extreme conditions. Test batteries if they are three years old or older and make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
- Tires are your safety cushion. Collisions with potholes can cause concealed damage to a car’s tires and suspension.
- Examine the tread for excessive or uneven wear and deep gouges, and check sidewalls for bulging or cracking
- Check and adjust tire pressures using the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations, not the maximum pressure listed on the tire sidewall
- Don’t forget to check the condition and inflation pressure of the spare tire
- Check the hoses and belts. Inspect hoses and have them replaced when leaking, brittle, cracked, or swollen. Check V-belts and serpentine belts for looseness and condition, and have them replaced when cracked, frayed, glazed or showing signs of excessive wear. Replacing the timing belt at the interval specified in the owner’s manual can avoid a breakdown or serious engine damage.
- Visibility is key. Safety experts estimate that 20 percent of all crashes are caused at least in part, by impaired vision. Most people recognize that a good view out the windshield and windows is essential to safe driving. But how long has it been since you checked your brake lights, directional signals and headlights for proper operation?
- About half of all windshield wiper blades on the road are beyond their functional lifespan. Check wiper operation and blade condition, replacing any blades that leave streaks behind, after two or three passes
- With a helper, check operation of the brake lights (including the center high-mount brake light) and back up lights
- Check operation of headlights (high and low beams), all directional signals and taillights
One final note: If you’re bringing children or a pet along for the ride, never leave them unattended in the vehicle. Even seemingly mild temperatures can rapidly create a lethal environment inside a car — even with the windows cracked open.