Prepare for Safe Travels Ahead with Our Road Trip Checklist
Whether it’s to visit family for the holidays or to enjoy a school break, a lot of people choose to travel by car, especially during the summer when the road conditions are better.
In order to ensure a smooth road trip experience, it is crucial to conduct a pre-emptive vehicle inspection prior to embarking on extended journeys.
There are many items that should be checked during a car’s pre-trip inspection and the whole process can be a little confusing. That’s why to assist in maintaining your vehicle’s optimal condition, we have developed a comprehensive checklist that covers all the essential aspects to remember before setting off on your journey.
Below are 7 essential car components that should be checked over before traveling!
Check Your Tires’ Conditions
In Victoria, the winter season brings consistent rainfall and occasional snowfall, posing a risk of driving on wet roads and potential hydroplaning for travelers. Conversely, during the summer, the roads are dry and temperatures soar. It is vital to remember that your vehicle’s tires experience diverse conditions throughout the year, underscoring the utmost importance of conducting a thorough inspection before embarking on any extended road trip.
Having “bald” tires is likely the most common issue involving your car’s tires. Driving with bald tires can reduce driving stability since they have less grip on the asphalt. To check whether your tire is bald (i.e., has lost its original characteristics and does not adhere so well to the ground), you need to look at the tread wear indicator. This is a small bulge in the tire, often indicated by the abbreviation “TWI”, which marks the threshold of 1.6 millimeters. If the rubber of the tire is flush or below this marker, your tire is considered ‘bald’ and it’s time for a fresh rubber.
It is also important to remember to check your tire pressure regularly. Ensure that the car’s tire pressure aligns with the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Driving with flat or under-inflated tires can lead to increased instability and longer braking distances, resulting in higher fuel consumption and can ultimately making your trip that much more expensive.
Add ‘Wheels’ to the Road Trip Checklist: People usually remember to check their vehicle’s tires, but forget about the wheels! Having cracks or dents in your wheels is more common than you think, so be sure to include this assessment in your road trip checklist. This way, you are able to avoid damage to your car’s suspension, braking system, and most importantly, you significantly reduce the chances of an accident.
Balancing Your Vehicle’s Wheel Alignment
The wheels also need to be aligned and balanced, but always remember, these are two separate procedures that have complementary functions.
In the process of wheel alignment, the angles of the wheels are adjusted to restore them to the original specifications set by the manufacturer. Have you ever experienced the sensation of your car pulling to one side while driving? This is a common indication of misaligned wheels. Driving a vehicle with misalignment requires the driver to exert more effort, resulting in a more tiring (pun intended) journey. Moreover, it has negative effects on the tires, causing accelerated rubber wear.
The wheel balancing process, on the other hand, is done to distribute the weight equally around the tire’s circumference. When this process is done, it makes the wheels rotate without causing vibrations in the vehicle, making it more comfortable for the passengers, as well as increasing the tires’ life span.
It is recommended to perform these two procedures every ten thousand kilometers driven. However, it is advisable to have a checkup before traveling, even if you haven’t reached this distance yet.
If you are going on a road trip soon, it may be time to book an appointment for a preventive maintenance inspection!
Inspect Your Car’s Brake System
It is important to make sure that your car’s brake system is working properly before driving at high speeds. When inspecting your car prior to a road trip, remember to have the following components of the brake system looked over:
- Brake discs and pads
- Drums, shoes and linings
- Brake fluids
- Wheel cylinders
Following the inspection, it may be necessary to replace the brake pads in the braking system. In such cases, the new components may require a few kilometers to properly integrate with the other parts. During this adjustment period, the braking system may exhibit slight compromises. To account for this, it is advisable to avoid abrupt or sudden braking if possible. Additionally, consider driving the vehicle around the city before embarking on the road trip to ensure the system is functioning smoothly and efficiently.
When dealing with brake fluids, it is important to check both the fluid levels and their effectiveness. It can be challenging since the fluid may appear to be in the correct quantity but could be old and not functioning optimally. Typically, brake fluid has a lifespan of either 2 years or twenty thousand kilometers. If, during an inspection, it is determined that the fluid’s efficiency is compromised, it is advisable to replace it before embarking on your travels.
Don’t Forget About Your Car’s Suspension
The suspension system is another critical component that, if damaged, can have detrimental effects on other parts of your vehicle and lead to unnecessary complications. Additionally, a properly functioning suspension system is vital for ensuring passenger comfort during the journey.
During your road trip car maintenance routine, it is important to inspect the shock absorbers for any signs of damage, check for fluid leaks in the suspension system, and examine the springs for rust, cracks, or unevenness. These checks will help ensure that the suspension components are in good condition and capable of providing a smooth and safe driving experience.
Check Your Car Fluids
Your engine depends on a number of fluids to function properly. When they dry out or lose quality (it might be because they are sitting there for too long), the entire operation of the vehicle can be compromised.
Be sure to check (or have inspected) the following car fluids before your big trip:
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
Vehicle’s Electrical System
Your car’s electrical system will be working really hard during your trip. Your vehicle’s lights, for example, are a vital way of communicating with other drivers, so it is essential that they are in working condition before hitting the road.
As part of your car maintenance routine, it is essential to check the operation of various lighting components including: turn signals, brake and reverse lights, hazard warning lights, and high and low-beam headlights. Additionally, assess the condition of the battery to ensure it is prepared for high-demand usage.
In addition to the items mentioned, it is also worth inspecting other components such as windshield wipers, an air conditioning system, and your audio system. Functional wipers will ensure clear visibility during adverse weather conditions, a properly working air conditioning system will provide comfort during the trip, and a functional audio system will enhance your road trip experience with your favorite playlist!
Don’t Forget About These Additional Safety Checklist Items
Lastly, it is crucial to include a thorough inspection of your car’s safety items in your travel checklist. Ensure that the rubber on the windshield wipers is not excessively dry, and check the condition of the jack, wheel wrench, and reflective warning triangle/cone. If you carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle, remember to check its expiration date and replace it if necessary. These safety measures contribute to a safe and well-prepared journey.
Conducting a thorough inspection of your car before embarking on a road trip is of utmost importance, as it directly impacts not only the vehicle’s performance but, more importantly, your safety. Performing preventive maintenance allows you to proactively identify and address potential issues and anticipate risks that may not commonly arise during city driving but could easily occur on the road. Prioritizing these checklist items ensures a safe and secure journey for you and your fellow travelers. For over 30 years, Searle’s Auto Repair has been providing high-quality, honest service to the Greater Victoria region. To book your preventive maintenance prior to your road trip, give us a call at (250) 475-2000 or request an appointment online.
Common Signs That Your Car AC Is Not Working
It is official: spring is here, which means that after a long winter here on Vancouver Island, the heat is on its way. In fact, it may almost be time to start using your car’s air conditioning. With Victoria’s summer months ahead, you want to be sure your AC is operating as efficiently as possible to remain cool and comfortable in your vehicle. Unfortunately, as vehicles age, air conditioning systems can start to malfunction, or fully stop working. If it seems that your AC is not operating at peak efficiency, here are some things you should know:
How Does a Car’s Air Conditioning Work?
When you get in your car and turn on the AC – if you are like most people – you probably don’t think about the whole process that takes place to actually cool the air. Although it seems simple, the operation of a vehicle’s air conditioning system is somewhat complex. For you to understand how the process works, we have first detailed the main components of a basic air conditioning system. The components are:
- Dryer/Filter Dryer
- Expansion valve
- Evaporator coils
- Blower Motor/Fan
Next, here is how a modern auto air conditioning system works step-by-step, starting with your compressor:
- The compressor, which is mounted near the front of the engine and is attached to a pulley that is driven by the serpentine belt, receives cool, low-pressure refrigerant gas and compresses the gas to high pressure and temperature. This gas is then sent to the condenser.
- In the condenser, the gas is cooled, changing to liquid form.
- Then, the fluid passes through the filter dryer, where moisture and impurities are removed.
- In the next stage, the liquid refrigerant is sent through the expansion valve, which reduces pressure and temperature.
- Next, the low-pressure liquid refrigerant flows into the evaporator, circulating through coils. This causes the liquid refrigerant to begin to boil, changing it back into a low-pressure gas.
- As the refrigerant turns back into a low-pressure gas, it absorbs heat, which reduces the temperature of the evaporator coils. At this point, a blower motor/fan will blow this cool air through the vents in your car’s dash, cooling the cabin of your vehicle.
The process above repeats continuously.
What signs indicate that your air conditioning is not working?
Now that you understand how a car’s AC works, it’s time to learn how to identify flaws in the system. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of an AC system that is not operating well:
If you notice that your car’s air conditioning is not as powerful as it used to be, the following may be the root cause:
- Accumulation of dirt in the cabin filter
- Accumulation of dirt and debris in the condenser
- Refrigerant gas leakage
- Compressor inefficiency
When it comes to older cars, there is always a higher probability that problems will occur in the air conditioning system. For instance, it is possible that a hose in the system has punctured due to degradation over time, causing the refrigerant gas to leak. Alternatively, an AC compressor will eventually start to lose efficiency. If you notice a sharp drop off in your car’s AC output, it could also be due to a loose or damaged serpentine belt. If you think that your vehicle is experiencing one or multiple of these common AC issues, check out our auto air conditioning repair services today.
Another common symptom of bad AC is the presence of unpleasant smells from the air vents. In most cases, this problem is related to the accumulation of dirt, fungus, or bacteria in the system (this issue is commonly seen here in Victoria BC, where our climate is quite humid).
Luckily, the presence of unpleasant odors in your AC is generally a simple fix; most likely, a thorough cleanup of the vents and replacing the cabin filter will solve the problem.
Presence of moisture inside the cabin
When in perfect working condition, the car’s AC generates cooled air without any kind of moisture or humidity. So, if you notice some water dripping inside the vehicle and your car floor is getting wet, this is possibly an underlying issue with your car’s AC system. Wet floors and excess moisture are typically caused by one of the following:
- A blocked condensate drain, or a condensate drain that is not properly attached to your ventilation system
- Critically low refrigerant levels
Bad air conditioning got you down? Contact Searles Auto Today – we will help you quickly identify and fix your vehicle’s AC issues.
How to take care of your car’s air-conditioning?
Like with most systems in a modern vehicle, preventative maintenance will go a long way toward ensuring the long-term efficiency of your car’s air conditioning system. Here are some tips and basic precautions that will keep your car’s AC in good working condition:
- It is recommended to replace the cabin air filter regularly (about every 20,000-30,000 kilometers), especially if you drive around places that are exposed to dust or pollution
- Cleaning and sanitizing the AC! This not only ensures that the system is working efficiently, but it is also good for your health.
- Turn on the air conditioning from time to time, at least once a week (even in the winter). It will prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust in the system.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how a car’s AC system works, identifying problems in your car’s air conditioning is not such a complicated task. Generally, taking care of your car and performing regular preventative maintenance on your AC system will prevent you from having to spend extra money on AC repairs, which can be an unexpected headache. That said, if you do need car AC repairs or diagnostics, Searles Auto is here to help. Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or make an appointment online today!
Searles Auto is open for business again after temporarily closing due to COVID-19. All services for the time being include complementary sanitation of your vehicle, and pick up and delivery of your vehicle for a $30 flat fee. Give us a call at (250) 475-2000 to book an appointment.
Stay safe and stay inside, and we’ll get through this together!
Congratulations to Gavin Larson, who entered the draw for our Spring-Summer Maintenance Special and won an iRobot Roomba. Enjoy your clean floors, Gavin!
Our Fall-Winter Service Special contest is still on. Book now and enter to win a Nest Learning Thermostat!
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