By Allen Foster
Although baseball and apple pie rank mighty high on our nation's list of most beloved pastimes, technically both have their roots in England. Country music and pickup trucks, however, were both born right here in the good ole U.S. of A. This summer, if you want to engage in an authentic all-American experience, there's no better way than with a rollicking road trip to a country music festival.
But wait! NAPA Auto Parts knows the relentless heat of summer can be as brutal on your vehicle as the frigid embrace of winter. Before you head out to see your hard-working music hero, you'll want to partake in a little preventative care. With the help of their unequaled selection of parts, accessories, tools, equipment, and more, you can make sure your vehicle will be running in tip-top condition all season long. Following is a car care checklist to help you prepare for your adventure!
Check your fluids. All of them. For most, it's a quick eyeballing to see if there's enough; for the rest, a 15-second check of the dipstick will do the trick. Your fluids include oil, transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, washer fluid and, of course, gas. Additionally, watch the driveway and carefully inspect the engine for any signs of leaks.
Belts and Hoses
While you're still under the hood, make a thorough inspection of all your belts and hoses. If one of these goes while you're on the road, it can mean an abrupt and certain end to your journey. For belts, look for cracks, fraying, splits, glazing, separating layers and missing pieces. Hoses take a little more scrutiny. Besides looking for cracks, bulges, fraying, splits, abrasive damage and hardened sections, when the engine is cool, squeeze each hose near its clamps to check for any soft or mushy areas — a hose should be rather firm, but not stiff.
If it's been a year, or you can't even remember when you last checked your air filter, that might be a good indication that it's time for a new one—especially if you're thinking about doing a little dusty road driving. If it is time, grab your owner's manual, flip to the page on your air filter, and swap it out.
Heat is actually harder on a battery than cold because high temperatures accelerate corrosion. Before heading out, clean the terminals, make sure it is secure, and check the charge. NAPA has a wide selection of multi meters that you can either buy online or reserve for pickup at your local store. However, if you prefer, you can do a quick battery check by starting your engine and turning on your lights; if they are dim or they brighten as you rev the engine, you should check your battery more thoroughly before heading out on your road trip.
Do a two-person check to be certain that every light on your car is functioning properly. If there are any bulbs that need replacing, you can search NAPA's website by either year/make/model or VIN to quickly and easily locate the exact part you need.
There are a few methods you can use to help uncover a potential brake problem before it happens. Listen: Your first clue will probably be a sound you're not used to hearing — a grinding, growling or a shrill squeak. After you've been alerted by your ears, pay attention to how your car feels. Does it vibrate or pull when you apply the brakes? Do they feel a little less effective than usual? Does the pedal sink all the way down to the floor? Finally, you can look. Crouch down and peek between the spokes on your wheel to find your brake pads. If less than a 1/4 inch remains on the pad, you'll need new ones before your travels.
Besides the obvious (checking for uneven or excessive wear, visible damage, embedded foreign objects, and making sure your tires not only have, but maintain their proper pressure), there is one other test you need to perform to help circumvent any unexpected mishaps on the road. Grab a penny, slip it (the top of Lincoln's head first) between the lowest part of your tread. If you can see all of Abe's head, you need new tires.
If you depend on your car's AC for your comfort, it's wise to give a quick test before heading out into what might otherwise become a miserably hot journey. Start your engine, set it to fresh air, and turn the fan up to its highest setting. Listen for odd noises, smell for unusual odors, and feel to make sure the air is coming out cool and at the expected pressure.
Although this is not directly related to your road trip, it is important to get into the habit of giving your car a good bath. Pay special attention to the undercarriage after winter, because salt buildup leads to rust problems. While you're checking everything else out, why not also give your car a thorough cleaning? Beside all the parts you need to keep your vehicle in peak running condition, NAPA carries a wide assortment of products designed to get your vehicle looking its best, too!
Reevaluate all of those little things that you've been neglecting and consider their potential impact on your journey. If any item is a safety issue, have it fixed immediately. For the rest, make a prioritized list of issues that can be attended to at a later date.
If anything happens on the road, you need to be prepared. Your summer emergency kit should contain items such as a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a portable jump starter, extra coolant and oil, a tire pressure gauge, a tire repair kit, a jack, a lug nut wrench, duct tape, pliers, screwdrivers, rags, work gloves, a funnel, road flares, a first aid kit and a cooler. It's all about your comfort level verses the space available in your vehicle. Make smart decisions.
Look over your route. Have a backup plan for any travel issues you might encounter along the way. And do not forget your phone charger, emergency cash, and tickets to the festival!
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