Your summer road-trip car maintenance checklist

You know summer is here when Memorial Day weekend hits. The sun is out, the weather is warm, and school is just about out here on California’s Central Coast. That means it’s also road-trip season, and it’s time to get your cars ready for adventure! So, the master San Luis Obispo mechanics at Certified Auto Repair have put together a summer road-trip car maintenance checklist to make sure your car is good to go before you hit the road to destinations unknown.

1. Check tires and air pressure

Inspect the tires and, if you have one, the spare tire as well. Look for cuts, gouges or sidewall bulges. Insert a quarter upside down into grooves to check tire tread. If you see the top of George Washington’s head, it is time for new tires.

And make sure you check the air pressure, as well. Recommended pressure is usually listed in your car’s owner’s manual. 

2. Feel out your brakes

If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop for a brake inspection. Our pros will check the brake system for fluid leaks, and the pads, rotors, shoes and drums to see if new pads are needed or whether more extensive repairs are in order. 

3. Inspect the battery

Check your battery to be sure cable connections are clean and tight, and the hold down hardware is secure. Have a service professional do a battery check to determine remaining capacity to see if you need a replacement and don’t wind up stuck in a remote roadside location. 

4. Change the oil and top off fluids

Get an oil change to make sure your engine is clean and running smoothly. Also, make sure coolant and brake, transmission and power steering fluids are at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation. When adding fluids, use products that meet the specifications listed in the owner’s manual.

Note that newer car models may have sealed automatic transmissions without a dipstick, and electric power steering that may not use fluid.

5. Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner

Rubber wiper blades naturally deteriorate over time, and while we’re past the rainy season here in California, you never know when you might run into a surprise storm on the road. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, replace the blades. Fill the windshield washer reservoir with fluid formulated to remove insects and other debris, and test to make sure the nozzles spray adequately.

6. Check belts and hoses

Reinforced rubber drive belts power the engine water pump and accessories such as the alternator and air conditioning compressor so you should inspect and replace any that are cracked, glazed or frayed.

Note that modern multi-rib or drive belt materials do not show easily visible signs of wear. As a general rule, replace drive belts every 60,000 miles.

Inspect and replace worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft radiator hoses. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump.

7. Inspect the AC unit

Have you noticed your AC isn’t blowing as cold as it used to? Well inspect and provide a diagnosis to see what repairs are needed or if it simply needs a recharge. Also have the cabin filter inspected and replaced as needed.

8. Replenish emergency kit supplies

AAA recommends keeping a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle. Include a flashlight and extra fresh batteries, first-aid supplies, drinking water, non-perishable snacks for people and pets, car battery booster cables, emergency flares or reflectors, a rain poncho, a basic tool kit, duct tape, gloves and shop rags or paper towels.

9. Let the pros do a proper inspection

It’s always a good idea to let the pros do a full inspection of your vehicle before you head out on a long trip – or even if you just plan on doing a little extra driving this summer on beach trips, mountain excursions or wine country cruising. The friendly San Luis Obispo mechanics at Certified Auto Repair will give your car a proper and comprehensive inspection before you head out to ensure your vehicle gets you where you’re going safe and sound.