I can’t wait to jump in my car and head to the Central Coast. I look forward to taking my beach chair out after the long drive and putting my toes in the sand. Summer is here, and for many of you, this means vacation time. If last week’s temperatures are any indication of how hot our summer is going to be, then we should be prepared and make our vehicles as safe as possible. The goal is to get to our destination safely, so the following are some tips and recommendations for your vehicle, and some safety advice for summer travel:
Cooling system – Ensure your vehicle’s cooling system has been flushed and the coolant level is adequate to keep the vehicle’s engine from overheating. It is of particular importance when outside temperatures are high and the air conditioner is working overtime. Examine all timing belts and coolant hoses for cracks or leaks; replacing any you think are worn. If you cannot do this yourself, schedule an appointment with a reputable mechanic.
Tires – Make sure all four tires have plenty of tread and are properly inflated. Do not forget about the spare and make sure your jack and tire-changing tools are in good condition. Extreme heat can take its toll, not only on worn or old tires, but new ones as well. If your tires are showing uneven wear patterns, the tires may need to be replaced or rotated. Sometimes a simple alignment can fix this problem. If your tires show signs of cracks or sidewall bulges, they need to be replaced.
Electrical system – Check all lighting equipment, making sure it is in good operating condition. Take a close look at the battery. Look for signs of corrosion around the terminals. A quick solution of baking soda and hot water can help clean up a bad battery connection. Believe it or not, if you don’t have baking soda, Coke or Pepsi will clean your battery terminals right up without even scrubbing! Ensure the cables are tight, and if you have an older battery, check that the appropriate fluids are filled to the proper level using distilled water.
Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers in case you get caught in a sudden storm. I know this is rare during our spectacular California summer climate, but it can happen, and when it does, you need to be prepared. Plus summer heat is what really deteriorates the rubber in wiper blades.
Fluid levels – If it’s been a while since the vehicle’s oil has been changed, it’s important to take care of it before going on a trip. Some of the modern synthetic oils can go up to 10,000 miles before the oil needs to be replaced. Always check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer has recommended for oil interval changes. Check the transmission, power steering, brake, and washer fluids, as well as checking for leaks. If any are observed, the vehicle should be serviced before it is driven.
Air conditioner – Children, seniors, animals, and some adults can be sensitive to heat. To keep these folks comfortable and safe during the summer months, it is important to make sure that your vehicle’s air conditioning system is functioning properly. Most times, a simple recharge of refrigerant can fix any issues.
In the case of an emergency, have an emergency roadside kit available containing the following items: first aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, work gloves, change of clothes, tools, non-perishable food, and towels for cleaning up. Most importantly bring water. If your car leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere on a hot dry day, water will keep you alive.
Now that we have your car ready for travel it is time to talk about getting you to your destination safely.
Don’t drink and drive – Driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more is illegal, but even with a lower level, a driver may be impaired and may be arrested for DUI. A DUI conviction can cost you thousands of dollars, not to mention the possibility of seriously injuring yourself and others. If you plan on drinking, don’t drive! Make a plan to get home safely and stick to the plan; always designate a sober driver. Consider using a taxi or ride share service like Uber or Lyft to pick you up and get you home.
Buckle up – It only takes a few seconds to buckle up your seatbelt and those seconds could save your life or the life of family and friends. Child safety seats are the law. If you are having difficulty installing the child safety seat or not sure you have put it in correctly, please contact your local CHP office and make an appointment to have the car seat checked.
If you are one of the millions of Californians who will be traveling this summer, please take some time to ensure your vehicle is safe and that you are prepared for any emergency you might come across along the way.