If you're planning to travel this July 4th weekend, you're far from alone. AAA predicts a near record July 4th travel weekend, with 47.7 million Americans taking trips over the holiday weekend. That's up 40 percent over last year and would make it the second highest Independence Day travel volume only to 2019. Higher gas prices aren't impacting plans either. AAA says 91 percent, or 43.6 million Americans, are expected to drive to their destinations. That said, it's a great time to remember to prepare your vehicle and plan for safe summer travel. Check out these tips provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before packing up and hitting the road.
Check for Recalls
NHTSA encourages vehicle owners to make sure their vehicle isn’t facing a recall before they hit the road. You can easily find out by using the NHTSA's VIN lookup tool. Enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years. Check for recalls on your vehicle by searching NHTSA.gov/Recalls. Also remember the NHTSA recently updated its SaferCar App you can download to your smartphone. Enter your vehicle information and it will send recall alerts to your mobile device.
Get Your Car Serviced
CarProUSA radio show host Jerry Reynolds always recommends regular maintenance, and so too, does the NHTSA. Tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations can help prevent breakdowns. If your vehicle has been serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, it should be in good condition to travel. If not—or you don’t know the service history of the vehicle you plan to drive—the NHTSA recommends scheduling a preventive maintenance checkup with your mechanic.
Know Your Car
Another good NHTSA tip is to get to know your vehicle. Read your vehicle’s manual (many of which are digital these days.) Doing so will familiarize yourself with the features on your vehicle — such as anti lock brakes and electronic stability control — and how the features perform in various conditions. The same is true for renting a car. You'll want to become familiar with it before driving it off the lot.
Plan Your Travel and Route
Trip planing plays an important role in any road trip as you'll want to know what weather, traffic and road conditions you'll be facing as you head out. The NHTSA says don’t rush through your trip, and allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Don't just rely on GPS either. The NHTSA suggests familiarizing yourself with directions and maps before you go. Also a good rule of thumb it to let others known your route and anticipated arrival time.
Have your mechanic check your battery, charging system, and belts, and have them make any necessary repairs or replacements. For hybrid-electric vehicles, keep gasoline in the tank to support the gasoline engine.
Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Be sure to also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals, if necessary.
Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle, and that the coolant meets the manufacturer’s specifications. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific coolant recommendations. You or a mechanic should check the cooling system for leaks, test the coolant, and drain or replace old coolant as needed.
Check your vehicle’s oil level periodically. As with coolant, if it’s time or even nearly time to have the oil changed, now would be a good time to do it. In addition, check the following fluid levels: brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering, and windshield washer. Make sure each reservoir is full; if you see any signs of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.
Belts and Hoses
Look under the hood and inspect all belts and hoses to make sure there are no signs of bulges, blisters, cracks, or cuts in the rubber. High summer temperatures accelerate the rate at which rubber belts and hoses degrade, so it’s best to replace them now if they show signs of obvious wear. While you’re at it, check all hose connections to make sure they’re secure.
After the heavy toll imposed by winter storms and spring rains, windshield wiper blades may need to be replaced. Like rubber belts and hoses, wiper blades are vulnerable to the summer heat. Examine your blades for signs of wear and tear on both sides. The blades can also deform and fail to work properly in both directions. If they aren’t in top condition, invest in new ones before you go.
Check A/C performance before traveling. Lack of air conditioning on a hot summer day affects people who are in poor health or who are sensitive to heat, such as children and older adults.
Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation, use retention clips to secure the mat and prevent it from sliding forward, and always use mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle.
Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side door frame. The correct pressure is NOT the number listed on the tire. Be sure to check tires when they are cold, which means the car hasn’t been driven for at least three hours.
Other NHTSA safe tire tips include:
- Inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips. It only takes about five minutes.
- Check your spare tire as well.
- Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
- Check the age of each tire. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use, but check your owner’s manual to find out.
- Check out NHTSA.gov/Tires for tire ratings before buying new ones and for more information on tire safety, visit NHTSA’s Tires.