If you’re planning a road trip this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages drivers to spend a little time pre-planning to ensure everyone stays safe on the highway.
The government agency recommends drivers perform some simple safety vehicle checks before hitting the road to avoid a breakdown. Consumers also should check to see if their vehicle has an outstanding recall.
Note that these suggestions apply whether you’re traveling in a car or recreational vehicle.
NHTSA also reminds drivers and passengers to use seat belts and restrain children in properly installed car seats and booster seats.
Routine maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotations, and tune-ups can prevent your vehicle from breaking down on the go. Cars and RVs that have followed recommended manufacturer service schedules are likely in good condition for your road trip. But NHTSA also recommends that drivers who don’t know a vehicle’s service history have it checked out by a mechanic.
Here are some things you should look over before setting off on a cross-country or even a short vacation:
1. Air conditioning. Check to make sure your unit is cranking out cold air before a long drive. Lack of AC in the hot summer sun can impact anyone, but especially the elderly and children.
2. Cooling system. Your radiator needs water and antifreeze to help the engine work properly. When your car’s engine is completely cool, check the coolant level. You want it full. If the coolant appears clear, rusty, or has things floating in it, you likely need your system flushed and refilled. If the coolant appears oily, NHTSA recommends you have a mechanic look at it.
3. Fluid levels. Check your oil level, plus brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering, and windshield washer fluids and fill them to full if necessary. If you think you have a leak, take it to a mechanic.
4. Belts and hoses. If you see any bulges, cracks or cuts, it’s likely replacement time. Also make sure hose connections are tight.
5. Wiper blades. Check for wear and tear and replace if necessary.
6. Floor mats. Floor mats that aren’t properly installed can cause issues when you try to use the brake or accelerator, increasing the risk of a collision. Use mats that are the right size and fit for your car and use clips to secure each mat.
7. Lights. Make sure your headlights, brake lights, turn signal lights, flashers, and interior lights work correctly. If you are towing a trailer, check the turn signals, brake lights, head lights. Same procedure for a motorhome towing a car or other vehicle.
8. Tire pressure and wear. Check the tire inflation pressure when cold on each tire using a tire pressure gauge. The correct pressure for your tires is printed on a label on the driver’s door pillar or frame and it’s also in your owner’s manual. Also check tires for cupping, excessive or uneven wear, and bulges or cracks in the side walls. If the tire tread is worn to 2/32 of an inch, it’s recommended you replace the tire. To check, put a penny in the tread with President Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Be aware that recreational vehicle tires usually age out before they wear out. If in doubt check with a tire specialist or your RV dealer.
9. Emergency kit. It’s smart to pack a few essentials just in case you run into trouble. Some suggested items, in addition to a cellphone and charger, include a first aid kit, water and food, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, jack, and tire pressure gauge. It’s wise to have a quality roadside assistance plan. If traveling by RV, Coach-Net is recommended.
10. Recalls. When a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, recreational vehicle, or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.
NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday. Vogel Talks RVing has been publishing this recall information as it relates to RVs for many years, typically at month’s end.
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot