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5 Car Care Tips for Holiday Travel

Image via Flickr by William Warby

Image via Flickr by William Warby

When the holidays come around, you want to make the most of your time off, and the last thing you want to deal with is car trouble when you’re headed to the campground or Grandma’s house. These holiday tips will keep your vehicle running while you’re away and after you arrive home.

Check the Basics

Basic pre-trip checks make sure your car is in prime condition before you hit the road. Check the level and color of your oil, antifreeze, and transmission, power steering, and brake fluids. Windshield wiper blades should be clean and in good condition, as should your battery.

Check your tires’ pressure as this can fluctuate from season to season. The warm weather around Labor Day causes air to expand, which can overinflate tires, but you could have the opposite problem around the cold weather holidays. Also check your tires’ wear, your brakes’ condition, and that all lights work.

See a Professional

If you’re not confident performing basic car maintenance, it’s smart to book a service before you leave. Look for an ASE-certified technician who will get the job done right.

Pack an Emergency Kit

An emergency kit can get your car back on the road should the worst happen. It’s worth packing even if you have roadside assistance, as many amateurs can fix problems faster than help will arrive.

Commercial car emergency kits are available, but it’s often more affordable to create your own. It should contain a fire extinguisher, tire gauge, tire sealant, duct tape, jumper cables, small amounts of your car fluids, a multipurpose tool, and a flashlight for fixing problems after nightfall. Most tire kits come with a reflective warning triangle, but experts recommend three to alert motorists on all sides. If you’re traveling over Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving, add a blanket, snow shovel, ice scraper, and cat litter for tire traction.

Perform Basic Cleaning on the Road

No one wants to spend their vacation working on their vehicle, but some simple maintenance can keep your car in tip-top condition. Your approach should be about removing the damage done by time on the road. Bird droppings and squashed bugs are very acidic and will eat your paintwork quickly, so you shouldn’t wait until you’re home to remove them. A bottle of quick detail solution and a microfiber cloth will take care of most of your spot-cleaning needs.

Road residue can also dull your lights, which can be hazardous in bad weather. Use that microfiber cloth to wipe them down during your driving breaks to keep them clear.

Wash Your Car on Your Return

You’ve hopefully spot-cleaned during your road trip, but a good clean once you’re home will remove the last remnants of gunk that’s still clinging to your car.

A visit to the beach can put rust-creating salt on the exterior and sand inside which will wear down the carpets. Salt spread on icy roads can also rust your undercarriage. A post-road trip wash is about much more than aesthetics; it can also extend your car’s life.

Follow these simple tips to keep your car running well while you’re enjoying the holidays.