Man oh man, has this been a quick summer. I’m not worried. In fact, now that most folks are getting back into their routines, I’m thinking it’s a good time to actually hit the road. It’ll be less hot (hopefully) and far less crowded out there, and that’s never a bad thing.
If you plan on still hitting the road, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First off, even if you’re not a seasoned mechanic, it’s good to know a little about how your car works and how to do basic maintenance. It helps build your confidence during summer travel, and let’s face it: It never hurts to get your hands dirty. When I met her, my wife didn’t know a dipstick from a lipstick, but she’s paid attention to my tips and I’ve taught her some basic car maintenance. She feels more confident and feels more confident on the road. Heed this, ladies. The more you know, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to bring your car in for service. You’re a lot less likely to get ripped off, too.
Traveling is stressful enough. You don’t need a breakdown. Keeping an eye on some basic things and adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule will keep your car or truck running smoothly and best of all, keep you from breaking down. Bear in mind that none of these things equate to rocket science. The suggestions I make are important, but also easy to do.
The first thing I’m gonna cover is checking tire pressure, because it’s not only vital to your car’s health, but easy to do. Your tires are, after all, your car’s connection with the road, so it’s very important to keep the pressure correct and even. Low tires can affect the car’s handling, wear unevenly and need more frequent replacement but also negatively affect your fuel mileage. This affects not only your wallet but the environment. And if your wife is anything like mine, she’ll appreciate both saving money and doing something good for mother earth.
First, check what your pressure is supposed to be. This information will be in two places: in the owner’s manual and on a sticker on the body of the car behind the driver’s door, measured in psi (pounds per square inch). The psi may be different for the front and rear tires.
Get yourself a tire gauge (shouldn’t be more than $15; I’m partial to the simple digital LED models) and keep it in your glove compartment. Unscrew the rubber cap over the air nozzle on the tire and stick the gauge over it firmly and straight. You’ll hear a quick hiss as a tiny bit of air comes out, but if you stick the gauge on correctly it will stop after about a second.
Read the number on the gauge, pull it off and then do it again. It takes a couple times to do it right before you get the handle of it. Do it for all four tires. If any of them is off by more than 2-3 psi, put some air in and then recheck. You can fill the air at any gas station.
Most importantly, make sure to do this first thing in the morning. The heat of the day and particularly driving will inflate your tires a little and you want to check them when they’re cold. And get in the habit of doing this every few weeks, as tires naturally lose some air pressure. Maintaining the right air pressure is not only good for the car but it’s key to safe driving, particularly driving in the summer.
Remember: Drive safely, enjoy your travels, and check back for more basic car maintenance tips.