When it comes time to teach my kids vacation driving safety tips, I’ll begin with this nugget—summer travel is great family fun until the car breaks down, leaving you stranded in a parking lot, baking under Florida’s July sun. Some nugget, huh? But, I experienced it firsthand, and I’m sure you’ve had similar situations. And given that the average age of cars on the road today is 11.1 years, as compared to 8.4 years in 1995, according to the Polk research firm, one of the most important tips I can offer—especially for summer travel—is regular vehicle maintenance.
The top offenders leading to vehicle breakdowns are battery and cooling system failures, and possibly the most obvious, car tire issues. Sad thing is, most of these situations can be prevented, especially the latter. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, under-inflation is the leading cause of tire failure, and on top of that, low tire pressure can reduce gas mileage. For tire safety and maintenance, a digital tire gauge and a can of Fix-A-Flat can go a long way in preventing summer travel disaster. That, and just making sure you keep an eye on them from time to time.
Being stranded in a parking lot is probably not one of the safe driving tips I’d share with my kids. I can remember back to a time when I was just a little guy, when my family was headed to Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Dad, exhibiting excellent driving safety practices, piloted our 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, complete with faux wood-grain paneling, and a pop-up camper behind. To his credit, he was a very good driver, instilling me with safe driving tips, even though a car maintenance schedule wasn’t something he usually followed. As luck would have it, the car broke down, leaving us sitting in a parking lot hours away from Disney, our summer travel halted. A retired couple caught our plight, and as luck would have it, the solitary old husband happened to be a retired machinist and was pretty sure he could fix our broken part at his home shop. He also scanned our tires, which were a little worse for wear.
So off they went, my mom and siblings in tow. They’d sit in the couple’s air-conditioned home, sipping lemonade, while dad and I sat on the car bumper, talking, sweating, but most importantly, sharing time that would eventually become scarce between us. Hours later, they all returned with the part, our summer travel saved. Once mobile again, we hit the closest gas station to take care of our tire issues.
At the time, it wasn’t fun. Now, it’s a treasured memory, and is in large part why I follow a maintenance schedule, in addition to dad’s driving safety tips.
Editor’s Note: Advance Auto Parts can help you maintain your vehicle with expert advice and quality auto parts.