How to Protect Your Car’s Interior in Summer

Convertible parked in the sunshine

Source | Christopher Windus

Summer is upon us, and the streets are heating up. That means it’s time to prep your car for the hottest time of year. Of course you should perform all the regular summer maintenance, including checking and swapping tires, changing fluids, and making sure your AC is ready to deal with climbing temperatures. But how should you prep the interior of your vehicle? Follow these steps, and your ride will be ready to take the heat.

Clean your carpet and swap your floor mats

With heat comes baked-in smells. Wet carpeting can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew and lead to mystery stinks in the heat of the summer. That coffee you spilled in the winter? You can almost guarantee that you’ll be faced with a spoiled-milk odor come summer. So how do you battle it? It’s time to do a deep carpet cleaning and get that stuff out before it becomes entrenched. Pick up a carpet cleaner and go to town on those grimy footwells.

Your floor mats will also need a bit of love and attention. After all, they do more than catch the grime and dirt you cart in each time you get in and out. They protect the interior from getting wet and smelly, too. Clean off your mats and consider investing in some all-weather mats. These not only catch ice and snow in the winter but also capture sand, dirt, and rocks that accumulate after, say, a trip to the beach or a hike in the mountains. A pair of them can be picked up for under $60, and they will help keep the interior of your car much cleaner this summer.

Sun through the driver's window

Source | JD Weiher

Treat your seats

If you have leather or leatherette seats, you know the torture of sitting in a sunbaked chair inside a car that’s been parked in the sun. Your seats are just absorbing all those UV rays, and that can be incredibly damaging for prolonged periods.

Your best bet is to invest in some good leather cleaner and conditioner. The chemicals in these cleaners will help keep your leather and leatherette supple and soft, even in the heat. Think of it like sunscreen for your seats.

We also recommend that you invest in seat covers for those super-hot days. They’ll protect your seats from the sun and your posterior from the inevitable burn of flesh on hot leather. There are a variety of styles, colors, and fits, available.

Cover your dash

Even if you park your car inside a garage, you could benefit from investing in a UV blanket or sunscreen to cover your front and rear decks. The sun beats down on these two spots relentlessly and can eventually crack, fade, or damage the plastic or leather in both those spots in short order. It’s best to invest in a windshield shade to protect the front dash and seats when you park in a sunny spot. If you want to just focus on protecting the dash, check out dash covers. Each vehicle’s dash is different, so be sure to put your vehicle make and model into the search box to find the right one for your car.

Get it made in the shade

One of the best protections for the interior of your car is also the lowest-tech: Try to park in the shade when you can. This will help your vehicle avoid the sun’s harmful rays and keep things much cooler for when you climb back in.

What are your summer-car-care rituals? Tell us your tips in the comments.

Mower Time: Getting Ready for Spring


lawn mower on grass

Source | Daniel Watson/Unsplash

Your lawn mower might not have a 450hp big block, but believe it or not, the same tune-up principles for your classic muscle car apply to your lawn and garden equipment. If it has an engine, it’s going to need a little bit of prep work to perform its best this spring. Here’s a guide to what needs replacing, what just needs attention, and some general mower maintenance advice.

Walk-behind mowers

Walk-behind push mowers have some of the simplest engines currently made. That makes them easy to work on for any skill level. If you’ve never done any kind of maintenance work before, give it a try with these super-simple tasks.

Oil change

Like with your car, you need to change the oil in your mower on time. This depends on the number of hours and how you use it. Usually most homeowners can get by with changing the oil once a season. Push mowers are cheap and easy to maintain; they don’t have an oil filter and only need one quart of oil. It’s definitely faster and easier than changing oil in your car: tip the mower on its side to drain the oil out the filler spout, then set it upright and refill with fresh oil. Remember to drop off the old oil for recycling.

Spark plug

Spark plugs wear out, too. Like with oil, it’s a good idea to change them at the start of each season. All it takes is a single wrench. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to buy lawn- and garden-equipment spark plugs at a power-equipment store. We stock your Honda’s BPR6 spark plug or your MTD’s RC12 at stores and online too.

Air filter

The air filter keeps dirt, grit, and grass out of the precision internal-engine components. Being down near the debris and spinning blades makes for one filthy air filter that decreases performance. Check the filter throughout the season and replace as needed, usually at least once a season.


Before you fire up the mower, check the condition of the blade(s). Clean off any excess grass clumps and check for cracks or large chips in the blade. If you find any, it’s time for a replacement. This is easier than it looks—use a wrench to remove the center bolt. If your blade is in good shape, it may only need sharpening. A sharpening kit is about the same price as a new blade but will save you money in the long run.

Ethanol-free gas

Most small engines prefer ethanol-free gas, so fuel up with that if it’s available in your area. Never use E15 or higher ethanol fuels in small equipment not rated for it.

riding lawn mower

Source | Gord Webster/Flickr

Riding mowers

If you’ve gotten this far, we’re guessing you don’t have a small lawn. Riding mowers are great for cutting large amounts of tall grass in a small amount of time, but they do need some extra work. All the above advice for push mowers also applies to riding mowers. The oil change needs a couple more quarts, and there’s oil and fuel filters to swap out, too. Here’s what else to look for.

Blade belt

Under the deck, check the condition of the blade belt and pulleys. A slack belt will cause excessive noise and lack of cutting, so adjust the tensioner and/or buy a new belt. Grease the pulleys to ensure they freely spin.


Pull out your multimeter and check the voltage of the battery. On a 12V battery, if it tests at less than 10.5V, trickle charge until full and give it a try. If it does not stay charged between mows, then it’s time for a new battery.


That rider has could’ve been sitting in the same spot all winter. That’s never good for the tires. Look for cracks, dry rot, or flat spots, then inflate to the recommended pressure listed on the side of the tire. If the tires are damaged or don’t hold air, replace them.

… And prep yourself

Safety comes first, so wear gloves when working near the blades. Eye protection is recommended while riding or using a side-discharge push mower. Small engines are disproportionately loud for their size, so remember to wear ear protection any time the mower is running.

Do it right and safe, so you can get your lawn done on the first pass. Spring and summer offer perfect car-show weather, so do your mowing, then get back to wrenching.

Share your lawn and garden tips and tricks with others in the comments below.

Enjoy a Happier, Safer Road Trip With Your Pet


Source | Andrew Pons/Unsplash

The holidays are a time for visiting with family and friends. When those friends live far away, many motorists choose to take their pets along for the ride. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more than 15 million Americans travel with pets each year. And since January 2 is National Pet Travel Safety Day, here are a few road-worthy tips for safe holiday travel.


Source | Kate/Unsplash

Visit Your Vet

Before you go, make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. Discuss any travel concerns you have, including how to calm your pet if he or she becomes too anxious. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations and ID tags are up-to-date, and be certain that he or she is in good physical health. Ask for a copy of rabies vaccination papers, in case they’re required while you’re traveling.

Take a Practice Run

Does the thought of travel leave you feeling both excited and anxious? Your pet feels the same way. If car trips are a foreign concept, take your pet on practice runs. Gradually increase the length of the trips to help your pet grow accustomed to your vehicle and the sensations involved with travel.


Source | Matthew Henry/Unsplash

Pack a Pet-Pleasing Travel Kit

Include familiar comfort items like a special blanket, as well as grooming tools, portable food dishes, and water from home to avoid stomach issues. Don’t forget a leash or harness for those leg-stretchers and a scoop or plastic baggies for bathroom breaks. If you’re traveling with a cat, a plastic container with a locking lid and a few inches of litter can serve as a litter box. And, of course, pack plenty of treats!

Use a Vehicle Restraint or Carrier

As happy as a dog looks hanging its head out the window, chops flapping in the breeze (we couldn’t resist including a photo), it isn’t the safest way for your pet to ride. The ASPCA recommends using a proper restraint or well-ventilated carrier to safely transport your pet. A pet partition can also create a safe barrier between your pet and the driver. Also helpful: seat protectors help you care for your pet and your upholstery at the same time.

Stick to a Normal Routine

The same advice that works for humans applies to animals: We do best when we stick to a familiar routine. So take breaks at your pet’s normal meal times for food and water. Let your pet get some exercise while on a leash and sniff out the new locale. If you’re traveling with a cat, this is a good time to get out the litter box. When your cat is finished, scoop the box clean, replace the lid, and store it away in the trunk for the next rest stop.


Source | Erik-Jan Leusink/Unsplash

Plan Ahead for Pet-Friendly Hotels

Whether you’re staying at a hotel at your destination or along the way, don’t leave finding a pet-friendly nest to chance. Do your research ahead of time with a site like If you’re traveling with a cat, ask if the beds sit flush against the wall and floor. Your back will thank you when you don’t have to crawl under the bed to retrieve your furry recluse. Also, secure your pet in a crate in the hotel when you have to leave for non-animal-friendly meals and excursions. They may not like it, but it prevents them from launching a prison break when housekeeping comes.


Source | Vladimir Kudinov/Unsplash

Go Beyond Fetch

Lastly but perhaps most importantly, leave time in your itinerary for activities that your pet will enjoy. Search sites like and for adventures, attractions, beaches, dog parks, and restaurants that welcome pets. Call ahead to confirm with management to ensure the best experience for everyone.

Roadtrips with pets can be twice as fun and half the hassle with some careful planning and consideration. So go for it! And leave a comment to tell us your pet-travel road trip stories.

For the Love of Summer: Our Favorite Types of Convertibles

red jaguar xk140

Source/Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr

In a couple of ways, cars that offer open air motoring are like ice cream. Most everyone likes them and they come in a lot of different flavors. Whether you’re cruising along an ocean boulevard in a classic drop top, chasing apexes in a modern sports car, or exploring rugged trails in an opened-up Jeep, these vehicles offer plenty of enjoyment no matter what your tastes are. And like a visit to Baskin Robbins, there’s bound to be a flavor you can’t resist.

Within the realm of the classics you’ll find a wide array of choices. There’s plenty here to move you, literally and figuratively. It might be a 1965 GTO ragtop with a 389 V8, a 4-speed stick and rumbling side-splitter exhausts that does it for you. Or, from the same era, maybe a Jaguar XKE roadster or Lincoln Continental convertible, with the former offering snazzy styling wrapped around two seats and a sonorous straight six, and the latter boasting four “suicide” style doors, a magic carpet ride and room for five of your biggest friends.

But as you’ll soon realize, your options further range from taking just sips of air and sunshine overhead to fully gorging oneself via environmental exposure that’s second only to a motorcycle’s.

Source/John Lloyd/Flickr

Just a breath of fresh air, please

A sliding sunroof provides a taste of the outdoors via a panel in the roof that slides back, either manually (as in some older cars) or via power control. If the panel is made of glass, it is usually called a “moonroof” as it ostensibly allows one to view the moon and the stars at night even while closed. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, pop-up/removable sunroofs were a popular after-market installation.

soft top mazda miata parked in a lot


Traditional (and not) convertible tops

And then there’s the traditional soft top convertible, which when down leaves the whole upper portion of the car’s interior exposed, allowing its passengers to more fully enjoy the sun’s rays. These are usually power operated as well. Soft convertible tops (typically made of canvas or vinyl) have been around since the early days of the automobile.

More recently, retractable hardtops have become popular. Just as the name implies, this design offers the added comfort and security of a hardtop when the top is up. Lowered, it provides the same full, top-down experience that a traditional folding soft top does. For those al fresco fans residing in the more inclement areas of the country, a retractable hardtop is great to have. The BMW Z4 roadster and newer 3 Series (which later became the 4 Series) convertibles both offer retracting hardtops, as do the Mercedes-Benz SLK and SL, and outgoing (2015) Mazda Miata.

And yet, this “best of both worlds” idea is not as new as one may think. Back in 1957 Ford brought out its Fairlane 500 Skyliner power retractable hardtop, while Peugeot beat it by some 20 years with its aerodynamic but somewhat grimly named 402BL Eclipse Decapotable in the 1930s. Unlike the Ford’s more complex, folding power top, that Peugeot model featured a simple one-piece top that manually dropped down into the trunk.

view of a jeep wrangler as seen through the interior of another jeep wrangler

Source/Abdullah AlBargan/Flickr

The full experience

Nobody does it better than Jeep with its Wrangler model. Like its CJ-series precursors, the Wrangler is usually the model one thinks of when the word Jeep is mentioned. Sure you can fold the soft top down (a rather involved and potentially nail-busting affair), or unbolt the unwieldy hard top (if that’s what your Wrangler is wearing) and leave it in the garage or back yard. But that only gives you standard top-down experience. Detach the doors and flip down the windshield and you’ll enjoy the thrill of maximum exposure that’s second only to that of a motorcycle.

green t-top trans-am firebird at an auto show

Source/Michael Spiller/Flickr

The ‘tweeners

Existing somewhere in the middle of all these are the T-roof and Targa-topped vehicles. The T-top (which consists of a pair of removable roof panels) debuted in the U.S. with the 1968 Corvette coupe. In the late 1970s and through the early 2000s, various Camaros, Firebirds and Mustangs offered a T-roof option, while the Japanese car makers joined the party in the ’80s and ’90s with the Toyota MR2 and Datsun/Nissan 280ZX/300ZX, among others.

Similar to the T-top in that it could quickly be manually removed and stowed within the car, the Targa top instead provided a one-piece removable roof panel (no center “T” bar) which ran the full width of the car, providing even more of a true convertible feel than the T-roof. Past and present cars that offer a Targa top include the Porsche 911 and 914, the Honda Civic del Sol, the Toyota Supra, Acura NSX, the current Corvette and various Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren models.

So what’s your favorite flavor of convertible vehicles? Leave us a comment.

Top Aftermarket Accessories for Cooling Your Engine in Summer

Two SUVs in the desertBraving the desert heat, Source | Sahitya Kakarla, Unsplash

There’s one sure-fire way to ruin your day, engine, reputation under the hood, and road trip this summer. It’s fast, requires virtually no effort or planning, and happens to countless drivers every day. All you have to do is let your engine overheat because of insufficient cooling.

In this instance, I’m not talking about the more common, run-of-the-mill catastrophes usually behind a cooling system failure, including broken hoses or belts, insufficient coolant level, water pump or thermostat failure, or foreign object piercing the radiator.

Less dramatic, but equally effective at causing an engine to overheat, are scenarios in which a vehicle’s cooling system can’t dissipate enough heat fast enough to prevent an overheated engine. In most cases, it’s the result of an efficiency issue, even when everything on the cooling system is working properly. In other situations, modifications designed to coax more horsepower from the engine might also require changes to the cooling system because more horsepower usually equates to more heat generated.

Here’s a look at several add-on solutions to prevent engine overheating.

Performance radiator

Car radiator photo

Car radiator

There’s a reason copper and brass have historically been materials of choice in vehicle radiators. Copper is great when it comes to thermal conductivity, performing 50 percent better than radiator fins made from aluminum. And brass is durable. So why are aluminum radiators becoming all the rage in high-performance engines and even among vehicle manufacturers? Weight. Aluminum radiators weigh 10 to 15 pounds less than traditional radiators. And they compensate for the reduction in their material’s thermal conductivity with increased radiator surface area and coolant capacity, design, fin spacing and even tube size.

The larger the radiator’s surface area translates to greater airflow reaching more coolant which means improved cooling capability. The limiting factor here is the amount of space you have or can create in which to shoehorn in a larger radiator.

Most radiators utilize a single-pass design – hot coolant comes in one side of the radiator, passes through, and exits out the opposite side. For increased cooling capacity, look at a dual-pass, horizontal-flow radiator. With this design, coolant passes through one half of the radiator, but instead of exiting, it then passes through the other half of the radiator, essentially making two passes instead of one.

Moving to a dual-pass radiator will probably also require a water pump upgrade because this radiator design places more demand on the pump. Which brings us to the topic of coolant speed. An aluminum radiator with larger diameter tubes is going to require an increase in the speed at which the water pump is moving coolant through the system. Your muscle car’s pulley-pump speed might have been sufficient when everything was stock from the factory, but any modifications made might now require changes to that speed and ratio.

In addition to tube size, high-performance aluminum radiators also have more fins, spaced closer together, for increased heat transfer from the coolant to the atmosphere.

Electric fans

Engine-driven fans can get the job done when you’re tooling down the highway at cruising speeds, but when you’re idling or fighting stop-and-go traffic – not so much. For increased cooling capacity, consider installing an electric fan, or two.

Unlike an engine-driven fan, an electric fan is going to generate enough airflow to sufficiently help cool the engine, regardless of engine RPMs or traveling speed. In addition to consistent airflow, electric fans can also net you more horsepower. It’s estimated that engine-driven fans steal about 35 horsepower and clutch-driven fans about half that amount while electric fans only take about one horsepower.

Installing a dual-fan set up enables the entire radiator surface to be covered with cooling air flow. Another option is to use a two-fan system, but with one fan stationed in front of the radiator, pushing air to it, and a second fan behind the radiator, pulling air to it – remembering that pulling is always more efficient than pushing.

As for fan blade style, that depends on what’s more important to you – cooling or noise levels. Curved-bladed fans are quieter than straight-blade fans, but they don’t move as much air.

And in what’s probably beginning to sound like a reoccurring theme, a changeover from an engine-drive fan to an electric one might also require some beefing up of the vehicle’s electrical system to ensure it’s up to the task and increased loads.Car fan photo

Fan shroud

If you’re making the effort of adding an electric fan, make sure you go all the way and include an aluminum fan shroud. The right fan shroud can maximize the fan’s heat-reduction capacity by delivering cooling air to nearly every square inch of the radiator surface, while choosing aluminum helps deliver further weight reduction.

Type of coolant

When it comes to the liquid flowing through the radiator, nothing’s better at heat transfer than plain old water. Unfortunately nothing also beats water when it comes to freezing in winter and destroying your engine, and corroding the radiator and inflicting a similar level of carnage there. If you are running straight water for coolant – some racing series require this – be sure to also include an anti-corrosion additive to the mix, and to take the necessary steps to prevent freezing before lower temperatures arrive. You’ll also need to research the benefits of using softened water if this is the somewhat risky route you choose to go. If, however, you choose to play it safe by using traditional antifreeze, also consider an additive, such as Red Line’s Water Wetter that prevents bubbles or vapor pockets from forming and helps bring temperatures down.

When it comes to summer driving, just remember – keeping your cool begins with your engine. Do you have any additions to the list? Share them in the comments. 

Top 5 American Roads to Drive in Summer

North, south, east, west—no matter where you live in the U.S., there’s a scenic roadway beckoning nearby. Here are five of our favorites that include spectacular scenery or unique driving challenges. And just for fun, we tell you which dream vehicle we’d take along for the ride.

California coastline

Source | Medhat Ibrahim

1. State Route 1, California coast

Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway and designated as an All-American Road, some of this journey’s most spectacular scenery unfolds between Monterey, Calif., and Morro Bay, Calif., 123 miles south, even though Route 1 stretches further north and south beyond these two towns. Along the way, you’ll pass through redwood groves and quaint, historic towns, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, while easily accessed beaches contrast with granite cliffs and spectacular waves crashing into unforgiving rock formations. The single-span arched concrete structure known as Bixby Bridge will either terrify or excite drivers when they stop before crossing at turnouts on either end to admire this engineering marvel.

Dream Ride: No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, this road will be remembered. If we were making the drive, however, we’d opt for an Audi Q7. It has plenty of room for friends and golf clubs, and with this level of style, we’ll have no trouble fitting right in with California’s car-conscious elite.

Skyline Drive2. Skyline Drive, Virginia Mountains.

Located within Shenandoah National Park, part of the U.S. National Park System, Skyline Drive offers panoramic mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and observation of wildlife in their natural habitat via 75 overlooks spread throughout the Drive’s 105 miles. With a 35 mph speed limit that’s strictly enforced, don’t be in a rush or expecting high-performance thrills on this adventure. Rather, plan other activities to coincide with the drive, and save some money by visiting on days when the entrance fees are waived.

Dream Ride: Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and we might be tempted to explore an unpaved road or two. That’s why we’d pick a Subaru Outback for this trip, mainly for its all-wheel drive, comfort, and gas mileage.

Two bicyclists cycling along White Rim Road 3. White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This road’s strictly for 4×4’s with high ground clearance, and some experience off-roading. So if you’re looking for a scenic yet moderately challenging place to put your $60,000 Land Rover LR4 through its paces and prove that, at 12.2 inches it really does offer the highest ground clearance of any 4×4 on the market today, this might be your destination, or not. In addition to astounding canyon views on this 100 mile loop, drivers may also encounter rapidly changing road conditions, as well as debris, impassable rivers, and even quicksand. The National Park Service recommends traveling in pairs of vehicles equipped with winches to aid in self-rescue as commercial towing services cost from $1,000 to over $2,000. Plan on spending two to three days to complete this drive, or as many as four days if you’re making the journey via mountain bike, which is another popular option.

Dream Ride: Our choice on this demanding drive is the Ford F150 Raptor. It’s designed specifically to deliver the goods off-road, and looks tough doing it.

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys4. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

If you’re not a fan of driving over bridges and open water for long stretches, you might want to avoid this road. But if you’re looking for tranquil ocean views on one of the nation’s longest bridges, then this drive down US 1 is what memories are made of. While the whole journey from Miami to Key West can be completed in less than four hours, why would you want to? Drop the top, fire up the Harley, or simply roll down the windows to smell the salt air and take in stunning sunsets. The Seven Mile Bridge is one of many bridges on what is also known as The Overseas Highway, first completed in 1938. Today it offers 113 miles of pavement and 42 bridges waiting for exploration.

Dream Ride: We’d explore that pavement when most of the country is cursing winter and in need of some Florida heat and sunshine in a BMW 4 Series convertible. The removable hard top offers a roof when you need it and sunshine when you don’t.

Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire5. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

The beauty and serenity associated with taking in New England’s spectacular fall foliage can be livened up by navigating New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway. Stretching more than 30 miles along northern New Hampshire’s Route 112, “The Kanc” as it’s called by locals, is designated an American Scenic Byway. Passing through the White Mountains, it challenges drivers with its sweeping turns and switchbacks, but the drive is well worth the effort because of the long-range views regardless of what you’re driving.

Dream Ride: Personally though, we like unobstructed views of the fall foliage and to feel close to nature. That’s why we’d tour The Kanc perched on a Honda Gold Wing. It’s big, comfortable and powerful, and the first bike to offer an airbag. You know, just in case.

What’s your favorite driving experience and the best vehicle to experience it with? Share a comment. 

Towing Information: 10 Maintenance Tips Before You Tow

Recreational vehicles on the highwayEven when you have a vehicle built with towing capacity, there’s still plenty to check and double-check before you get on the road.

First, check your owner’s manual to answer these questions:

  • Is your vehicle designed to tow?
  • If so, what is the maximum amount that you can safely tow?

If the answer to the first question is “yes,” then here is our overall recommendation:

  • If your vehicle’s owner’s manual provides recommendations for severe-duty use, towing qualifies – and you should follow these guidelines carefully.
  • This will include checking vehicle components and replacing them more often than is typical.
  • Do not exceed maximum towing limits. When exceeded, it’s more likely that you’ll damage your vehicle and/or get into an accident.

If you plan to modify your towing vehicle to give it extra power or additional safety features, check your warranty. Will making these modifications void any warranties? If you’re purchasing a new vehicle to tow, ask the dealership about any towing or camping options that will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

Also note that, even if you increase your engine’s power, this does not increase the maximum amount that can be safely towed by a particular vehicle.

Towing checklist

Here are ten specific items to check each time you’re getting ready to tow (note: these are not being presented as the ONLY items that you should check, only some of the most important):

1. Brakes

Test your brakes thoroughly before each trip. When towing, you need more stopping distance and so having brakes that are even slightly worn could be a hazard. When you’re towing, don’t ride the brakes; if you do, then you might overheat them and/or jackknife your vehicle. When driving downhill, drive at a reduced speed, using your brakes as necessary.

If you’re towing a trailer, some come with their own braking systems that need to be connected to your vehicle. Although it takes added skill to coordinate the braking systems, this system means less stress on the towing vehicle’s brakes.

Need help with any repairs? Find:

2. Cooling system

Proactively prevent a meltdown. Your vehicle will get heated up by pulling an extra load so your cooling system needs to work optimally to safely tow. So, add the following to your checklist, replacing worn parts:

  1. Radiator, including hoses and fluids
  2. Water pump
  3. Thermostat and housing
  4. Cooling fan and its switch

Here are:

3. Hitching devices

Check the hitch ball regularly to make sure that it hasn’t loosened and is still firmly attached to the draw bar. Make sure that the coupler and hitch ball fit together snugly, and ensure that any tow bar used is parallel to the ground when the towed vehicle is attached.

Each piece of towing gear comes with towing capacity limits. Double check that the equipment you have is suitable for what you plan to tow.

Find the towing parts you need.

4. Safety chains

If your trailer becomes unhitched when you’re towing, the only thing keeping the two vehicles together will be your second line of defense: your safety chains, which are required.

Make sure that the chains you use are sufficient for whatever you’re towing. Light-duty trucks often use 5/16-inch thick chains, while medium-duty trucks often use half-inch thick chains, with heavy-duty trucks using 5/8-inch thick chains. When choosing what thickness to use, make sure that they will help keep the trailer from drifting, while still allowing it to turn easily with your towing vehicle.

Find an assortment of safety chains here.

5. Springs and shock absorbers

Consider adding heavy-duty springs and the best shock absorbers you can buy and make sure that they are in good shape before each tow. Lighter-duty shocks can cause the towing vehicle to sag in the back while heavy-duty versions will help to keep your vehicle stable and level while towing. As a side bonus, they’ll also make the ride more comfortable.

Be sure to also check your hub bearings when doing your suspension check. While small in size, they can cause major problems when not optimal. If one falls off, the wheel can flip flop around, damaging the brakes and potentially even causing the wheel to become disconnected from your vehicle.

Here are:

6. Tires

Tires with the correct load rating and proper inflation are important. A common mistake that people make is to check the tires on the truck that will be doing the towing – but not the tires on, say, a camper or trailer that is being towed. Do you have a spare tire for both your truck and for whatever you’re towing?

Blowouts are doubly dangerous when they occur during towing. If this happens, stay calm and get off the road as quickly as is safely possible. Here are tips for quick tire repairs to get you to the shop. Also find tire gauges, cleaners and more.

mechanic working on a vehicle7. Wiring

Perhaps your truck came pre-wired for trailer towing from the factory or maybe your pre-installed hitch already contains the necessary connector. Whether one of these is true or whether you needed to do your own trailer wiring, you need to make sure that nothing has short circuited before you tow.

And, even if you’ve just bought a new truck, one pre-wired for towing, you will still need to double check that the wiring is adequate enough to run both your truck lights and the trailer lights. You can’t always count on that to be true.

8. Visibility

Visibility can be a challenge when you’re towing something behind you. You can’t see the other vehicles as well, and they may not see your truck as well, either. Lights, including brake lights and turn signals, are even more crucial in these circumstances, so make sure that all are in good working order.

9. Mirrors

Consider using extended towing mirrors for increased visibility. You can choose replacement mirrors or wide-angle clip-on mirrors, so test options out to see what works best. Extended mirrors are especially valuable when towing a wide vehicle.

Note: because you’re carrying a heavier load, it will take longer to accelerate so be very aware of that if planning to pass another vehicle. Here are options for your towing mirrors.

10. Fluids

Check and replace fluids more often, including motor oil. The added weight inherent in towing adds stress to the towing vehicle, causing it to run hotter than normal.

Choose products carefully. Synthetic oil, although more expensive, has no carbon—and therefore can’t leave carbon deposits on your pistons or in the combustion chamber as regular motor oil can. It also makes sense to use synthetic transmission fluid.

Also check and change filters often for optimal performance.


Bonus towing information:

The most important element in safe towing is you, the driver, so make sure that you:

  • Get enough rest before starting to tow
  • Feel confident backing up while the object being towed is attached; practice before starting on the road
  • Take breaks when necessary to rest if going for a long haul
  • Take turns more slowly when towing
  • Leave enough safe distance for braking
  • Have a fully stocked emergency kit with you at all times
  • Have the right hand tools, specialty tools and work gloves that you need for unexpected repairs

What tips would you add to our list? Leave a comment below! 

We Have It Pretty Good: Road Trips, Then and Now

Winding dirt road

Source | Unsplash

When people think of a summer road trip, they often imagine beautiful sunshine, pristine beaches, a cool drink in the shade. Stuff like that. The first-ever coast-to-coast road trip, though, (kicked off on May 23, 1903) was anything but relaxing.

First coast-to-coast American road trip

According to the National Museum of American History and National Geographic, two travelers–H. Nelson Jackson, a doctor and businessman, and mechanic Sewall K. Crocke–needed to deal with plenty of challenges and car troubles during their 63-day trip (from San Francisco to New York) in a 1903 Winton.

First was the lack of roads. On their trip, fewer than 150 miles of roadway had been constructed–and that was out of a nearly 3,000-mile journey–and bridges didn’t always exist over the waterways. Plus, there were no gas stations, so the pair needed to find general stores along the way to buy fuel. And they also needed lots of patience, as their average rate of speed was only four miles per hour.

Horatio Jackson Nelson driving a 1903 Winton

Horatio Jackson Nelson in his 1903 Winton, Source | Wikimedia

Then, there was the mud. Lots and lots of mud. In fact, some areas were so bad that Jackson and Crocker needed to use a block and tackle system to get their vehicle out of the sludge. On the flip side, there was also dust, which got to be so overwhelming that the dog that accompanied them, Bud the bulldog, needed to wear goggles. (The reason the dust was so bad: the men needed to remove the cloth roof of the car to make room for their luggage! That couldn’t have been comfortable on rainy days.)

Their car would break down and, when it did, there were no convenient auto repair shops nearby. Instead, the duo needed to contact the car factory by telegraph and have the factory ship them parts by train. Seriously.

Plus there was the cost, which was a staggering $8,000 for the vehicle, gasoline, hotel rooms, food and the like. According to a calculator provided by a governmental site, $8,000 in the year 1913 would equal $188,238.38 today.

Oh, and do you want to know why they took this trip? Because someone bet them $50 that a car couldn’t complete a coast-to-coast journey. But, on August 1, 1903, Jackson and Crocker won that bet, making the net cost of the trip in today’s dollars only $187,061.89.

More about the Winton

According to Cleveland Historical, the Winton Motor Carriage Company was formed on March 15, 1897 with each individual vehicle made by hand. These were luxury vehicles, with elaborately painted sides, gas lamps, cushy padded seats and more. In a May 1897 test drive, their 40-horsepower vehicle got up to an astonishing 33.64 miles per hour.

In 1898, these cars were in great demand and more than 100 of them sold in that year alone. In fact, this company kept selling cars until 1924, when it simply couldn’t compete with the prices offered by Henry Ford.

Modern road tripping

Road tripping today may not be as challenging as back then. We have gas stations, for one thing, and bridges. And roads. But it can still be an adventure, and not always the good kind. To ensure your journey is more hurrah and less hassle, use our car maintenance checklist. To make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible before you head out for your vacation, check out this helpful infographic for more tips.

Heading out for a trip soon? Tell us about it in the comment section.

Top Tips for a Better, Safer Road Trip

Four friends consulting map on the side of the road

You might want to pull over before consulting the map!

Experts estimate that over 34 million people travel 50 miles or more by car over the July 4 weekend. That’s on top of 30 million Americans who hit the road on Memorial Day weekend! So, it seems as though we like to road trip around America. Before we can start enjoying that fun in the sun though, we have to actually make it there. So here are four tips to ensure a successful road trip.

1. Don’t rely on GPS exclusively

Whether on your phone, dash, or built-in display, GPS is great for directing us exactly where we want to be. When it works. GPS can and does make mistakes. It can direct us to a “road” that’s more suited for a four-wheel drive vehicle (or goat) or even closed due to snow. The GPS signals also can fail in areas without cell phone coverage, if satellites malfunction or their signal is blocked, or if your device’s battery dies. So check your route ahead of time, carry a portable charger, and take along an old-school map if you’re heading somewhere remote.

You can also download areas in Google Maps on your phone before you leave. It’s a handy trick that’s saved us in rural areas or when traveling in different countries.

2. Keep tabs on vehicle maintenance

You know how to take care of your vehicle, and you know what needs to be done to ensure it’s always in top running condition. But, do you remember exactly what you did, were supposed to do or meant to do, and when? Say you meant to change the timing belt around the 100,000-mile mark. But the weather was still bone-chilling cold so you put off the job for a couple months. You’re only human, which is why you can’t trust your memory exclusively.

Instead, keep a detailed vehicle maintenance log. Record the type of maintenance performed, when it was done, and when future maintenance is due. Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s suggested maintenance intervals.

3. Prepare for the unexpected

Stuff happens, even with the best laid plans. You’re almost on empty, but there’s a cheaper gas station just over the border. You know you always have a can of Fix-A-Flat in your emergency kit, so why bother checking the spare tire air pressure? What could possibly go wrong? Just enough to turn your fun road trip into a migraine. The gas station could be out of gas, or out of business. You could experience two flat tires at the same time and only have one can of emergency tire inflator. No matter what your plan is, or how good it seems, always have a reliable backup plan.

4. Trust your intuition

That “gut feeling” is more than just a hunch. Research shows that intuition is actually our subconscious mind’s way of storing, retrieving, and processing information. This helps us avoid potentially harmful or dangerous situations. Maybe you don’t like the look of the single lane road ahead or the neighborhood you’re driving through or even the threatening sky. Perhaps something (other than your GPS or co-pilot) is telling you you’re traveling in the wrong direction. Trust your intuition, but listen to the other passengers in your vehicle too. They might see something you don’t because you’re focused on driving conditions.

By knowing what to trust, and what not to trust, you can enjoy your spring break destination and the journey there, instead of sitting at home, cursing Old Man Winter, or on the side of the road, cursing your flat tires.


If you’re one of those determined drivers hitting the road this summer, check out our infographic below for more helpful tips.

Advance Auto Parts

Download your own copy of Rules for Road Trips. Feel free to share with friends and family.

How do you prepare yourself and your vehicle for a road trip? Tell us all about it.