AAA: Have a SAFETRIP This Summer
By Matt Schmitz
on June 4, 2013
With summer road-trip season at full throttle now, AAA is offering some travel tips to help ensure you have a SAFETRIP. The acronym reminds motorists of the essential tasks they should perform before they take a long trip, as 31 million Americans already did over Memorial Day weekend — a quarter million of whom found themselves in need of roadside assistance.
AAA expects to help nearly 8 million more road trippers by Labor Day, and heeding the roadside-assistance provider's advice could help prevent your needing its services.
The tenets of a SAFETRIP are as follows:
- Service your battery. AAA expects to service nearly 1.6 million motorists with dead batteries, as summer heat breaks down car batteries internally and accelerates corrosion on the terminals. Have a technician test batteries that are more than 3 years old.
- Air conditioning check. If you have noticed a decrease in your car's cooling capability, have your air conditioning checked to ensure your trip will be no sweat.
- Fluids for windshield washer and wipers. Rain, insects and other grime on a windshield compromise the driver's visibility. If your wipers leave streaks or can't clear the windshield in a single swipe, replace them. Also, top off your windshield-washer fluid and make sure spray nozzles are working properly.
- Emergency roadside kit. Update your kit every season; it should include a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, drinking water, extra food, battery booster cables and emergency flares or reflectors.
- Tire inflation and condition. Check tire pressure, including that of the spare, with a quality gauge when your tires are cool and the car has not been driven recently, ensuring they are inflated to the manufacturer-recommended level. Also inspect tread depth and overall tire condition.
- Regular maintenance. Perform scheduled maintenance activities before your trip, as 3.5 million travelers will require towing for repair.
- Inspect under the hood (belts, hoses and fluids). Replace cracked, glazed or frayed accessory belts, as well as coolant hoses that are visibly worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump; also check engine coolant, oil and brake, transmission and power-steering fluids.
- Prepare and plan ahead. Chart out driving routes, reserve accommodations in advance, be prepared for busy roads during peak travel times, appoint a designated phone user to avoid distracted driving and stop every 100 miles or two hours to prevent fatigue.
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News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt