BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD
Where the rubber meets the road —
Step one: Check the tread on your tires. You can use the “penny test” for this: put a penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the top of his head, you need new tires.
Step two: Check the tire pressure. Use the recommended number from that sticker on the driver’s door frame (or in your owner’s manual). A lot of us drive on underinflated tires, which is not only bad for your gas mileage — in summer heat, that can spell b-l-o-w-o-u-t. If your car has a spare tire, check the pressure on that too.
Stay hydrated —
Check all the fluids in your car: your radiator should have a mix of water AND antifreeze (because in the heat, antifreeze works as coolant) — and that mix should be clean and full. Also check the oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering and windshield washer fluid (and yes, if any of those are low, fill ‘em up).
I can see clearly now —
So you’ve made sure your windshield wiper fluid is topped up — now make sure your windshield wipers are working well. Winter can be hard on wiper blades, so test them out at home before you get into a summer thunderstorm and discover you can’t see.
Oh snap —
And just in case something DOES go wrong when you get out on the road, save a little room in the trunk for an emergency kit. Good to have items include: a charger for your phone (well, plus your phone), a flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, duct tape (for everything!), food and water, maps (in case the phone doesn’t work), blankets (for cold summer nights, depending on where you are).
As always, if you’re the mechanically-inclined type, you can do all this yourself. And if you are not, that’s what why we have mechanics. What matters is checking everything out, not who does the checking.