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The family car plays a major role in the lives of most families. It gets us to work, hauls our groceries, provides emergency transportation when accidents happen, and can transport us far away when vacation season rolls around. To insure proper operation we change the oil, rotate the tires, and perform all the other scheduled maintenance we need to…right? So how do you make sure the family car keeps us off the side of the road AND helps us keep our sanity? These nine tips will help (plus print the checklist below).
A few weeks ago we took our girls out to the woods to explore nature. Pulling out of the driveway I got that familiar anxiety that rises whenever we leave for a family trip.
Did we pack everything we need? Yes, we checked everything off the packing list.
Did we unplug the appliances (yes, we do that) and lock all the doors? Yes, we double- and triple-checked.
Is the family car ready for the trip? Yes, we ran through the list for preparing the family car for vacation.
9 point pre-road trip car care checklist for families
First and foremost you’re going to go need to stock up on your basics. So you can head to your local Wal-Mart. While you’re there, in the auto section, you will find FRAM Extra Guard Air Filters. Because air filters are your car engine’s first line of defense, you want to make sure you’re protected for the upcoming road trip. Plus, dirty air filters restrict airflow which means reduced overall performance.
You’ll easily be able to identify which FRAM filter you need by looking it up in store based on your car’s make and model.
Confirm rear air conditioning is working.
Hot children are not fun to be around. Checking rear A/C can be as simple as confirming that you have rear AC vents and that they work.
If the answer to either is no, there are a multitude of products that can move cool air from the front of the cabin to the rear where the kids are. If you need to, buy a fan that fits into your cigarette lighter.
Change your air conditioner filters.
These filters sit behind the glove box in most cars and are absolutely disgusting by the time most vehicle owners think to replace them. However, they are easy to access and replace and make a huge difference in airflow, especially if you’ve never changed it and/or are experiencing poor airflow in your A/C. I’ve known people that have nearly taken their cars to professionals to get their A/C serviced only to discover that their vent filter is full of shells, lint, dust, and dirt.
Store extra water in the trunk.
Extra water is amazing in it’s utility. Beyond thirst, it can be used to top off the radiator or fill up the windshield wiper reservoir. However washing grimy hands and faces, filling sippy bottles, and rinsing out travel potties (which are AWESOME) are other solid uses of your extra water stash.
Changing out the air intake filter on a car is the least invasive piece of maintenance you will EVER have to do!
Even adding air to your tires or topping off the oil in your engine are significantly more difficult and messy.
However, changing the air filter with your new FRAM extra guard filter is a very important part of maintaining your car. It gets you to open the hood and actually look at what’s happening under there! Plus, it removes one of the most obvious places for airflow restrition and better allows your car perform better.
Most I’ve replaced have sat in an air box held shut by between three and five small, hex head screws. You only need some simple tools and less time than it would take to drink a cup of coffee to get it done. Most screwdriver bit sets include one or two magnetic bit holder that fit over hex head screws perfectly. Simply unscrew, swap out the filter, and replace the screws. The results have always been surprising and it takes less than 5 minutes!
Fill tires to proper air pressure.
I’ll position the middle of my car as close to the pump as possible and pre-pull the hose to the furthest tire. I like to have all caps off and always make sure I know the pressure I intend to fill to (Max fill PSI printed on rubber on the side of the tire). Most fill station nozzles include a pressure gauge, but it doesn’t hurt to have your own.
Cinch in carseats & align kid’s mirrors.
When I tighten the kids in their carseats I have a tendency to heave more stongly than I ought to. As a result, our car seats are in constant disarray, leaning too far backward or having to much side-to-side play. Tightening them and insuring they sit at the correct angle provides some peace of mind.
I’ve also noticed that my kids behave better and enjoy themselves more when they can see both their parents in the front seat. And since they’re rear-facing, we have those mirrors that go on the headrest, but they’re constantly needing to be adjusted.
Check spare tire/jack.
Each vehicle has a different location for mounting the spare tire; they’re usually under the floor of the trunk but I’ve also had them in the plastic panels along the inside of the trunk. Familiarize yourself with the type of tire (spare or full-size) and whether you’ll need a can of compressed air to fill the tire; failing to pack an appropriate inflation product can leave you stranded even AFTER you’ve jacked the car up and changed the tire yourself.
Record the number for roadside assistance.
These are twenty stickers your insurance company sends you that contain the number to call when you’re stranded and/or need help. I have a penchant for filing these stickers in a file cabinet along with my insurance policy…not very helpful. When I do remember to adhere the phone numbers inside the vehicle I neglect to update them despite changing insurance carriers several times.
Clean inside of windshield and confirm absence of cracks/chips.
My windshield always has a haze on the inside from being a daily driver and being parked outside. But when I clean the inside of the glass before a trip I’m always so impressed at the resulting clarity that I promise myself to do it more often.
Noting the location and severity of any damage or defect to the windshield is also very helpful. Most chips can be filled free of charge by local glass installers (paid for by your insurance). I can still recall driving through the snow covered mountains with the defrost on full-blast and being jolted by the sound of the windshield cracking lengthwise due to the significant temperature variations across the glass. Inspecting it later, there were several very small rock chips/stars that the crack bisected.
What car maintenance do you do before hitting the road?