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When the car is running and the engine is warm, take a sniff: If you smell something sickly sweet, you likely have a coolant leak. If you see green or yellow streaks on the engine-oil dipstick, the odds are even higher. Get it checked out.
Take your vehicle in for an oil change. Have the brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant strength and power-steering fluid checked.
3. Belt, hoses and timing belt
Make sure belts, hoses and – if you have one – the timing belt are in top shape; an overheated engine or loss of power steering may bring your trip to a screeching halt.
Get your battery checked. It’s cheaper to pay for a new battery than for both a tow truck and a new battery.
Keep your fuel tank above half-full to prevent condensation from forming, as it could lead to a frozen fuel line.
6. Air filter
Clean your cabin’s air filter. A clogged filter restricts airflow and makes it hard to defog your windows.
Clean your windshield inside and out, and replace worn wiper blades (one-piece blades offer the best performance). Also top up your winter washer fluid and fix any broken traces in your rear window defroster.
It’s cheap to get your brakes checked. The mechanic will also look at the whole braking system, including the master cylinder, calipers, wheel cylinders and brake lines.
9. Snow and frost
Clear the car of snow before driving. Snow affects how well you see and how much fuel you burn. Also scrape frost off instead of waiting for the car to melt it. Until the car gets warm, frost will just create a smeary mess.
10. Flat tires
Could you fix a flat? Check the spare tire and any release mechanisms (particularly if the tire is stored on the outside of or underneath the vehicle). Do you have all the tools (a jack and cranking mechanism, tire wrench and tire gauge)? If not, stock up on these essentials or consider joining the Canadian Automobile Association.
11. Exterior lights
Do the brake lights work? Turn signals? Reverse lights? Are your headlight covers a little grubby? A body shop can polish them back to nearly new condition, which will improve your lighting considerably.
Don’t put heavy items above the seat backs, where they can become projectiles.
Tires need two things to work properly: tread and air. To check the tread’s depth, stick the head side of a quarter into it. If you can see all of the Queen’s noggin, you need new tires. Travelling somewhere with ice and snow? Two words: winter tires.
14. Kids' items
Designate a place for kids to keep their belongings to prevent them from flying around. Give kids a colourful blanket to sit on; it’s easier to launder than a seat. And tidy frequently: Toys and juice containers can be dangerous if they roll into the driver’s foot well.
|This story was originally titled "Road Trip!" in the March 2013 issue.|
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