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Plan Ahead to Avoid Holiday Travel Driving Disasters


The weather outside is, indeed, frightful. But tis the season, so we are gathering together with family and friends for the holidays. But first, we have to get there. With a little forethought, you can make the trip a lot more enjoyable and hassle-free. Even if you’ve put it off, a quick half-hour checking your car can bring peace of mind. 

Check the vitals

First thing to do is crack the books, in this case, your vehicle’s owner’s manual. This is your bible for your ride’s automotive maintenance. Next, check your receipts. If it’s been too long since a mechanic did a check under hood, now may be the time. Check your fluids, including brake, transmission, coolant and oil, replacing or topping off any as needed. Check out your engine’s rubber bits, replacing any dried-out or cracked hoses and belts. 

Be sure to check your fluids before leaving.

Next, examine your tires, as nothing else affects your vehicle’s handling more. If you have a hybrid or electric car, odds are you have low rolling resistance tires with traction that may not be optimal for snowy conditions. If you haven’t already, swap them out for a pair of winter tires if you’re heading to snowy climes. 

If you’re satisfied with the type of tires on your vehicle, start by taking a penny and placing it upside down into several places in the tread to measure its depth. If you can see the top of Abe Lincoln’s head, the tire the tire needs replaced. Additionally, look at the tread’s condition. A tire is under-inflated if both of its edges are worn. It’s overinflated if the tread is worn in the middle. Check the suspension and steering systems if you see cups or dips in the tread.

Finally, make sure each tire is properly inflated. The proper inflation is posted on the driver’s side front door jamb on newer cars and trucks, not the tire itself. Also, make sure your vehicle’s spare tire is properly inflated and usable. Be sure to check the date code to make sure it’s not too old to safely use and is not cracked or worn. 

While you’re at it, confirm that all your lights and turn signals work so that other drivers can see you. 

Come clean

Clean your car before you head out to make the trip more pleasent.

Make sure all accumulated garbage has been removed from the car before you and your loved ones embark on a long road trip. Vacuum all upholstered surfaces, including the headliner, the rear-parcel shelf, and underneath the seats. Wipe the dashboard off with a mild cleaner.

After cleaning the seats with a leather cleaner or a gentle leather cleaner, condition the leather. Spray window cleaner onto your towel and then use it to clean the glass. Mist won’t fall across your spotless dashboard this way. To prevent streaky glass, finish with a second dry cloth. Then, make a quick trip through the car wash to clean the exterior. 

What to take

Odds are you probably already have an emergency road kit, including jumper cables, road flares, flashlight and a first aid kit. Don’t have one? They’re readily available at auto parts stores. You also might want to take a long a portable air compressor to re-inflate tires at your convenience. In colder climes, you also may want to pack a blanket and non-perishable food and water, in case you get stranded. 

Of course, you’ll also want items to help pack items to help pass time, such as a tablet or laptop computer. But you might want to augment it with other items, such as DVDs.

If you have children, bring along their favorite toys and books, along with a goodie bag to reward good behavior. Packing pillows and blankets for naps ­is always a good idea, as you’ll want a bit of peace and quiet. 

And this may sound obvious, but don’t forget your driver’s license, vehicle registration and auto and medical insurance cards. And of course, you’re taking a mobile phone with car charger.

Time to load up

When packing the car, remember that you might have to unpack it to reach the spare tire.

When packing your automobile, keep heavy goods as close to the middle of the vehicle as you can for the best weight distribution and handling. To prevent passengers from being hit during a panic stop, secure unsecured objects. Also, keep in mind that you might need to reach the spare tire. Don’t make it difficult to get to. 

Finally, avoid overloading your vehicle. The owner’s manual lists its maximum load capacity, known as the gross vehicle weight, including passengers and luggage. However you pack the car, be sure to keep a clear line of sight from the driver’s seat. This can be mitigated somewhat if your car has a review camera mirror.   

Other things to consider

For those not travelling with you, make sure to leave a copy of your planned trip itinerary, so they can find you in an emergency.

Also, if you’re using a navigation system, whether it’s in your car’s multimedia system or on your smartphone, it’s a good idea to enter your destinations ahead of time. And check your route to ensure there aren’t any road closures. 

If you’re driving an EV, cold weather can reduce your range by as much as 30%. Be sure to plan where you intend to recharge and how quickly the station can recharge your ride.

Finally, carry a spare set of vehicle keys, and if you’re older, your doctor’s phone number and any prescriptions that you might need.

With a little forethought, your Christmas vacation can be hassle free.


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