A summer vacation is a big change, going somewhere else, “living” somewhere else, seeing and doing things you can’t do at home.
It is also a big change for your vehicle. No 10- or 15-minute quick errands around town. No stop-start-stop-starts. No inching along or idling in traffic. No 45-minute commutes. Vacation means long runs at higher speeds between “pit stops.” Hours at a time with the air conditioner running. Different traffic, terrain and road conditions. Is your vehicle ready for the change?
Here are the 8 most common roadside failures as compiled by Consumer Reports–
- An old or flat battery
- Worn tires
- Drive belt / Serpentine belt
- Alternator going bad
- Starter past it’s life
- Bad spark plugs / ignition coils
- Leaking or split cooling hoses
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention……. In many cases, regular maintenance and inspections would save you from almost all of the above roadside breakdowns. Of course, there is no guarantee your car will never break down, but there is a lot you can do to point the odds in your favor. There are three key points you can learn that will greatly help you keep an eye on your vehicle and it’s exactly what I teach my kids when they start to drive. They may be basic, but they are fundamental to the health of a car, truck, or SUV; Sound, Sight, and Smell.
You drive your car almost daily and you quickly become accustom to how the vehicle sounds. Start to pay close attention to noise the car makes when you start it up in the morning, notice how fast it seems to run, how loud it is when cold. Learn the normal operating sounds your car makes when driving on the highway, in traffic, or in different weather conditions. This will be one of your first lines of defense if your car develops a problem. Do you ever hear squeaks, squeals, or buzzing sounds? Has your car began to make weird or strange noises? These sounds don’t just go away and usually will get worse, they are indicators that your car has a problem.
Another tool to keep your car in top shape is a quick visual inspection both under the hood and around the vehicle. Before one of your belts goes bad, it most definitely will give you visual cues. Learn a few key components of the engine so you know what looks normal and what may be a problem. Study the main hoses on the engine and make notes of wires, etc. You don’t have to be a mechanic or expert here, you just want to be able to know when something is amiss or out of place. Recently my son’s radiator hose split but he was unable to see the visual signs. It only took me a second to see the hose looked strange and misshapen. This right here could of saved a lot of frustration over the phone when he called. Same goes for your tires, or bodywork of the car. Your tires will give you ample notice of wear and tear if you check them on a regular basis.
Similar to Sound, get to know the normal smell of your car. You will be able to quickly tell of a looming problem if you can distinguish a burning smell coming from the engine. Leaking oil burning on a hot part of the engine has a very unique smell and as with most leaks, they start small. Knowing when something is out of the ordinary has a direct correlation on how much money you can save yourself in repairs. Just like burning oil has a certain scent, leaking coolant also has its own smell. Have you ever walked by a vehicle and smelled a warm, faint, sweet scent? This was most likely coolant leaking. Once again, a little preventive investigation could stop you being stranded out of state on your road trip.
The second part of this equation is having a good partner in maintaining your vehicle for the long haul. That’s where Autobahn comes in! Are you planning a long road trip or sending your older Mercedes off to collage with one of the kids? Now is the time to get a through inspection to stave off any major break downs later and vacation planning is the perfect time to do an annual service.
Besides saving money, there is another very important reason to get your vehicle inspected: safety. On long road trips, you’re driving 4-5 hours at operating temperature. The temperature is staying higher for a longer period. That puts extra stress on belts, water pump, brakes. The true test of any vehicle is prolonged freeway driving with a full car and the A/C blasting! An inspection covers all vehicle systems, visible and internal, such as oil and other fluids, transmission, brakes, tires, engine compartment, undercarriage, suspension, and the all-important diagnostics for “trouble codes” indicated by the vehicle’s complex system of sensors.
Here at Autobahn, we can perform a general inspection that can offer some “cheap insurance” against breakdowns that can easily ruin any vacation. Each inspection includes a personal review with the vehicles owner, detailed inspections, and a long term plan for the car if one is needed. We also measure the break pad thickness, tire tread, and condition of fluids and belts. By being proactive we can classify and issues found as high priority or something that can be scheduled down the road. Our inspections can also help you make decisions on how long you may want to own the car and make continual investments in to the vehicle. One big goal here at Autobahn is to get the most life out of your BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi.