■ Metro Service / Contributed
For many traveling enthusiasts, few things are more enticing than the open road. Road trips have long been popular, and that popularity appears to be on the rise.
According to a report from MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm, road trips represented 39 percent of vacations taken by United States travelers in 2016. Road trips also remain popular in Canada, where vast, rugged terrain makes for idyllic trips.
Before embarking on road trips, motorists would be wise to inspect their vehicles to ensure their getaways are not derailed by car troubles.
Brake fluid: Squeaky brakes are not the only potential indicator of brake problems. Brake fluid, which should always be topped off before beginning a road trip, also might shed light on potentially serious problems. According to the National Motorists Association, brake fluid looks honey-like and translucent when fresh. A puddle beneath a vehicle that is clear to brown and slick indicates a brake fluid leak, which can ultimately lead to a complete failure of the brakes. The NMA recommends brake fluid be changed at least once every three to four years.
Transmission fluid: When fresh, transmission fluid is red, darkening over time. However, transmission fluid should never appear brown or black, which indicates potential internal damage to the transmission. To determine if there are any issues with the transmission fluid, the NMA recommends drivers wipe a cool dipstick between their thumb and index finger. If even the slightest bit of grit is felt when wiping the dipstick, the transmission is likely in need of work.
Oil: Drivers should change their vehicles’ oil before embarking on road trips, especially if such trips will be lengthy. The NMA notes that fresh oil is light to dark amber and translucent, and that is how oil typically looks immediately after an oil change. Oil darkens over time, and that is natural (black oil indicates it’s time for an oil change). However, oil that appears cloudy or milky indicates that coolant is getting into the oil, perhaps due to gasket problems. Drivers who are not getting their vehicle oil changed before a road trip should at least check their oil before leaving to inspect the color of the oil and ensure the vehicle has enough oil.
Windshield washer fluid: The unknown of the open road is part of what makes it so appealing. While many roadtrippers plan their trips during the summer and fall when the weather tends to be both pleasant and predictable, there’s no guarantee inclement weather won’t rear its ugly head. Filling the windshield washer fluid reservoir before embarking on a trip ensures drivers’ visibility won’t be adversely affected by unforeseen issues that can soil windshields.
Checking fluids before embarking on a road trip can help drivers avoid breakdowns and ensure a safe, fun trip.