published Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Road ready?: Get car checked before starting vacation

Tyler Abercrombie, a certified technician, works under the hood of a truck at Valvoline Oil Change in East Ridge.
Tyler Abercrombie, a certified technician, works under the hood of a truck at Valvoline Oil Change in East Ridge.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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    Assistant manager Kristina Williams works under a truck at Valvoline Oil Change in East Ridge.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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    Area manager Josh Headrick checks under the hood of a car at Valvoline Oil Change in East Ridge.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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    Tim Fuller, a service center manager, talks with a customer at Valvoline Oil Change in East Ridge.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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VEHICLE CHECKLIST

* Battery: Make sure it has plenty of life left for your trip.

* Tires: They should have plenty of tread and be in balance. Rotate if needed. Don’t forget to check the spare as well.

* Belts, hoses and the engine coolant

* Oil levels: If you’ll be due for an oil change during your trip, do it before you leave.

* Air and fuel filters: Make sure they’re clean.

* Lights: Your headlights, brake lights and blinkers should be working, and deal with any maintenance lights that might be on.

Source: Express Oil Change & Service Center

THINGS TO PACK FOR THE RIDE

• Cellphone and charger (like you’d ever leave home without it)

• Tire-changing tools

• Tire sealant/inflation tools

• Your car’s owner’s manual

• Duct tape and WD-40 (between the two, you can fix anything)

• A map with your route marked in case you lose GPS.

• Easily found emergency contact information should the unthinkable happen.

Safety supplies include:

• First-aid kit

• Bottled water and emergency food

• A weather radio (don’t depend on your smartphone)

• A working flashlight

You’ve spent months planning that spring break trip to Florida, making lists of what to take, where you will stay, who will be traveling with you and what you will do when you get there. But did you remember to have your car serviced?

You can’t prevent all road hazards of course, but getting stranded on the highway miles from the beach is a sure way to put the brakes on your vacation fun. You were trying to leave all your stress behind, remember?

While some schools have already held spring break, others will be doing so in the coming weeks, and summer vacations are just around the corner. Whether you will be traveling with the family or your besties from high school or college, making sure the vehicle will get there is as important as deciding whose playlist you will be listening to.

Brent Whitley, owner of Whitley Auto Service in Dalton, Ga., has seen his share of travelers from the north on the way to Florida in his shop. The breakdowns range from dead batteries to bad alternators to blown engines. Even replacing something as relatively simple as an alternator can cost you some time in the sand.

“We can usually turn an alternator replacement in a day, but that is a day out of your vacation,” he says.

Whitley recommends that anyone planning a trip, spring break or not, should have the car checked for all of the usual things like fluids, brakes, battery, alternator and tires.

Shawn Whitfield, vice president of Whitfield Oil, the distributor for Valvoline Instant Oil Change service centers in East Tennessee, North Georgia and Alabama, says all the services one might need can be done in about 15 or 20 minutes at one of the Valvoline stores.

“It’s a complete maintenance check and one of the things Valvoline prides itself on is they have a computer system that has all the manufacturers’ recommendations for every make and model. It tells you when the coolant should be changed or transmission or differential. They only do services that the manufacturer recommends.”

It’s also a good idea to look over your route before leaving the driveway. It always helps to have an idea of where you are going rather than relying solely on the pleasant voice on your GPS. And who wants to listen to that for 10 straight hours?

While you’re at it, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your car’s owner’s manual if you haven’t already. Figure out where the spare tire and jack are and how to use them.

Also locate the fuse box. Sometimes the fix can be as easy as replacing a blown fuse. You can buy a variety pack at most places where you also buy gas and supplies.

Knowing how to fix these things ahead of time can save trying to figure it out while pulled over on the freeway.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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