A Car-ful Passion

Inspecting Your Vehicle before Going on Vacation

There are a few basic items that you should check before taking a long trip to summer fun, just simple maintenance inspections that you can do yourself.

First things first-securing the hood

When working with your vehicle's hood raised, make sure that it is secured properly. After releasing the hood latch, lift the hood with your right arm and you will notice a round metal rod to the right of the engine. Lift the end of the rod and place it in the slot on the inside of the hood. Lower the hood gently until the rod holds the hood in place.

Now you are ready to begin your inspection. Items to check include


A dead battery can cause your vehicle to fail to start, or to fail altogether and stop in the middle of a busy highway. Look at the terminals on the top of your battery. If they are covered with a white-powered residue, it is corrosion that must be removed. Corrosion will interfere with the battery's ability to to recharge.

Using an adjustable wrench, loosen the nuts that hold your battery cable clamps in place. Lift the clamps from the terminals, and clean both the terminals and the inside of the clamps with a piece of fine grade sandpaper( you can use an emery board if you don't have any sandpaper on hand but believe in good grooming). Replace the clamps and tighten the nuts.


Your oil dipstick is located in front of the engine. You will need a paper towel to check your oil using the dipstick, because you will need to withdraw it once to clean it and again to check the oil level.

Your vehicle must be turned off and on level ground to get a proper reading. Pull your dipstick out by the small ring at the end and wipe it clean, then reinsert it fully. Pull it out again and hold it horizontally level.

You will see two arrows facing each other. If your oil level is between these two arrows, it is fine. If it is below the lower arrow, you must add at least one quart of the grade of oil recommended in your vehicle's maintenance guide. Check the oil again, and if more is needed, add it gradually. Overfilling the oil can cause gaskets to break when the oil heats and expands.


Your cooling system has a plastic reservoir tank that sits to the right front area of the engine. If you look at the side of the plastic tank, you will see both "full" and "low" settings. If your coolant is at the low setting or below it, add coolant specified by your vehicle's maintenance guide. Don't use a cheaper lower grade type of coolant, or your vehicle may overheat and break down.

Hoses and belts

Both hoses and belts should be supple and soft to the touch, without cracks or visible wear. Belts should flex a slight amount when pushed down, but shouldn't be loose or brittle. Hoses should have no visible bulges, or have slight cuts at the locations of the metal clamps that hold them in place.

If you have any doubts about your vehicle's ability to handle a long trip, have it checked professionally at a auto repair facility like Integrity Auto and Truck.