10 Safety Checks for Stress-Free Holiday Travels

Before you hop in the car to your weekend getaway, make sure you’ve taken the time ahead of time, to check your entire vehicle for safe operating conditions. Nothing can ruin a vacation quicker than a stalled car, accident or other issue that results in time spent at the garage instead of at the lake!

  1. Tires: Check your tires to determine if there are any obvious conditions that would make them unsafe, e.g., cuts, bulges, uneven tread wear, questionable inflation level and inadequate tread depth. Check tire pressure with a tire gauge and fill as necessary.
  2. Lights: All lights should be checked to determine if they operate properly.  Remember to check brake lights, backup lights and turn signals.
  3. Exhaust System:  Visually check to determine if all parts are present and that they are safely attached to the vehicle. Operationally, the exhaust system may be checked by briefly holding a pliable object (such as a rag) over the end of the exhaust pipe to obstruct the flow of exhaust. If back pressure is felt on the object while it is held in place and no hissing or whistling is heard in other parts of the exhaust system, it is reasonable to assume that the exhaust system is working. However, if little or no pressure is felt on the object blocking the exhaust pipe and/or exhaust gases can be heard escaping from other parts of the system, the vehicle should be examined by a qualified technician. Caution should be used when checking exhaust systems, as exhaust gases and the system components may be very hot and can cause injury.
  4. Glass: Check all glass to determine if it is in good condition, free of chips, cracks, and breaks. Windows should also be free of obstructions that would inhibit your ability to see out of the vehicle when driving. Door windows should be operational, especially the driver’s door.
  5. Battery: New car batteries usually need replacing by the time they hit their fourth year, or about when most new-car warranties end. If the car sits outside in extreme weather, it could die sooner. Best you can expect is five or six years, says Yourmechanic.com. A dead battery means your car won’t start, possibly leaving you stranded in an unsafe place or situation.
  6. Leaks: Look for puddles under the vehicle. While it may be harmless condensation, particularly with new vehicles, it could also be brake fluid, antifreeze or transmission fluid.  If you are unsure, take it into the shop for a looksee.
  7. Windshield Wipers: Check windshield wipers to determine if they are functional. Remember to check the back wiper, if applicable. The blades should be in good condition, free of loose or missing blade surface. The vehicle’s washer system should also be tested to determine if it is functional.
  8. Fluids: Check all fluid levels.  Dust that accumulates on the windshield can suddenly become a hazard if you can’t see clearly and this is no time to discover your windshield wiper fluid is out! Also check brake fluids, transmission fluid, coolant and oil.
  9. Body: The body of the vehicle should be checked to determine that all required components are firmly attached, operating and on the vehicle e.g. fenders, hood, bumpers, etc.  
  10. Steering: New cars have dashboard warning lights, but older cars can develop steering problems over time. Cars with non-electric power steering can leak fluids or make noise if the belt is loose or worn, so if your steering wheel squeals, have it checked.