You should perform a simple inspection of your vehicle before you hit the open road for spring break. Individual components may have been compromised by winter weather, and basic maintenance may have been ignored, so it's important to be sure that your vehicle is up to the task of a road trip.
How To Check for Damage From Winter Weather
Cold temperatures, ice, snow, and road salt can all cause damage to important components of your vehicle, especially if your vehicle has been exposed to extreme temperature or weather.
Cold weather can kill your battery or weaken it to a point that it cannot hold a full charge. Corrosion may also form on the battery's two terminals and inside the clamps that secure the cables to the battery.
You will need an adjustable wrench to remove the cable clamps from the battery. You will remove the clamp to the positive terminal of the battery (look for the + sign) before removing the cable to the negative terminal.
Remove any ashy white corrosion from the terminals and clamps with sandpaper. You can take the battery to an auto parts store to have it tested at no charge. You can then restore the cables if testing finds the battery to be sound.
Hoses and Belts
Severe winter weather can cause rubber hoses and belts to become cracked and brittle. Hoses and belts should be supple yet firm, with no visible bubbles in the hoses or cracks in the belts. A worn belt may appear shiny on the interior surface from friction or emit a shrieking sound when the vehicle is started.
Damaged belts or hoses are a ticking time bomb for a breakdown on a long drive, so a visit to an auto care center may be required if any hose or belt looks worn or damaged.
Wiper blades are particularly vulnerable to damage in winter. Ice, snow, and road salt on the windshield can render them ineffective. Your wipers shouldn't streak, smear, or jump across your windshield when in operation, or flutter up and down when the wipers are turned off.
You will need to buy wiper blades that are properly sized for your vehicle, and when you change the blades, be sure to fill your windshield washer reservoir. Take any remaining washer fluid with you on your road trip, because you'll probably need it.
Tires and Wheels
Your tires and wheels may have taken a beating from potholes created by severe winter weather. Look for gashes or bubbles in the sidewalls of your tires and rim damage that may cause tires to lose air on the road.
You may need to have a front end alignment performed at a local auto service center if you feel that you must maintain constant vigilance to keep your vehicle in the lane when driving. Misaligned front wheels will cause poor handling, tire wear, and loss of gas mileage form road friction as your two front tires fight for control of steering.
You must also keep your tires properly inflated both before and during your road trip. This will also provide better control, particularly under adverse conditions, as well as produce better gas mileage.
The most important part of spring break is getting there safely and getting back to remember (and recuperate from) it, so be sure that your vehicle is ready for the trip. Contact a company like Import Auto Maintenance for more information and assistance.