Prepping the car for a summer road trip

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


Tim Phillips has been working on cars for over 20 years, and 12 years ago the Indian Hills grad opened his own shop, Phillips Auto Center, in Mt. Pleasant. Over the course of his career, Phillips has seen his share of mishaps and has a few tips about how to make sure summer road trips are safe, fun and worry free.

?If you?re going on a trip, I?d recommend having a mechanic look at it,? he says. ?Have a general check over of your car.? A general check over would include getting the oil, brake, transmission, coolant and power steering fluids checked. Aside from oil, which should be changed every 3-5,000 miles, the other fluids should be checked by the mechanic at every oil change.

While the car is in the shop, checking the battery is recommended. Phillips says these need to be checked twice a year: fall and spring. ?Extreme temperatures are what?s hard on batteries,? he explains. This is because the heat or frigid air can stress the battery and cause it to deplete faster.

Letting your mechanic know the destination for the trip is important because it will help them determine the wear the vehichle can handle and prevent problems before they happen. One example is with brakes. The wear on brakes depends on the wear of the car and road conditions. For driving around town, the brakes do not need to be changed as often. However, if the person is going to a mountainous area, the brakes might need to be replaced before leaving because they will not be able to withstand that amount of hard wear.

?A good mechanic will be checking them when he changes your oil,? he says, but does recommend getting a second look before taking off on a trip.

Noticing when to replace brakes is just as difficult as knowing when to have tires aligned because the symptoms are similar. A shaking steering wheel or the car pulling in one direction are both tells.

?Most of the time you don?t notice until bad things happen,? he says.

Rotating the tires should be done once a year or when new tires are purchased. Deciding when to buy new tires is significantly easier because all tires have an indicator between each thread. Phillips recommends the ?penny trick? to check if new tires are needed, if in a pinch.

Placing a penny in the treads of the tire will show the wear. ?If it doesn?t cover Lincoln?s hair they?re bad,? he says.

Having the proper equipment to change a flat tire is also essential for a successful trip. He says a tool kit should come with the car, but double checking before taking off is recommended. He also suggests checking with the insurance company that covers the car to see if roadside assistance is covered in case of emergency.

One tool Phillips does not recommend bringing along is a gas can. ?It?s a big hazard anymore,? he says. The fumes from the can could be more detrimental to health than vital to safety. For that reason, he recommends keeping a close eye on the fuel gauge and bringing an empty can for emergencies only.

The last thing he recommends being checked are the windshield wipers. They should be replaced in the spring because after pushing antifreeze and snow off, they will be worn. They come in a variety of prices but he suggests buying the best available to ensure they last the trip.