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Prevention and planning two things needed for a safe trip

By Richard S. Campos | JBSA Fire Emergency Services | June 5, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

A family excursion road trip is one of the many great things about summertime. But before hitting the road, a little prevention and planning before hooking up that new boat, camper, car, pickup, or recreational vehicle, pause to review these summer travel safety tips.

A little time spent in prevention and planning may spare you from dealing with the costs of a breakdown on the highway later.

Regular maintenance, such as tire rotations, tune-ups, battery checks, and oil changes go a long way in preventing break downs. Having your vehicle serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations should help bring peace of mind when traveling.

If you don’t know the service history of the vehicle you plan to drive, planning a preventive maintenance checkup with your mechanic is highly recommended.

Recalls

People can find out if a vehicle has been recalled and needs to be repaired by checking for recalls from the manufacturer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration VIN look-up tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number to quickly find out if a specific vehicle has been part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

Check for recalls on your vehicle by visiting NHTSA.gov/Recalls and sign up for email recall alerts at NHTSA.gov/Alerts.

Lights

See and be seen! Make sure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order. Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights.

Are you planning to tow a trailer? Be sure to also check your trailer, including brake lights and turn signals. A failure of the trailer light connection is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.

Tires

Check your vehicle’s tire inflation pressure at least once a month and when your tires are cold. Don’t forget to check your spare, if your vehicle is equipped with one.

The correct pressure for your tires is listed on a label on the driver’s door pillar or doorframe or in the vehicle owner’s manual – the correct pressure for your vehicle is NOT the number listed on the tire itself. A tire doesn’t have to be punctured to lose air. All tires naturally lose some air over time and become underinflated.

In fact, underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure. Also, take five minutes to inspect your tires for signs of excessive or uneven wear. If the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, it’s time to replace your tires.

Look for the built-in wear bar indicators on your tires or use the “penny test” to determine when it’s time to replace your tires. Place a penny in the tread with Lincoln's head upside down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, your vehicle needs new tires.

If you find uneven wear across the tires’ tread, it means your tires need rotation and/or your wheels need to be aligned before you travel. For more information on tire safety, visit NHTSA.gov/Tires.

Wiper blades

Windshield wiper blades may need to be replaced due to the heavy toll levied by winter storms and spring rains. Wiper blades are vulnerable to the summer heat as all rubber products are.

Inspecting your blades for signs of wear and tear on both sides is also essential. The blades can fail to work properly in both directions if they are misshapen. Invest in new wiper blades before you depart on your trip.

Coolant level and servicing

To keep your engine working properly, the radiator in your vehicle needs water and antifreeze. Carefully check your coolant level to make sure the reservoir is full when your car hasn’t been running and the engine is completely cool.

It’s time to have your cooling system flushed and refilled when the coolant is clear, looks rusty, or has particles floating in it. Immediately take your vehicle to a mechanic if your coolant looks oily or sludgy.

Fluid levels

Periodically check your vehicle’s oil level and if needed, have the oil changed.  Furthermore, look over the following fluid levels: brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering, and windshield washer. Take your vehicle in to be serviced if you see any signs of fluid leakage.

Belts and hoses

Make sure there are no signs of bulges, blisters, cracks, or cuts in both belts and hoses. Degrading accelerates when rubber belts and hoses are subject to high temperatures, so replace if they show signs of obvious wear. Additionally, check all hose connections to ensure they’re secure.

For more information about recreational vehicle safety tips, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at www.nfpa.org/education, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at NHTSA.gov, or contact the Joint Base San Antonio Fire Prevention Offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.