Everybody loves Florida in the autumn and winter - especially holiday season. And if you’re like most Floridians, you’re going somewhere for the season. Maybe you’ll brave the airports and visit the cold, cold North, or maybe you’ll get behind the wheel and take a drive to the opposite coast and stay state-side. While driving during the holidays increases your chance of hitting traffic, it’s nothing compared to hurricane season! As a local - you feel ready. What should you do to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible?
Car maintenance, making sure your car is legally registered, and tire health are your three big to-dos before a long holiday journey. Read more below!
Your Car Is Thirsty
Your car is a big, 3,000 lb machine that breathes fire and plays music. All those moving parts require a little TLC to keep going. So if it’s been a while since you last topped off the fluids or had a mechanic do it for you, then you should always make sure to do this before a long journey.
The oil change is the most important part of making sure the engine in your Florida car has a long, healthy lifespan. If you drive on bad oil, you run the risk of that car never running again.
Power steering fluids - easy to top off, but risky to ignore. These chemicals directly affect your car’s handling. This fluid is pressurized by a pump which helps you turn the wheels. It helps maintain all the bigger, more important components that support the entire steering system. So replacing it or even just topping it off if you are running low and don’t have time to do an overhaul is a good idea.
Coolant is responsible for one of your car’s most integral systems: the engine’s temperature, aka the cooling system. If your coolant reservoir is bone dry, you’re likely hearing a hollow whirr when the car runs, and more importantly taking a big chance that your engine won’t overheat or get damaged. Always top off the coolant - most cars have a bobber inside that will show you how high to fill the tank. IMPORTANT: don’t overfill the coolant!
Windshield washer fluid is an easy one to ignore. However, visibility is so integral to your driving experience that it’s certainly not worth it. As a Florida driver, your car is inundated with all kinds of bugs and wildlife, and the random deluges can mix with the viscera on your windshield and make it very difficult to see. High quality washer fluid will keep your eyes on the road and also keep your windshield washer system running smoothly. Neglect it, and you could put strain on your windshield washer motor and other parts, potentially creating an expensive fix for yourself.
The cornerstone of safe travel in a car or truck is always the tires. There are a few major pain points with tires you should watch out for - and they will greatly affect whether or not you arrive at your destination on time, or you’re stuck in a rest stop getting hosed by the only mechanic you could find between New Smyrna and Jacksonville.
Check Your Air Pressure
Make sure your tires are inflated properly. Use a tire gauge or a portable tire inflator to get your tires within the necessary pressure. Always do this when the tires are cool - if you’ve been driving, then the air pressure has likely increased due to heat. Most modern vehicles have a sensor, but those sensors can fail and nothing is as reliable as an analog test.
Check Your Tread
The last thing you need is to be driving with bald tires. Anyone who has heard tires scream and felt the car lose traction on a turn can tell you that it’s an intimidating experience! You can check your tread by sticking a penny into the tread groove. Make sure Lincoln’s head is pointing down. If you can see any space over the top of his head, the tires need to be replaced. This is about 1/16” of tread or less remaining.
Check for Damage
Tires show visible cosmetic signs of damage that can indicate whether or not you’re safe to drive on them. Look for bubbles, cuts, and cracks in the sidewall. These can indicate that your sidewall has been compromised and you may risk a flat or worse when you travel.
Driving Legally in the State of Florida
First and foremost, your registration, car insurance, and driver’s license MUST be up to date before taking a long trip over the holidays. Police and State Troopers will be out in droves focusing on the safety of the public - and if any of your information has lapsed or expired, a speeding ticket could turn into an all-expense-paid vacation in the local jail in whatever county you happen to be passing through at the time. Make sure your registration is up to date, and if you’re short on time, contact Auto Tags of Florida. We offer same-day service so you don’t have to sweat the holiday travel.