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The Best Route to a Great Road Trip

 

 

Should you ride with your windows down to save gas? What’s the safest way to check your radiator’s fluid level? Can your battery die while you’re driving?

Our team of experts tackled these questions about driving in a scorching summer. Before you read on, tattoo this critical fact on your brain: Our Roadside Safety Services team provides fast and courteous help if you get stranded on an NTTA road. Just dial #999 for free help.

The Battery

We admit that, until our experts set us straight, we didn’t believe a car’s battery would die while the motor is running. It turns out that corrosion from evaporated battery fluid and loose connections resulting from road vibration can kill your battery and your road trip to the beach.

Our Roadside Safety Services team rescues lots of stranded drivers with summertime battery troubles.

Before packing the car for your road trip, here’s what our team and experts at AAA recommend:

  • Check your battery mount. If it’s loose, tighten it and check the cables and clamps to ensure they’re still properly connected to the battery.
  • Check the battery terminals and clamps for corrosion, and clean it up if it’s there.
  • If your battery is more than three years old, have it tested by a trained technician to see if it still has ample life left.

The Radiator

It’s a common movie theme to see the protagonist stuck on the side of the road with steam pouring from under the hood. In the most classic scenes, someone loses a T-shirt to help grip and open a radiator cap that’s only slightly cooler than the surface of Mercury.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Here’s what experts recommend:

  • Before you head out, check the side of the coolant reservoir to see if the liquid reaches the “full” line.
  • If it doesn’t, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for the correct ratio of coolant to water and add fluid accordingly. (Check your coolant bottle to find out if it’s already mixed with water.)
  • If you’re already on the road, and your engine starts overheating, pull over and turn off the engine. Open the hood to help everything cool down faster, and inspect the coolant level from the side of the reservoir.
  • Never open the cap on a hot radiator. And never try to add liquid to a hot radiator. Both could be disastrous for you and your car. If you need to add liquid, wait until the engine has cooled.

The Tires

Driving with underinflated tires only compounds the stress caused by hot pavement. Your tire is more likely to blow out when it’s hot outside and your air pressure is low.

  • Before driving, check the tire pressure on all your tires. (You want to do this when the air in the tires is still relatively cool to get the most accurate reading.)
  • Check your owner’s manual or the driver’s door jamb for your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure.
  • Check the pressure on your spare tire too. It’s no good to you if it’s flat.

The Air Conditioner

There’s a lot of debate about whether you can save gas by turning off your A/C and cruising with the windows down. Even the experts can’t agree on this one, so here’s what we recommend: Find what’s most comfortable to you. Feeling either too hot or too cold can add to driver fatigue and make you less alert to dangers ahead.

Your Phone

Keep it parked while your car is in gear. Distracted driving kills thousands of people just like you every year.

If you think you’ll be tempted to look at your phone while you drive, put it out of reach and wear a visible reminder to let it lie. We offer free Red Thumb bands emblazoned with “W8 2 TXT” at all our Customer Service Centers to serve as that reminder. You can also paint a fingernail red or tie a string around your wrist or simply enable a “Do Not Disturb” app on your phone to keep the temptation at bay.

Drive safely, and send your questions for our team of experts to TollTagInsider@ntta.org.