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How to prepare for a long road trip

Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, on Friday, March 22, uses an antifreeze hydrometer to test the level of freeze protection the fluid is offering. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

As the cold air leaves and warm temperatures signal the arrival of summer, road trip season is officially upon us.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, cumulative travel increased by 3.8% from 2022 to 2023, to an estimated 481.1 billion vehicle miles of travel in 2023.

Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage, 301 S. Chestnut St. in Butler, said there are a few things people can do to prepare their car for a long road trip, but the best thing to do is have a professional look at it.

“I get a lot of customers who come in and say they are taking a road trip,“ Steiner said. "That's usually $35. If it needs something done I will wave that fee, though."

At the top of the list, Steiner recommended checking your oil and changing it if it’s time, which he says is about every 5,000 miles.

"You want to make sure the oil change is pretty current,“ he said. ”If they are putting in a 2,000 mile road trip, then, yeah, I recommend changing the oil. If you are just going to Ohio or something, and the oil is good, I wouldn't worry about it."

Steiner said some newer cars don’t have dipsticks anymore, which is the conventional way to check a vehicle’s oil level.

“The new Dodges and Fords don't have dipsticks,” Steiner said. “There is a plug on the side of the transmission you remove to check the fluid level."

According to Curt Daubenspeck, owner of Lennon's Auto Body, 307 Glade Mill Road in Valencia, fluids should be a top concern for drivers, especially antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid and oil.

Proper tire pressure is another area of concern, Daubenspeck said, which varies depending on the make of model of the vehicle.

"There is a door tag on the inside of the driver's side door that tells you what the pressure is supposed to be,“ he said. ”Most do, but some have them in the gas tank door."

Checking the quality of your tires is something Steiner said is important, as they tend to get dry rot and crack and the tread gets worn down.

“A lot of people overlook these issues,” Steiner said. “With that, you can go around a turn too quickly or hit a pothole, and then you never know what will happen."

Both Steiner and Daubenspeck mentioned checking the battery as well. Over time, the terminals connecting the battery to the car itself will become corroded.

"The batteries could go bad in the warm just as easy as the cold,“ Daubenspeck said. ”What you want to do is take the cables off and hit it with light sand paper to clean up the terminals."

Lastly, Daubenspeck recommended checking the underbelly of the car, as it can rust from road salt following the winter months.

"We do live in the nice, wonderful Rust Belt,“ Daubenspeck said. ”Especially if it's an older vehicle ... you’ve got to worry about fuel lines and brake lines getting a little crusty."

Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, checks the oil level in a vehicle on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, checks the oil level in a vehicle on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, works under the hood of a car on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, checks the tire pressure with a gauge on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, checks the oil level in a vehicle on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Jerry Steiner, owner of Steiner’s Garage in Butler, advises keeping jumper cables in your car for emergencies. He’s shown on Friday, March 22. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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