Summer Road Trip Vehicle Maintenance Check

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Summer Road Trip Vehicle Maintenance Check

The warmer weather is here and we’re all planning our summer road trips! We’re all experts on road trip organization, snack planning and GPS navigating. But, we must not forget to prepare our car for a healthy summer road trip, too!

Summer Road Trip in 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

I’m going to cover a few basic items to help you get well on your way to enjoying your summer road trip. Pop the hood, grab your gloves and let’s have a look!

Summer Road Trip – Car Preparation

I’ve compiled a list of five things to help you prepare your car for your summer road trip. Do these things a few days before you’re ready to roll out. Your car will thank you!

Check Your Oil

Checking your oil level is important to help keep your vehicle running properly. You may want to do an oil change before you hit the road. But, most vehicles these days have an indicator light to alert you when your oil needs to be changed. Other vehicles will have mileage intervals for when the oil needs to be changed. Check your vehicles owner’s manual and follow your manufacturers advice as it pertains to changing the oil.

Owners Manual with Oil Change Recommendations

To check the oil, park your car on a level surface, turn the engine off and remove the keys from the ignition, or car if it’s push-start. Prop the hood up and find the dipstick. The dipstick will usually have “Oil” written on it and have a yellow finger loop handle. Our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s dip stick is located on the left side of the engine, when looking at the car, and marked with the word “Engine” and a little oil can symbol – it is a yellow finger loop handle.

Oil Dip Stick 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Pull the dipstick from the engine with one hand, wipe the oil from the dipstick with a clean rag. With both hands, gently guide the dipstick back into the engine – all the way to it’s seated position. Wait 10 seconds. Remove the dipstick, this time don’t wipe the dipstick with the rag just yet. Read the dipstick.

The dipstick will have lines or holes on it to indicate the oil level. Typically, there will be a full line and an add line. Where the wet oil meets the dry dipstick is your current oil level. Wipe with a rag, check again.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Dip Stick

Our Jeep has the word “SAFE” between the lines. If the oil level reaches or falls below the safe line closest to the end of the dipstick, we know there’s a problem and need oil. Consult your owners manual for recommendations and questions you may have. Each vehicle is different.

Top Off Wiper Fluid

This one is simple, but imperative! I know I’ve found myself on a road trip, driving on the highway after a rainstorm with cars and trucks kicking muck up onto my windshield. I press the washer fluid button and *wrrrrt* the distinct sound of no washer fluid coming out. Ugh. It’s the worst! The wipers just smear the muck around and makes it hard to see the road. We’ve all been there, let’s not go there again on our fun summer road trip!

In our Jeep, the washer fluid reservoir is located just in front of the air filter compartment.

Air Filter Compartment and Washer Fluid Reservoir

While you have the hood propped up, it’s the perfect time to check the washer fluid level in your car. The washer fluid container is likely located on the right or left side of the engine compartment. The cap will be marked with a windshield wiper graphic.

Most wiper fluid containers have a level indicator on their side. You can peek at the side of the wiper fluid container and read the level.

Filling Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir

If it’s full, you’re good to go! If not, you may want to fill the container to the full line. I like to use the wiper fluid which helps remove bugs and grime, especially when we go on road trips!

Once you’ve filled your washer fluid, don’t forget to give your windshield a squirt to check your wipers. If they leave streaks or chatter across your windshield, consider replacing them as well.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter

Change Air Filter with FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter

Now that we’ve checked two important fluids, which should be checked regularly, it’s time to change the car’s air filter. I’m using the FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter for our car because when it comes to air filters, there is no going with the generic brand. You find these right in the automotive section at your local Walmart.

FRAM Extra Guard Air Filters Aisle at Walmart

The air filter is the first line of defense to keeping dust and dirt out of your engine. A good air filter also improves overall performance, horsepower and acceleration. This is an easy task and there’s no excuse for not changing your air filter before your summer road trip.

An awkward situation occurred when I checked my air filter. Literally, last week I had the oil changed at one of those in and out fast oil change places. They check your air filter while you’re there. Well, they said the air filter was good to go. I’m SO GLAD I checked myself. The air filter certainly wasn’t “good to go”, not even close! As a matter of fact (this is a new to us vehicle) it looks like the air filter had not been changed in quite some time, if ever at all!

Check your air filter, people!

FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter and Dirty Air Filter

To change your air filter, consult your owners manual. All vehicles are different. Most likely, you won’t need any special tools, just a good pair of gloves to avoid scratching your hands while removing your air filter cover.

Once you’ve located your air filter cover, find the clips which hold it in place. Release the clips to expose the air filter.

Clips on Air Filter Compartment

Remove the old air filter, clean out the air filter compartment – sometimes you’ll find pine needles or other small debris in the compartment, and replace it with your new FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter. Replace the air filter cover and secure it with the clips.

FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter for Jeep Grand Cherokee

Yes, it’s that easy!

Check Belts and Hoses For Wear and Leaks

Checking the belts and hoses can be done by anyone, even you! Now that we have our fluids checked and our new FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter in place we can inspect the belts and hoses to make sure we won’t have any problems this summer.

Grab a flashlight and locate your serpentine belt. This is the large belt that runs the main components of your engine, heating and cooling systems. It’s located on the front of your engine. Shine the light on the belt and look for fraying, tears or wear. If you find frays or tears, you may want to have your belt inspected and changed by a professional.

Serpentine Belt on Jeep Grand Cherokee

Shine your light around the engine compartment to locate different hoses. Inspect for fresh wet spots on your hoses which may indicate leaks. If it’s been raining, be sure you’re not mistaking rain or road splashes for leaks. If you find a leak, you may want to have it inspected and repaired by a mechanic before your summer vacation.

Inspecting Hoses on Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

Check Tire Tread and Pressure

Finally, once everything under the hood is in good order, we’ll check the tires and make sure the tread and pressure is on point. This task may seem minuscule, but it can actually save you a big headache from a flat tire, nobody wants to be stranded on the side of the road! Driving with properly inflated tires has been proven time and again to help with improved fuel economy – and that’s a good thing when you’re cruising around this summer!

Examine your tires for wear and tear. Examine the tread depth to assure you’re not riding on bald tires. Check the tread depth with a penny by inserting the penny, Lincoln head down, into the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, it’s time to replace your tires! If his hair is covered, your tires are in good shape.

Checking Tire Tread Using a Penny

To check the air pressure in your tires, you’ll need a tire pressure gauge, you can also grab one of these at Walmart for just a few bucks. Read the instructions on your pressure gauge before using it to make sure you’re reading it properly.

Now that you have a tire pressure gauge, you’ll need to know how much air should be in your tires. This varies by vehicle, but you can find the manufacturers recommended psi quite easily. How do you find the proper inflation psi for your car’s tires? Open the drivers side door. Look on the door frame and you’ll find a sticker. This sticker contains a lot of information, including the VIN to your vehicle and yes, the proper tire psi.

Sticker on Door Tells Tire Pressure

For our car, the sticker reads “33 psi cold”. This means the tire pressure should read 33 pounds when the tires are cold, meaning they haven’t been driven on recently.

Tire Pressure Gauge Checking Tire Pressure

The best time to check the “cold tire pressure” is in the morning, before driving anywhere – after the car has been sitting all night. Alternatively, you can wait a few hours after driving in order to get an accurate reading.

If your tire pressure is low, you can inflate your tires at most any gas station for a few quarters or stop by the Walmart automotive center, they’ll be happy to help you out!

Summer Road Trip in 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

These are a few basic items which I check on a regular basis to keep our car running well, especially as we head into the summer road trip season. We don’t want to find ourselves with a mucky windshield, a dirty air filter, low oil levels, a broken belt or low tire pressure. So get out there, pop the hood and have a peek. Things like checking the fluids, replacing the air filter, inspecting the belts and properly inflating the tires are a DIY project which will help keep your car running great all summer long!

Where will the summer roads take you? 

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2 thoughts on “Summer Road Trip Vehicle Maintenance Check”

  1. WOW. I just changed mine this week, too and I thought ours was bad. Good thing you checked it! We are headed along the Eastern Seaboard this summer. We are big road trippers :).
    1. Yes, it was a good thing I checked the air filter - I was mortified! haha. The East coast is great road tripping country - check out the Route 1 drive. Route 1 spans from Florida to Maine with a lot of great things to see and do along the way!

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