Most Common Car Problems on Road Trips: Protect Your Summer Travel Plans

Posted on June 13, 2022 by Rick Griffith

At Car Credit, we know car problems are never fun to deal with but in an unfamiliar place far from home can make it even more difficult and stressful. Save yourself time and money from expensive repairs by being prepared. Here are the most common car problems that occur on road trips and what you can do to prevent these breakdowns.

Tire Failure

Tire failures from blowouts are a serious cause of road accidents as it can lead to loss of control and even collision with another vehicle in areas with heavy traffic. On the other hand, it could be difficult to call for assistance in remote areas, even if you’re just looking for a town to change out a flat tire. 

Before you head out on your summer road trip, check to make sure your tires(including the spare) are going to get you to your destination and back. In addition to packing essentials like

a usable spare tire, tire wrench, jack, and a tire gauge, have a service professional check the tread and tire pressure as well as rotate/align your tires. While rotating your tires promotes even wear and helps the tires last longer, having the correct tire pressure is also critically important as improper pressure can cause:

  • Engine stress
  • Excessive wear and tear on the brakes and suspension
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Susceptible to tire blowouts
  • Reduction in fuel economy

Brake Failure

It is as scary as it sounds, brake failure can lead to devastating consequences that can be avoided. As no one can predict a sudden situation where your brakes need to work properly, have your braking system inspected. Vibration or sounds when braking are signs to take your car to a service professional before hitting the road into unfamiliar territory. Not only will the service professional check for wear and tear but they also are able to check for fluid leaks and refill the reservoir if needed.

Engine Overheating

Summer driving is harder on your car as there is a higher risk of the engine overheating or working harder if traveling steep roads. Insufficient lubrication or sludge from old fluids hinders the cooling system’s performance as well as impacts the lifespan of your transmission and other internal components. When the engine has to work harder than normal, it can eventually lead it to overheat and shut down. Examine the fluid levels and cleanliness of the engine, transmission, coolants, and even power steering to ensure your vehicle is up for the adventure ahead. Keep in mind that most older cars either leak or burn up oils at a faster rate so be sure to top off the fluids or bring extra along for the journey. 

Engine or Transmission Failure

In addition to dashboard lights, noises while shifting between gears and leaking fluid are also indicators of a possible transmission problem. Waiting for a warning signal from your car could mean you receive that signal in the middle of your journey at the worst possible timing. There will be a reason why a dashboard light is triggered as it’s telling you something wrong with your car and should be looked at. The longer the repair or replacement is delayed, the more expensive the problem becomes as the strain affects other parts. 

A/C Quits 

Obviously for comfort reasons, no one would want their A/C to stop working during a hot summer drive. In addition, the fact that the belt that powers the A/C is often the belt that powers other vital components, like the water pump that helps keep the engine cool, means that the loss of cold air is a symptom of a possible bigger problem. Have your A/C system examined to verify it’s working right with no leaks and has plenty of refrigerant.

Worn-out Wipers

Due to deterioration over time, rubber wiper blades need to be replaced regularly to avoid being unable to remove water from obstructing the driver’s view. When encountering a thunderstorm while traveling through unfamiliar areas, it is imperative that the driver is able to see what’s in their path. On top of replacing the wiper blades, you can apply an anti-rain cleaning solution to the windshield to help the water bead up and slide away as well as filling up the windshield wiper fluid that is formulated to remove bug splatters. 

Burnt Out/Dim Lights

From the emergency flashers and trailer/camper lights to the head/tail lights and interior compartment lights, every one of them is important to have working and bright. If you notice dim or cloudy lights, especially on the headlights, then it’s time to give them a good wash. The difference in visibility is tremendous between cloudy and clear head/tail lights. Whenever you stop for gas and clean the bugs from your windshield, you should also do the same for the headlights.

Emergency Situations

If you do have car troubles and have difficulties calling for assistance or simply waiting for assistance, it’s best to be prepared with some helpful emergency supplies. While people might be more cautious about being stranded in the winter, having these supplies in your emergency kit will help no matter the season. It is recommended to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times with items like

  • a flashlight with extra fresh batteries
  • first-aid supplies with updated spare medications if applicable
  • drinking water
  • non-perishable snacks for people and pets
  • Jumper cables (and know the proper way to use them)
  • emergency flares or reflectors
  • rain poncho and winter coat 
  • basic tool kit with duct tape, gloves, shop rags or paper towels. 
  • You might consider bringing extra coolant and oil

(Check out Car Credit’s blog for an extended list of supplies to include in your emergency kit)

Starting Your Summer Road Trip

Being proactive in ensuring your car’s health in the little things can help protect your summer road trip from turning into a “sitting by the road” trip. Not only can you travel without worries about your car but typically replacing worn down components early can save you money from expensive repairs and a broken down car. If you decide your car is too much to repair, come down to Car Credit and take a look at our hand-picked inventory of high quality used vehicles! Enjoy the open road and stay safe in your travels!

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