In just days, schools across the state will close for the summer and Arkansas residents will start hitting the road for vacations or visits with family and friends.
In advance of the busy summer driving season, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has issued a consumer alert with advice for families planning to pack up the car to travel, whether during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend or at other times during the summer.
“Vacations are an essential summertime activity for many Arkansas consumers,” McDaniel said. “Whether they are traveling to a family reunion, the beach or to other destinations, consumers should make safety their top priority so that they can have an enjoyable time with family and friends.”
McDaniel advised consumers to first have their vehicles serviced before embarking on a summer trip if the vehicle is due for regularly scheduled maintenance. Otherwise, he encouraged Arkansas drivers to keep the following tips in mind ahead of their travels:
• Check fluids: Drivers should make sure levels of brake and transmission fluids are normal, and should make sure that oil isn’t low. Check the oil after first running the car for a few minutes. Oil should appear clean on the stick and be at a sufficient level. If oil levels are low, take the vehicle in for service. Most maintenance technicians suggest an oil change every 3,000 miles, though the number varies. Owner’s manuals will indicate what’s best for specific cars.
• Check what’s under the hood: Examine the battery and cables for any cracks, corrosion or dirt. Remember that summer weather can shorten the life of a battery, so replace it if necessary before a long road trip. Inspect the radiator and hoses for crack and leaks, and, if necessary, change the air filter. Air filters prevent dust and dirt from getting into the engine, which can decrease engine performance and reduce gas mileage.
• Thunderstorms: Thunderstorms are almost always a possibility every summer afternoon, so consider investing in new windshield wiper blades. To see whether previous winter weather has taken a toll on the blades, apply windshield washer solvent. If the blades are not in good condition, then problems will be obvious if fluid streaks or visibility is reduced.
• Check the pressure: Remember that summer heat increases tire pressure, so check and see whether inflation levels are consistent with what’s recommended in the owners’ manual. Properly inflated tires increase a vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent.
• Make sure tire tread is sufficient by sticking a penny vertically in the gaps of the tires with Lincoln’s head pointed downward. If Lincoln’s head is fully visible, then tires probably need to be replaced. Don’t forget to also test the spare tire.
• Clean: Take the time to throw away or remove items that aren’t needed for the trip. Removing 100 pounds of junk can reduce miles-per-gallon by up to two percent.
Aside from the specific checks that are recommended, McDaniel said drivers should pay attention to warning signs that there may be a problem, such as odd noises or if the vehicle shakes suddenly. In those events, have the vehicle checked out by a reputable mechanic before traveling. Also, keep an emergency road kit in every vehicle and always take along a cell phone on any long trip.