The following Car Travel Tips from the National Motorists Association, can help you have a safe and trouble-free trip the next time to take a road trip.
1) Take An Extra Key
Not many experiences are more frustrating than to be 300 hundred miles from home and to lock yourself out of your car. New automobiles can be a real challenge to enter, even by pros, when they are locked. Placing or hiding a key somewhere on the exterior of the vehicle will turn a potential nightmare into a minor inconvenience.
2) Your GPS Is Not Infallible -- Buy And Carry A Good Road Map
That new GPS may be addictive, but they are not foolproof in every situation. For example, a bad accident stalls traffic for hours on a major highway and has you stranded in unfamiliar country. A good map may provide a feasible escape route. A good map will often provide an alternative to an official detour route that is much shorter and faster if you are in a standard passenger vehicle (official detour routes have to accommodate large trucks and buses).
3) Pay Special Attention To That Trailer
If you are pulling a boat, camping, or utility trailer it is a lot easier to maintain and repair the trailer at home than it is in the ditch of an Interstate highway carrying 70 MPH traffic. Make sure the trailer lights are working before you load your car. (Bad ground wires are often the culprit when it comes to faulty trailer lights.) The trailer hitch ball should be of the right size and firmly tightened and safety chains should be present and accounted for, and capable of holding the weight of the loaded trailer. Dry or worn out trailer wheel bearings may hold the record for spoiling vacation trips. Make sure they are well greased an adjusted before you hit the road.
4) Check Belts And Hoses
Modern automobiles are remarkably reliable and they will absorb a lot of neglect and abuse and still get you to your destination. The weakest links in the reliability chain are coolant hoses and the belts that convey power to alternators, water pumps, and other components external to the engine. If you see a vehicle dead along side the road there is a good chance a belt or hose failed. These too have improved dramatically but they should be checked over periodically by the service facility you do business with.
5) Stay Alert Behind The Wheel. Alternate Drivers If Necessary
Traffic accidents common to vacation travel can often be traced to fatigue and being in unfamiliar travel environments. Stay fresh, trade off driving, take breaks and get some circulation going. If you are fresh and alert unexpected events or situations will be less likely to cause confusion or dangerous reactions. Better yet, if you are too tired to drive, take a Limo or call an Uber driver.
6) Be Smart About The Traffic Laws
Traffic laws and traffic signage are supposed to be uniform, but they are not. Generally, if you use common sense, move with the flow of traffic, and stay patient you will not run afoul of the law. It pays to be careful though because, according to the National Speedtrap Exchange (www.speedtrap.org), there are over 50,000 speed traps in the United States. Remember, speeding is a crime (actually, it is more like highway robbery and the crime is against motorists!).
If you are ticketed, don't fight your battle on the roadside. If you truly feel exploited, you can challenge your ticket in court by yourself, with help from the National Motorists Association (www.motorists.org ), or through an attorney.
In addition to the above safe driving tips, I would add the following:
Check Your Tires. Check the inflation pressure in all four tires, and check the spare to make sure it has not gone flat. Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure listed in your Owners Manual, or on the tire inflation decal on the door pillar, driver door, glove box or fuel filler cap. Also, visually inspect the tires for any damage such as cuts or bulges, and check the treads for unusual or excessive wear. Don't start out on a road trip with bad tires! Tire Safety is important for any road trip.
Check Your Fluid Levels. Check the engine oil level, the transmission fluid, coolant level, brake and power steering fluid levels BEFORE you leave on your trip. Top off as needed with the recommended fluid. If it has been a long time since you changed the oil, changing it now might save you a very expensive breakdown on the highway.
Check Your Lights and Wipers. Lights are necessary for good night driving, and good wipers are absolutely necessary for wet weather driving. Bad wipers won't get you a ticket, but a burned out headlight or taillight can get you pulled over.
Stow some Emergency Gear in the Trunk. Have a flashlight, some safety flares, a few basic hand tools, and a blanket along just in case. Some bottled water is also a good idea. If your battery is more than five years old, better toss in a set of jumper cables too because you might need them. If you're driving an older high mileage vehicle that is using oil or leaking coolant, better have some extra oil and antifreeze along, too. In fact, if your vehicle is leaking coolant, you'd better get the leak fixed before you leave. Overheating is one of the most common causes of breakdowns.