The hot, hazy, crazy days of summer are right around the corner, and with them, scorching temperatures. When the mercury ramps up and the school year winds down, it's the perfect opportunity to hit the highways for a family road trip. Indeed, according to a recent survey done by market intelligence firm Skift, nearly 60% of Americans plan on vacationing this summer, with roughly 1 in 4 having already made plans.
The summer road trip demands preparation, ensuring that you have all the essentials – like games, food, and patience – so everyone in the car is happy and comfortable. But what often gets lost in the shuffle is the need to account for serious warmth, felt both by your vehicle and your fellow road trippers. In addition to being uncomfortable, it can send tempers through the roof, and from your vehicle's perspective, may cause overheating.
Here are a few ways you, your family, and your car can keep cool for this year's summer road trip:
1. Get air conditioner serviced
When was the last time you had your auto's air conditioner serviced by a professional? If you've never had it done, you're not the only one. Much like other vehicle functions, the A/C's capabilities can deteriorate over time, due to common maintenance issues like wear and tear or an underperforming refrigerant. Additionally, there may be a leak in the system, but because the A/C is still working, that may go unnoticed. In short, if you've had your vehicle for a while and the air conditioning isn't performing quite as well as it used to, your trusted auto mechanic will give it the proper check-up and diagnosis. If your local auto shop doesn't service A/Cs, the dealership you purchased the car from should, or at the very least have ideas on who can help.
2. Bring cooling refreshments
Few things are more satisfying on a hot summer's day than a delicious wedge of watermelon, providing the perfect blend of sweetness and wetness. The car isn't exactly ideal for slicing one up, though. Thus, make sure that in your meal and snack planning, you have lots of appropriate choices, like ice cold water, flavored waters for the kids, and frozen treats. Also, make sure that the cooler you bring is effective at keeping its contents cold for as long as possible. Its performance can be strengthened by packing food and beverages strategically. The United States Department of Agriculture offers several recommendations at its website.
3. Check the engine
You know about the importance of winterizing your vehicle. But have you taken the steps necessary to get it "summerized?" Much like the bitter temperatures, sweltering heat can be just as damaging on your automobile's working parts, particularly the engine. In addition to ensuring the oil has been changed – ideally every 3,000 to 5,000 miles – check to see if the coolant reservoir is full. The same goes for windshield washer fluid, power steering, brakes, and transmission. Taking your car in for a tune-up can take care of all these maintenance issues in one fell swoop.
4. Don't forget Fido
If you're bringing the family pet along for the ride, keep in mind that dogs are much more sensitive to temperature extremes, thanks to their fur. Consider taking your pet into the groomer's for a bath and a close-cropped cut. Also, be sure to bring plenty of ice cold water for your four-legged companion. Plus, at rest stops, your pet should get the opportunity to leave the vehicle for a while, both for bathroom purposes and to avoid overheating. Never leave your dog all alone in the car. According to the American Veterinary Association, hundreds of dogs every year tragically die after being left in parked vehicles. Even when it's cloudy and mild, temperatures can rise dramatically within a matter of minutes, well in excess of 115 degrees Fahrenheit, as observed in a study conducted by the Louisiana Office of Public Health.
5. Keep your auto insurance policy handy
Perhaps the only thing you want to ensure remains hot is your comprehensive car insurance policy. By "hot," this means that it's still in effect and hasn't gone cold by lapsing or perhaps expiring while you're out of town. Keep your comprehensive coverage in the glove compartment so you can refer to it quickly if you're in an accident.
After taking and implementing these road trip tips, the rest should be a (cool) breeze!