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A Checklist for Summer Travel in Michigan

Summer is a glorious time of year in Western Michigan. Not only is there fresh local produce available at all the area farmerís markets, they are also plenty of things to do and see. According to the West Michigan Tourist Association there is on average 12 different festivals, fairs, or events taking place in our area on each weekend this summer. Simply said, thereís plenty to in Western Michigan over the summer.
With summer travel ahead itís a good time to check over your car, truck, or SUV as thereís nothing that would spoil a gorgeous summer weekend than to suffer a breakdown. Here are a few simple tips to follow. If youíre handy, many of these tasks you can complete yourself. For some youíll need professional assistance. So whether itís the whole list of just a few items, stop by XXXXXXXXXX for any summer travel services you may need.

1. Check under your hood and make sure the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free. They connections can wiggle loose over time, and if they should lose contact, you wonít be able to start your vehicle.

2. Check all the fluid levels in your vehicle, including engine oil, coolant, windshield washer, and power steering, brake, and transmission fluids. Also check that the brake fluid thatís visible in the reservoir is honey colored. If itís turned brown, itís contaminated. See what to do below.

3. Check both air filters. Thatís right, most cars now have two. Thereís the traditional air filter for your engine and thereís another one that filters the air entering the cabin. While a dirty engine air filter can diminish performance, a dirty cabin air filter will block fresh, clean air from entering your car. Instructions for how to change both filters will be in your ownerís manual.

4. Look over all the hoses and belts and have them replaced if you see signs that theyíve become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose, or show signs of excessive wear. The failure of any one of these belts or hose could lead to major repairs.

5. Check all of you tires, including the spare. First check your tires for wear. While tires are legally won out at 2/32nd of an inch in Michigan (the height of the wear bars) the ideal time to replace your tires is when theyíve reached about 4/32Ē of an inch, which is still only 1/8th on an inch of tread Ė not much if youíre suddenly caught in a summer downpour.

6. Next check the tires for any signs of irregular wear or damage. If possible get under the vehicle so you can inspect both sides of the tire. Some things to look out for are bulges in the sidewall and objects like nails in the tread area. Donít remove any debris you find in the tread yourself as it may release all the air pressure from the tire. Tires can be safely repaired by trained technicians, but only when the damage is in the tread area and within a certain maximum size.

7. Now look at the tread. Do you see any usual wear patterns? Run your hand across the tread in both directions. Do you feel a saw tooth like pattern? Should you observe any of these have your tire professional check the tires.

8. If itís all clear, make sure you set your tire pressures to that recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Driving on tires that are low on air pressure wears the tire faster, uses more fuel, and, on a hot summer day, could lead to a tire failure, typically when driving at highway speeds. All the information you need is located in your ownerís manual.

9. Thereís no substitute for a professional. There are items that they can check that you just canít do in your driveway. One is that they give your tires a full 360-degree inspection while itís up on the lift. Next, they can remove the wheels and tires and inspect your brakes for condition. Even though your pads can be fairly new, there are conditions that could limit their effectiveness.

10. Service professionals can also check the amount of water your brake fluid has absorbed. This is a normal function but when it reaches a certain point, the brake fluid needs to be flushed to assure safe operation. The same goes for coolant. You may have plenty in the system but the additives that make it effective in cooling your engine may have worn out. And have the technician check the capacity of your battery. Car batteries lose their effectiveness over time, just like a smartphone, and a technician can test yours to see how much capacity to recharge is left.

Follow these simple tips and have the key components inspected, either by yourself, or as needed by a professional, and youíll greatly reduce the likelihood that youíll run into car problems as you travel around Michigan this summer.
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