It’s a good idea to give your vehicle a once-over for safety before any big trip. It’s an especially good idea if you’re planning a move, even if it’s only from one end of town to the other. During a move, your car is going to be loaded down with lots of extra weight, making every component work harder than usual.
Follow our simple inspection list before you start loading up your vehicle for your big move.
Even people without any mechanical knowledge can get off to a good start by checking their vehicle’s fluid levels. Check the coolant, brake fluid, oil, windshield washer fluid, and the clutch or automatic transmission fluid. Here are some quick videos to help you figure each of them out:
One important note: if your vehicle requires removing the radiator or coolant reservoir cap to check the level, wait until the vehicle cools down to avoid getting burned. Every vehicle is different, so look through your owner’s manual to find the dipstick and fluid reservoir locations.
Photo by Emily Schreck/Flickr
If your shock absorbers are in poor shape, you’re in for an uncomfortable ride and unpredictable handling at best. Fortunately, checking to see if your shocks are worn is extremely simple: push up and down on each corner of your car. If it takes more than one up and down cycle to settle back to its normal ride height and stop moving, the shocks may need to be replaced by a professional.
If your tires’ air pressure is too low, your car will handle poorly — and under-inflated tires can have a negative effect on fuel economy. If you don’t have an air pressure gauge, you can easily check and fill your tires at most gas stations. Your owner’s manual will list the proper air pressure for your car.
While you’re at it, make sure your tires have enough tread left — especially if you’re moving during rainy or snowy weather. Stick a penny into the tread of your tire, pushing Lincoln in head first. If the top of Lincoln’s head is hidden, your tires have enough tread to be safe. If you can see his whole head, consider replacing your tires.
It’s also easy to check all of your exterior lights. Wait until it’s dark out, then turn on all the lights one by one — headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and so on — and visually check each from outside the car. To check your brake lights, have a helper press the pedal, or put something fairly heavy up against the pedal and check them yourself.
Photo by viviandnguyen_/Flickr
If the steering wheel shimmies when you press the brakes, that’s a sign your brake rotors may need to be replaced. Worn-down brakes can cause serious issues, so if you’re concerned about your brakes, ask your mechanic to make sure the entire brake system is in good shape.
Before the big move, have your mechanic check the alignment of your wheels and any critical suspension parts, such as tie rods and ball joints, which could cause a loss of control if they fail. Also get your car’s drive belt checked: if it breaks, your car could lose power steering or overheat.
If you’ve kept your car in good shape and paid attention to recommended services, the odds of it needing a lot of work are low. The more you can do yourself, the lower your overall cost will be, but if the price of repairs concerns you, consider the price of a tow if your car breaks down, not to mention the added time and the frustration.
Featured photo by Britt-knee/Flickr