Car Time – July 2019


    Summer is here, and if we plan on taking the trusty family hauler on a road trip, we need to make sure it is ready. We also need to make sure we are prepared for all situations.
    The goal is to properly maintain the vehicle and avoid problems. Cars are machines and, despite the best efforts, they can breakdown. Here are some tips on preparing for a possible breakdown.
    The first step is take your vehicle into your local shop for a pre-trip inspection. Please, please, I mean please do not wait until the day before your trip to do this. Your vehicle may need attention that you were not aware of. A short time frame will only add unwanted stress to you and your car-care provider.
    I recommend scheduling this pre-trip ritual about one week before your planned departure. When you travel you will most likely be faced with higher altitudes and higher temperatures that can accelerate battery failure. For instance a battery may operate fine in Orinda but fail in consistent temperatures over 100 degrees while in Lake Tahoe. A simple battery load test will confirm the battery’s 
    The next tip is to make sure you are ready for a breakdown. You should have a game plan before you hit the road. Do you have a road service plan such as AAA? Do you know who to call in case you get stuck on the road? A common failure is a flat tire. Do you know where the spare tire and jack are? This information is in the owner’s manual in the glove box. Do you know the condition of the spare tire? Does the spare tire have air in it?
    What if you think you have a flat tire? You should safely pull over. Do not apply heavy brakes or make quick steering movements. Carefully steer your car off of the roadway and apply the brakes smoothly. It is important not to drive a car too long on a flat tire because it could cause damage to your wheel. But if you do not have a safe place to pull over it is better to drive to a safe place and risk damage.
    What to do if your car breaks down? The first thing to keep in mind is safety. As soon as you feel there is a problem, you should immediately look for a safe place to pull over. Now is the time to put your “breakdown plan” into motion. 
    What to do if your car overheats? If you notice your temperature gauge is reading high or overheating, you must make an immediate decision to pull over. Some cars have a light instead of a gauge. If you see your temp gauge is heading toward the right or your temp light is on, you must safely pull over immediately. If you continue to drive a car that is overheating you will cause damage to your engine. There is no good reason to open the hood at this point. You should not touch anything under the hood for at least on 
    John Vanek is the manager of Orinda Motors, Inc. Reach him at

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