July 7

Summer Road Trip Preparations

Car Maintenance


Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 22 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. Now we're talking road trips today. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So summer road trips that's even with the current travel restrictions, we have to take vacations within our own country it seems that certainly there's not a lot of things. Other places that are opened up more road trips, what are some of the things that we need to make our cars prepared for the kind of stress of taking longer trips?

Bernie: So yeah, I think it's going to be big summer road trips with all the travel restrictions. People aren't gonna be flying off to Europe, but they're going to be getting to see some of the beauty of British Columbia, which is possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth. A lot of people will get to see things they haven't seen before, which is awesome. But if you're taking your car and most people will, there's certainly a lot of strains that a car goes under when you're taking a long trip. Things you'd, might not happen when you're driving, you know, your usual city trip or your commute to work and back and driving your kids around to activities.

Well, which isn't going on right now either. But you know, when you're driving out on a lot of these trips, especially where we live, there's a lot of mountains, steep hills, you know, where engines are stressed, fuels burn a lot more. Sometimes if you have an engine that may have a slight oil burning problem, you may not notice that until you get out on the road or coolant hoses you've been neglecting, might burst and cause your engine overheat.

We see a lot of, when we drive up our mountain passes, you see a lot of cars that tend to die, premature death from lack of maintenance or lack of care while you're driving. So those are some of the things to look out for. 

Mark: So what are some things to do to prepare your vehicle, because it could be your truck as well, for the journeys that you might be on? 

Bernie: Well, the biggest thing is to make sure your vehicle's inspected and all your maintenance is current. That's the biggest thing to do.  I mean, if you're, we have regular clients who come through our shop and they, you know, we have like an A service, a B service, it's like a more full inspection.

I mean, if it's something that's been done recently over the last few months, probably not a lot you need to do in the way of having a shop do the work. But if you haven't had your vehicle inspected by a mechanic or shop for awhile, you should go in and have a good thorough inspection, you know, let them know I'm going on this trip. I want to make sure that my car is in good shape to go. So we basically do a very thorough, comprehensive inspection, look at the vehicle from front to back, and it's always good to know, for us, what people's reasoning is for their inspection. And if it's a trip, then we tend to look at certain things a little more closely.

Mark: So what if there's a large list of repairs that need to be done? Do you have to do them all? 

Bernie: Well, not necessarily. And again, we like to prioritize things. So, you know, we usually break our lists of, this is absolutely critical to do. These are things to watch for, and these are things, you know, things you could do, and things you know, things that are good.

So again, we can look over the vehicle and look at what are the priorities. But if you're going on a long highway trip, you know, making sure your cooling systems in good shape, those are critical things. Your fluids are full. Any leaks that might cause problems on routes should be fixed. Any loose, critically loose suspension or steering parts, brakes again, when you're going up the steep hills, you're going to need good breaks coming down the hills.

Now if you're traveling on the prairies, of course, that's a different conversation, because you're kind of going on the flat. But you know, nonetheless, it's important, you know, you can either choose to have your car repaired at a place you like and trust, or you can choose to leave it for, gamble the odds and possibly have it repaired in a place you don't really trust. 

Mark: What about tires?

Bernie: Tires? Well, obviously you know, tires need to have proper inflation and that's really critical and especially really important when you're loading your vehicle up. You know, you've got your family in the vehicle, you've got a whole bunch of extra gear, a bunch of extra weight, making sure your tire pressures are set, is critical.

And this is another thing, of course, as I mentioned, if you'd had your vehicle recently serviced, oh within the last few months, you're going to want to make sure your tire pressures are good yourself. Those are things to check yourself, make sure your oil's full, your coolant levels up. Those are do it yourself checks that you should do. And, you know, make sure, especially tires, you know critical and the treads are in good shape. 

Mark: What about cracking? I know that's something that you mentioned on my father's vehicle. He's got an older vehicle with, it hasn't had a ton of mileage on it, all around town. So the treads are probably okay. But there's a lot of cracking in the tires. Is that a indicator that the time for new tires? 

Bernie: It is actually. Often we'll see tires, cars that have very low mileage people don't drive a whole lot. The trends will start to crack. Rubber breaks down. And you can actually look on your tires, there's a DOT, Department of Transport tag that tells when the tire was manufactured. And it's generally, sort of a rule of thumb, is if a tire is older than seven years old, like as manufactured more than seven years ago, it's pretty much time to change that tire. Now I'm not saying that a tire that's 10 years old is going to burst, but you know, it's getting to that age where the rubber is starting to get old and it's worth considering replacing your tires. 

I have an RV trailer. I mean, just trying to think of how old, I think my tire's like 12 years old. I hardly use it. So the treads are like, you know, 90% of original, but I decided, you know what, I'm changing the tires because I just don't want them to blow up on a road trip.

So these are the kinds of things that are good to look for. So yeah, cracking tires definitely worth replacing. 

Mark: So what are some of the other things that I should be making sure I'm taking a look at while I'm on the road. 

Bernie: Well, I think it's important, especially if you're doing a long trip, even if it's not that long, but before you start out driving in the day, do a walk around of your vehicle, have a look. How did the tires look, you know, is there anything noticeable, maybe, you know, poke your head under the vehicle? Is there anything dripping. By the way, it's normal for air conditioning systems to drip water. So if you're seeing a fluid coming out, kind of usually that's around the floor where the passenger's feet might be, it's normal for water to come out there.

So if you see a fluid, don't freak out, just maybe back the car up and go, Oh, is that water? And you can tell if it's water. You know, but if, you know, just have a look on the ground, make sure there's no fluids or drips. And if you do see something on the ground, make sure it's your vehicle and not from some other previously parked vehicle, but, you know, have a look at that kind of thing.

And, and I think it's very worthwhile every once in a while. Maybe every time you fill up, or every second, fill up, just pop the hood, check the oil level, just have a look at the coolant, make sure it's in the overflow bottle, it's full. You know, those are couple of things that can save you a lot of grief.

Mark: So what if my car has tire pressure monitoring or other alerts that tell me if the fluid levels are low or if there's any other problems. Should I still make these periodic checks? 

Bernie: Well I think the walk around is important, but yeah, there's some vehicles, I have a BMW that pretty well, kind of tells you everything. I mean, if the tires are low on air, a light will come on. If the oil's low, a light will come on, if the coolant's low a light will come on. So these are all things that are all taken care of. I will say that it's probably not a bad idea to just poke your head under the hood and look anyways, although on a lot of cars you won't see anything because they're so covered. But you know, it's good to know your car. So you need to know, does my car actually have these features. 

I own an older Suburban. It has oil and coolant level monitoring as well. So a light will come on if the oil level is low or the coolant. So I don't really need to look at that stuff, but it doesn't have tire pressure monitoring. So that's the kind of thing that I need to look at. And of course in that vehicle, like an under hood inspection is a good thing to do. 

But the important thing is get to know your vehicle. Don't make assumptions, look in the owner's manual. If you have any questions call your trusted mechanic, or if you're in Vancouver and you deal with us, call us. We're happy to help. 

Mark: So any other tips that you might have for making a successful trip? 

Bernie: Well, you know, it's not a bad idea to bring a little extra fluids along, like know a bit of extra coolant for your engine. You can just bring a jug of water. I mean, water works fine as a coolant for it, you know, on temporary basis. Maybe a litre of oil or so just to be on the safe side, if you happen to need it somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And you know, it's important to know where it is you're going. If you're doing a trip, that's kind of like off the grid, like out in the bush somewhere, and you're going a ways,  there's some other things you might want to bring along. Make sure your spare tires got air in it. And you know how to actually change the tire. 

Extra batteries. A lot of places sell these booster packs. They're small little compact battery. It's a sort of yay big, not very big. So I think it was a lithium ion battery. You can charge it with your car charger or charge it at home, but it has clips on it, so if your battery happens to go dead, you've got actually a battery booster to get you out in an emergency. And it's compact. You can also use it to charge your cell phones and things. But of course, if you use it for your cell phones too long, you know, your car battery won't have enough juice to do your car battery. So you've got to kind of watch it, but it's a good emergency item to have. 

Other than that cell phone, you know, bring some water for yourself, maybe some energy bars or just something to eat in case, unfortunately, your car breaks down somewhere and you have to walk. It's also good to know your terrain. Like what's the cell phone coverage like where you're going. Because there are a lot of places where there is no cell phone coverage in certain areas. So you know, just knowing that is helpful. 

Mark: Yeah you might not be able to rely on whatever support systems that you typically would have in the city. So you have to be a little more self-reliant.

Bernie: Exactly. And there are highways that have better cell coverage than others and, you know, little pockets that don't and that's basically, yeah. 

Mark: So there you go. If you would need your vehicle inspected before you go on your next road trip, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112. Check out the website pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Call and book ahead, they're busy. You got to book ahead. But there's hundreds of videos there for you to learn from and check out what the problems might be with your vehicle on the website or on the YouTube channel. And again, if you like the podcast, give us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you're picking up your podcast from. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. And a happy motoring, safe driving.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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