Nothing ruins a car faster than overheating. Just because you're nice and cool in the passenger compartment doesn't mean that your engine isn't dying of heat prostration a few feet away. Be nice to your car; it's the only thing that's between you and hitching across Death Valley. Here are a few of our suggestions:
Suggestion A: Slow Down. Drive at 55, not 65. Take a look at the view!
Don't forget: When you're pulling a heavy load and traveling at high speed, you're really imposing a tremendous demand on the engine and transmission, to say nothing of the fact that the trailer you're hauling probably also has terrific wind resistance. Sure, you might be able to drive at 70 miles an hour, but you're doing it at the expense of your engine and you’ll be using dramatically more gas. You might get to your destination a half hour earlier, but you might just toast your engine, too.
Suggestion B: Watch the Temperature Gauge.
If you do notice your temperature indicator starting to rise, turn on the heat in your car. Your car's heater core will divert a little more of that heat away from the engine (remember — the heater core is another little radiator). Sure, the passenger compartment will get hot — maybe unbearable — but you might save the engine. Overheating can ruin an engine. So, if the temperature gauge is running hotter than it normally does, take these precautions, slow down and get some help at the next opportunity. If the engine is actually overheating — that is, the needle is near or in the red zone, or the "hot" light is on — stop driving. It may seem inconvenient, but you will almost certainly ruin the engine if you drive while it's overheated.
Suggestion C: When All Else Fails (A Few Things
to Toss in the Trunk).
If you've followed all the precautions described above but bad luck has caught up with you anyway, here's Click and Clack's Official Heap of Things to Bring on Your Summer Road Trip.
- Bring some extra coolant, particularly if you are traveling through the boonies, where service stations are spaced farther apart. If you're from the East and taking your first trip out West, consider yourself forewarned: there ain't a gas station every 20 miles, pal.
- Bring a quart or two of oil. See Item A. Even a good engine can burn oil with sustained driving.
- GPS. Attention all Real Guys: Don't let testosterone poisoning cloud your thinking. Bring along your favorite phone navigation app, and use it. Remember, too, that you may be out of cell reception for some of your trip, so consider a portable GPS navigation system like Magellan or, heck, just print out a hard copy of your plans using Google Maps.
- While you're packing, also toss in a roll of duct tape. Duct tape has a number of great uses, such as temporarily repairing a hole in a leaky hose, or slapping it over the mouth of your kid when he's driving you completely wacko.
- Do yourself a proactive favor — if you're going to be driving through unpopulated terrain, throw out that Mickey Mouse spare tire in your trunk and bring a real spare tire with you. Would you trust one of those cheesy spares to get you across the desert of Nevada? We sure wouldn't. Spring for the money, get a real spare, and have it mounted on a rim that fits your car. (Yes, we know people who have actually made that mistake!). For those of you on a budget, a good option is to get a used tire at your local junkyard. Look for something that hasn't been left to degrade out in the sun and that has a reasonable amount of tread left. You can tell if the tire is degraded if there are cracks in the side wall or the tread "valleys."
By the way, that little spare isn't recommended for more than 50 miles of driving. So, if you expect to be more than 50 miles from civilization, this is especially important.
- Toss in a screwdriver, a couple of flares, a pair of pliers, vise grips and maybe a coat hanger or two to hold up the muffler when it falls off.
- Remember the jack that came with your car? Get it out, and try it out. Make sure you have all the parts that came with it, and get comfortable using it.
- Everyone who’s got one, should bring his or her cell phone. Not only will the phone be useful, but the camera might come in handy, too — for photographing an accident scene, or posting a few images of that timber rattler closing in on you to Instagram, so your friends can share how your trip ended.
Well, that should do it. Bon voyage! And one more thing: while you're driving around this summer — be sure to stop and check out the Toilet Seat Museum in San Antonio, Texas. The kids will love it. Tell 'em Ray sent you.
Buon avventura, guys,
Tom and Ray