The tank is filled, the car is sparkling clean, the luggage is packed and you're ready to rock a family vacation. Hold on ? did you give your car a final once-over ? like checking fluids, hoses and wipers ? The good news is that you don't have to hire a mechanic to look things over thanks to this easy 10-minute checkup from Car Care Council, a consumer education program that promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care.

"No one wants to experience car trouble while on vacation," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "A simple vehicle inspection can help avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down many miles away from home. In just 10 minutes, drivers can make sure their car is ready for travel, and then take steps to have any problems fixed before heading out for vacation."

No need for a service bay ? the following 10-minute inspection can be done right in your driveway.

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly, and inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

The Car Care Council also recommends that motorists consider a tune-up so that your engine can deliver the optimum balance of power and fuel economy. To conserve fuel costs the council suggests that motorists avoid aggressive driving or idling, and observe the speed limit. And gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing should be replaced to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.

In addition, AutoTrader suggests that you restock your car?s emergency kit,  (or put one together if you haven't already). And don't forget to stock up on drinks and snacks. For long trips you'll want to hydrate with water, keep your energy up with healthy food and take breaks to stretch your legs every couple of hours. Happy trails!

author photo

Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.

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