Getting on the road
5 Tips: It's time to prepare your car for a road trip. We'll tell you what you need to know.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Almost 85 percent of Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles for their Memorial Day weekend. And if you're one of those folks, you'll want to listen up.
In today's Five Tips we'll tell you what you need to know before pulling out of the driveway.
1. Check your tires first
It's likely your tires are under-inflated right now simply because of the change in seasons. But before you pull out of the driveway, make sure you check your tire pressure to make sure they're inflated properly. A tire that isn't inflated to capacity can cause blow-outs on the highway.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that improper tire maintenance causes over 33,000 injuries and 660 deaths a year. You can find the correct pressure for your tires listed on a label inside the driver's doorframe or in the vehicle's owner's manual - the correct pressure is not the number listed on the tire itself.
One note - make sure you check the tire pressure when your tire is cold. That's because warm air in your tires causes an inaccurate reading.
2. Batteries give no warning
A battery gives little warning before it goes dead, according to Edmunds.com. And summer is even more brutal. Heat can cause battery fluid to evaporate.
Generally a battery should be replaced every three to four years, but if you don't know how old your battery is, think about replacing it before you leave. It may only cost you about $50. Given that these days cars use so much electricity for the components, you won't want to skip this step, says Rich White of the Car Care council.
3. Keep the luggage off the roof
Try to put all your luggage in the trunk, rather than on the roof. Not only is it safer, but you'll get better gas mileage.
"Newer cars are built to go through the wind more efficiently," says Mantill Williams of the American Automobile Association.
But you don't have to worry if you're toting your bikes on the back of your car - that should be just fine.
4. Beat the (engine) heat
Make sure you have enough coolant in your car before you take off to avoid overheating. If you're hauling a heavy load, or you're idling in traffic, your car is in danger of overheating.
Coolant is a mixture of anti-freeze and water. If you're watching the temperature gauge tick higher or you're climbing a steep grade, you may want to turn off the air conditioning to lessen the engine strain.
If your car does overheat (which you'll know by the steam coming from the hood), shut off the car and let it cool down before you add coolant, says Philip Reed of Edmunds.com. You can buy premixed coolant at your local autoparts store.
5. Check your policy
Check your roadside assistance policy before you go. These policies are generally included with your manufacturers warranty.
"Many people don't know if their policy is in effect," says Reed.
To find out how you're covered on the road, look on the Web site of your car's manufacturer or check the warranty details at Edmunds.com.
And remember, if you do happen to need a tow from the roadside assistance program, you may be able to negotiate for extras...like transportation home.
"They have the power to bend the rules," Reed says.
Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at email@example.com.