Inspect and repair, if needed, the following:
• Radiator and cooling system, including water pump, fan and thermostat
• Brakes, brake pads and brake linings
• Battery and cables
• Belts and hoses
• Engine oil and oil filter
• Wiper blades and washer fluid
• Tire pressure and overall tire condition (including the spare).
• Most importantly, don't leave on a long trip with your car's "Check Engine" light on.
The Check Engine light appears when your vehicle's On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) computer detects a problem. According to several state Air Pollution Control Districts, the Check Engine light is designed to limit air pollution, as well as alert drivers to a condition that can waste fuel, shorten engine life and result in potentially expensive repairs.
If the light does come on, a quick check of your vehicle's service manual can often identify the problem and a course of action.
Those who take their car to a mechanic often find that technicians use a diagnostic tool to scan their vehicle and access trouble codes at a cost of $55 to $100.
A new automotive tool, with a Web site, lets consumers run their own diagnosis, enabling them to verify the mechanic's assessment.
Called CarMD, the tool provides a basic overview of probable problems with the car's electronic and emissions-related systems. It incorporates the same basic technology as tools used by mechanics, but is said to cost less and can be operated by anyone. A green light indicates that all systems are "go," a yellow light signals a possible problem and a red light means there is a current problem and service is required.
For more in-depth information, simply plug the tool into your personal computer and turn it on. It will connect to the company's Web site and provide a comprehensive report on your vehicle's health, including possible problems, estimated fixes and repair costs.
To learn more or to make an order, visit the Web site at www.CarMD.com. When planning a road trip, a pre-trip inspection can give you peace of mind; it also helps prevent costly repairs.