5 Essential Pre-Summer Road Trip Maintenance Checks for Your Vehicle

June 18, 2024 by

Winter driving can take a toll on your vehicle. After a season of cold temps, ice, snow, and poor road conditions, it’s a good idea to give your vehicle some TLC with a spring service check. Doing so not only ensures it’s in peak condition for summer road trips, but also helps you avoid expensive surprises down the line.

Regardless of whether you have an EV (electric vehicle) or a gas-powered vehicle, the automotive experts at Holman will cover the five things that should be on your maintenance checklist as you roll into summer.


1. Correct Alignment

Your vehicle’s tire alignment is essential for proper handling and maximum tire life. It ensures your tires roll straight and make proper contact with the road, improving your vehicle’s overall performance and drive quality. A misaligned vehicle, on the other hand, causes uneven tire wear, poor vehicle handling, and, in some cases, fuel economy.

The most common cause of poor alignment is potholes. Drivers are more likely to run into potholes during winter, so it’s wise to check your alignment each spring. You want to look out for uneven tire wear, a vibrating steering wheel, or your vehicle pulling to one side as they are common signs of poor alignment.

“Regular alignment checks are crucial, especially after the winter,” said Frank Carbone, Senior Vice President of Automotive at Holman.  “By addressing alignment issues promptly, drivers not only save their tires, but also improve their overall driving experience.”


2. Tire Pressure

The drop in temperature during winter causes the air in tires to contract, reducing tire pressure. With lower tire pressure, there’s more resistance between the tires and the road, leading to more wear on the tires. Conversely, as temperatures rise, the air inside tires expands, increasing tire pressure. In extremely high temperatures, this can lead to overinflation, while underinflated tires may overheat due to increased friction.

To minimize the risk of blowouts, punctures, and flats, check your tire pressure to ensure they are properly inflated. Most modern vehicles have tire pressure monitors that will indicate when they are below a minimum threshold, but its good practice to periodically check them manually.


3. Brakes

Brakes work hand-in-hand with tires to ensure your vehicle can stop safely. As you are getting your tires checked, rotated, or replaced, have your service professional inspect your brakes to detect any thinning in your brake pads early so you can schedule a timely replacement.

“Brake systems are not just about stopping the vehicle, but doing so in a controlled and safe manner,” Carbone explained.  “Ensuring your brakes are checked regularly can be the difference between a near-miss and a collision. And with heavier vehicles, such as EVs, the importance of timely brake maintenance can’t be overstated.”

Most manufacturers recommend replacing brake pads once they wear down to 1/8 inch (3 mm) of thickness. By changing your brakes on time, you avoid more costly repairs down the line and maintain the safety of your vehicle, protecting yourself and others on the road.

Since EVs are typically much heavier than their gas-powered counterparts due to the weight of the batteries, there may be an increase in brake and tire wear. As a result, you’re likely going to have to inspect and replace brakes and tires more frequently.


4. Battery

In winter, your car’s battery is strained by cold temperatures and the increased electrical load that comes with your vehicle’s comfort features. Most service facilities will perform a battery check when servicing your vehicle to make sure it’s fully charged and in working condition. The typical lifespan of batteries for gas-powered vehicles is between three to five years, so if yours is nearing the end of this range, and you notice your vehicle struggles to start, it may be time to replace it to avoid battery failure.

The performance of EV batteries can also be impacted by the cold. Low temperatures reduce the chemical activity within lithium-ion batteries, which decreases their capacity and efficiency. To maintain the efficiency of EV batteries in winter, warm up your vehicle’s battery and interior before charging and keep it parked in a garage if you can.

In the summer, EV batteries are in danger of overheating due to high temperatures. To mitigate the effects of the heat, park your EV in the shade and consider charging during cooler parts of the day or night. By taking these preventive measures and monitoring your battery health, you can extend the life of your EV.


5. Windshield

Cold temperatures can make your windshield glass more brittle, increasing the risk of cracks and chips from flying debris. Check your glass for little cracks or chips and repair them before they spread this summer. If they spread, you may need to replace the entire windshield, which can be quite costly.

Today, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning are standard equipment on many vehicle models. Although ADAS technology helps to mitigate accidents and keep drivers safe, these systems include expensive components that increase repair costs. In addition to the increase cost of the windshield itself, ADAS-equipped vehicles also often require recalibration of the entire system which is an additional cost factor.

While you are inspecting your windshield, don’t forget to check your wiper blades as well. Manufacturers recommend drivers replace their wiper blades every 6 to 12 months.


Make Maintenance a Part of Your Seasonal Routine

Taking your vehicle for service may not be top-of-mind when thinking “summer fun,” but it is necessary to keep your vehicle in tip-top condition and safe to drive. As you run through this checklist with your service technician, make it an interactive experience by asking questions. The more you know about how your vehicle functions, the better you’ll be able to take care of it. And most importantly, consider making maintenance a part of your seasonal routines. You’ll be happy you did in the long run, and your vehicle will appreciate the steady TLC.