ALLENDALE CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Nothing can put a damper on your vacation plans like car troubles; especially when you’re hundreds of miles from home. That’s why mechanics stress the importance of pre-trip inspections, regardless of whether your car seems to be running smoothly. 

“Just because your car drove good today and you have to leave tomorrow, doesn’t mean there’s things about ready to fail or something that’s leaking that you just don’t know,” Philip Tolman, owner of Tolman’s Auto-Tech, said. “When you stress it out and take it for an eight-hour drive and you’re maintaining speed going up and down hills, that puts a lot of stress on it. So that’s when stuff will start to fail.”

Tolman, whose shop has seen a steady flow of customers getting ready for spring break travel, said there are a lot of things people might not consider before long-distance drives. Although things like headlights, brake lights and tire tread are easy to look at yourself, other parts might be harder to get to and inspect on your own.

“Some of the good things we like to look over … tires. Number one, make sure that there’s no cord showing that they’ve got good tread and traction. Brakes. Make sure the brake pads are good and moving correctly, especially if you’re going to travel south and going through mountains at all, definitely want to have good breaks. We check suspension (and) make sure nothing is loose or can cause wear. Wheel bearings so that nothing’s going to fall off. (A) big thing we like to do is check the engine for a cooling system. Make sure the cooling system is operating good, especially if you get stuck in traffic or idling a lot. We don’t want anything to overheat,” he said.

Mechanics also check fluid conditions, belt hoses, batteries and AC systems.

Tolman said cars made more recently tend to burn through more oil than they did in the past, so vehicles that come into the shop oftentimes don’t have enough in the tank. He explained that most drivers don’t realize they’re low on oil, so it’s important to check the dipstick regularly and add oil when needed.

If something does happen to go wrong during your drive, Tolman recommends calling your usual mechanic and asking if they know of or can recommend a trustworthy auto shop near you. You also want to make sure the shop has proper certification.

More than anything, Tolman encouraged drivers to keep up with routine maintenance.

“Whether it’s a six-month period or especially before trips. That way you can kind of come up with a game plan of, you know, these are my immediate needs, these are what I got coming down in the future, so you can kind of build a game plan of, I have to save money for this, I need this now, and now I have a safe and reliable vehicle. Right? That way you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have the stress of things breaking down. You’re more proactive than reactive and that really goes a long way with maintenance,” he explained.