Vacation: All I Ever Wanted


Summer is here! School is out, the sun is shining, and out-of-town destinations call out for people to visit them. As a result, many people will decide to go on a road trip for vacation. If you have chosen to go on a summer road adventure to beat the heat, enjoy the heat, or frantically escape a rabid pack of wild dogs, there are some things you (or your local, friendly Chad Miller Auto Care) should do to prepare for the trip.

Watch out for those rabid packs of wild dogs!

Watch out for those rabid packs of wild dogs!

I’ve always found that acronyms help me remember things, so I’ve created one for the things you should check at least a week before hitting the road—”Very Bad Boys Break Things”:

  • Vital Fluids
  • Battery
  • Brakes
  • Belts/Hoses
  • Tires

Vital Fluids

It is essential to check your vehicle’s fluid levels and make sure they’re all within the proper specifications, which can usually be found in the owner’s manual.

Fluid Color What happens if you don’t maintain it
Engine oil Black or brown
  • Engine will work much harder and wear out much quicker
  • Dirty oil will start to erode engine parts
  • Engine will grind and seize up
  • Your vehicle will die. You might also die.
Coolant Purple, pink, yellow, blue, or green
  • Low level means the coolant going into the radiator has less time to cool down and recycle to the engine
  • Engine will overheat
  • Your vehicle will die. You might also die.
Transmission fluid Red or green
  • Vehicle will jerk or slip when changing gears
  • Vehicle might randomly change to neutral without warning
  • Vehicle may speed to high RPM while in neutral or without the vehicle actually speeding up
  • Your vehicle will die. You might also die.
Brake fluid Clear or light yellow
  • Brake pedal will not have enough fluid to push through the braking system
  • Brakes will fail
  • Your vehicle will die. You might also die.
Power steering fluid Red
  • Power steering pump will overheat and start squealing/whining
  • Vehicle will be much more difficult to steer
  • Bearings will fail and pump will seize up
  • Your vehicle will die. You might also die.
Windshield washer fluid Blue or orange
  • Dirty windshield will stay dirty
  • You and your vehicle probably won’t die.

With all of these, if the fluid is dark, dirty, and/or gritty, it is time to change it.


One of the most common things that strands people on the side of the road is a dead battery. It is a good idea to check your battery before going on a road trip. The cables should be tight and snug around the terminals. Also, check the wires to see if the rubber coating is cracked or missing in places. The battery terminals should be clean—no corrosion, dirt, confetti, cotton candy, etc.

We don't discriminate against circus folk.

We don’t discriminate against circus folk.



Your local, friendly Chad Miller Auto Care can test the voltage of the battery for you, but in case you are more of a hands-on kind of person, here’s how to do it yourself (I got this info from Geeks of Cars):

  1. Make sure the engine is not running. Unhook the positive and negative terminals. Remove the bracket bolts. Remove the battery.
  2. Use a volt meter to check how many volts the battery has. Hold the volt meter to the car battery’s positive and negative terminals, using the volt meter’s color-coded prongs; red goes to the positive terminal and black goes to the negative terminal. The volt meter’s display should read about 11 to 13 volts.
  3. If your car battery reads less than 11 volts on the volt meter, it needs to be charged completely on a battery charger. Choose a setting between 20 and 40 amps; this will charge the battery in a couple of hours. The battery charger will indicate when your car battery is completely charged.
  4. Once your car battery is fully charged, use the volt meter to recheck the voltage by conducting what’s called a load test. Hold the prongs of the volt meter to the corresponding battery terminals and watch the volt meter while someone else starts your car. Make a note of how low the battery voltage drops. A normal car battery will drop to 10 or 11 volts. If your battery voltage drops below 10, this is a sign that it needs to be replaced.
  5. If your car battery has passed the load test—meaning it did not drop below 10 volts during the test—reinstall the battery.


If it’s taking longer for your car to stop, your brakes are squeaking, or your vehicle is pulling to one side when you brake, you need to get your brakes checked before a road trip. It may be solved with a fluid check, but it could also be an issue with the rotors, pads, drums, cylinder, etc. You certainly don’t want to be in a position where you either cannot brake at all, or you end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. Just remember: Before a trip you takes, have someone check the brakes.

Brake dance. Get it? Haha...ha.

Brake dance. Get it? Haha…ha.


Regarding belts and hoses, Vincent Ciulla says this on

“Check all the drive belts and hoses for any signs of wear and deterioration. Belts that are frayed, glazed, cracked, cut or have chunks missing should be replaced immediately. With the engine off and cold, look at each hose and see if there are leaks, bulges, cracks, or swelling. If they look good, give them a squeeze test. Good hoses are firm but flexible. Any hoses that feel spongy, soft, or brittle should be replaced.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


If your feet are worn out, uneven, slippery, or have holes in them, you’re not going to walk very far before you have to stop.  Tires are the feet of a vehicle. Before you start traveling, check your vehicle’s feet to see if they have any uneven wear. Check the tread to see if it is thick enough (thicker than the thickness of a penny should be ok). Check the air pressure using a pressure gauge, and compare it with the recommended air pressure in your owner’s manual or on the inside of your door where the VIN number is located. If the pressure is too low, add air, and then listen for leaks.

Fun trick: If you can’t see a hole, but you hear a leak, you can spray water or some other kind of liquid from a spray bottle onto your tire. If there’s a leak, you’ll be able to see it with the liquid.

Warning: Contains MAGIC.

Warning: Contains MAGIC.

Bringing the Noise, Bringing the Fun

On top of your vehicle preparation, you can also prepare your mind for a fun road trip with some of these boardless, pieceless road trip games.


Get Outta Town!

The time has come for vacation planning. As long as you remember “Very Bad Boys Break Things” and check all the fundamental components of your vehicle before you hit the road, you should have a smooth ride to your destination. Whether or not you enjoy it is up to you.


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Written by Ben Scharff

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