Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Checklist for Road-Readiness Safeguards Travel

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Checklist for Road-Readiness Safeguards Travel

Article excerpt

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- Judy Felt no longer makes the 700-mile vacation trip from her home here to her cabin near Packwood, Wash., without at least getting the hoses and belts checked on her vehicle beforehand.

The mother of five remembers vividly the long, complicated process of trying to resume her vacation travel several years ago after the radiator hose broke on her 1979 Chevrolet full-sized van, just as she reached the isolated Cayuse Pass in Washington.

"A (forest) ranger was right behind us on the road, fortunately," Felt said. "He called a tow truck, which towed us down this long, winding road."

Thinking it would be a quick and relatively easy repair -- and because she, her elderly mother and three kids all couldn't fit in the front seat of the tow truck, Felt left her three children behind, with the oldest in charge. The rangers also "checked on them by the roadside," she said.

"(But) when we got down from the pass, he didn't have a hose for my van," she said.

In total, the breakdown added some five stressful hours to Felt's vacation trip.

The likelihood of Americans taking older vehicles on their vacations has been increasing in recent years with the growing age of vehicles on the road.

According to a 1997 report from the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, the expected useful life of a personal vehicle is trending toward 15 years, thanks to automaker improvements in quality and reliability.

Automotive service professionals say most vehicles on the road can manage vacation travel well, provided they are properly maintained and -- most importantly -- get a thorough checkup beforehand.

Here are major suggested areas:

The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is engine overheating, according to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. So it's important to check your car's cooling system. Hoses are critical, especially if the trip is in rigorous, mountain terrain where the engine is going to be taxed. Look for cracks, swelling and soft spots in the hoses.

See if there are any leaks from the radiator or from where the hoses connect to the radiator and/or engine. …

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