(BPT) - Last call for your summer road trip. Grab the family, call your friends: The Great American Road Trip still awaits. Don’t let summer fade into the sunset without a last hurrah.
According to the Auto Club, you won’t be alone: 37.5 million Americans hit the road during the Independence Day holiday this year, up 2.9 percent from 2016. And to no one’s surprise, the Auto Club says the old-school, family-type road trip and visits to national parks and theme parks remain the most popular types of vacations for families.
They say getting there is half the fun, so before you head out on a “roadie,” here are a few tips to make the trip safer and more enjoyable.
* Be flexible: It’s always wise to plan ahead, and leave a little extra time in the master schedule, especially if you’re traveling with kids. But it’s also fun to be spontaneous, so don’t plan too far ahead. Maybe you want to stop and see the world’s largest thermometer in Baker, California. Make time for the fun stuff that’s off the beaten path.
* Lost and found: There’s nothing more frustrating than being lost, especially while on vacation. Use apps like Waze and Google Maps to help you get around traffic and get to your destination.
* Must-haves: Don’t forget to bring: the cell phone charger, flashlight, batteries, bottled water/juice, first-aid kit, snacks, music and toys/games/videos for the kids.
* Clean sweep: Since your family or friends will be in your vehicle for several hours a day, be courteous and throw out the ancient Big Gulp cups, food wrappers, empty sugar packs, old gym clothes and all the junk you’ve tossed in your backseat the last few months. Besides, you’ll need to make room for all the silly souvenirs you’re going to buy along the way.
* Check, please: One thing you definitely need on a road trip is a reliable vehicle, so you’ll want to make sure yours is in excellent, road-worthy shape. Pre-check everything, from all the fluids to your tires. Especially your tires — even the spare.
“I can’t say enough about the importance of your tires, especially if you’re heading out on a family road trip,” says Fred Koplin, senior director of marketing and motorsports for Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of a variety of tires for passenger cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks. “Tires are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road and they affect everything from braking and steering to comfort and handling.”
Koplin says while it doesn’t matter what type of vehicle you drive, it’s super important that you have the right tires to get the best handling, ride and treadwear.
For a fun summer road adventure — and daily driving, too — Koplin recommends a touring tire, which combines the comfort and tread life of a passenger tire with the handling and sports-like feel of a performance tire. “The Avid Ascend is a great example of a touring tire,” says Koplin, “because it offers exceptional all-season performance, remarkable treadlife and excellent fuel efficiency.”
To learn more about touring tires, Koplin says to check tire company websites like www.yokohamatire.com or your tire retailer’s website for more help.
Koplin offers more tire tips that will help you throughout the year:
* Check tire pressure at least once a month — this takes about five minutes. Always use an accurate tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual or placard on the driver’s door to determine proper tire pressure. The correct tire pressure is specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer. Tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold — at least four hours since the vehicle was last driven.
* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.
* Tires should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, the lowest legal limit. It’s best to replace them before they reach 2/32 for optimal performance, especially in bad weather.
* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
* Check your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.