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Notes from the Road

Preparing the Family Car for that Summer Road Trip
By Aaron Robinson

Goss has probably never broken down in his life, so we’ll take him at his word. And no eye-rolling at the expense you think will be involved. This is probably going to cost less than what you spent on French fries last week, so get to it. Your family is counting on you to take a few preventative measures before you hurl them into the gauntlet of our national highway system.

  • Synthetic Engine Oil – Check your oil levels and the date you’re due for an oil change, preferably in your driveway before you embark on that first 29-hour leg. If you’re close to the manufacturer-recommended oil-change interval listed in your manual (you do read your manual, don’t you?), then change it. Don’t think about it, just do it. Nellie deserves better than a crankcase full of gunky old oil as she hauls your carcass up the Loveland Pass. If you’ll be going long distances, consider opting for synthetic. If you are traveling in hot weather – and where is it not hot in America in the summer? – and especially if you’re pulling a trailer, a fully synthetic engine oil such as Mobil 1 Extended Performance 5W-30 for newer cars or the 10W-30 formula for higher mileage vehicles gives you some extra protection against thermal breakdown, or “coking,” during prolonged high-speed runs in hot temperatures. It also will cut friction losses in the engine and bump your fuel economy, savings that you’ll see magnified on a long drive. And since synthetic oils have longer duty cycles, you should be able to complete your tour of America’s best donut-and-karaoke shops on one oil change, secure that Old Nellie is well lubricated

  • Transmission and differential fluids – Did you forget about the other oil reservoirs in your car? Both your transmission and drive axle have their own lubricant supply. Check your owner’s manual for their change intervals, as they are quite a bit longer than engine oil, but if Nellie has over 75,000 miles and you’ve never checked or changed her other lubricants, it’s time to get busy. Automatic transmissions require special red-colored ATF fluid, and changing it and the transmission filter are best left to a professional mechanic. It’s a messy, stinky job that you wouldn’t want to do anyway, and getting it wrong is going to cost you big. A regular oil-change shop can handle the greasy job of changing manual transmission oil and the differential oil. While they are under the car, have them give the drive-shaft U-joints and any other grease points a squirt of grease.

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