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Taking a few simple precautions now will save you the frustration of breaking down later.

Some Precautions to Take Before Leaving on Any Trip

  • Check all fluid levels and look for any fluid leaks beneath your car. If you detect a leak, note color of fluid and have your car serviced.
  • Make sure tires, including the spare, are properly inflated.
  • The battery, hoses, and other important components also should be inspected.
  • Make sure all lights are working.
  • Any unusual noises or vibrations should be checked.
  • Extreme brake pedal softness or noises while braking could be a warning signal that something is seriously wrong.
  • Abnormal pulling or vibrations coming up through the steering wheel may signify a serious problem.
  • Jerkiness or delay in transmission shifting should be checked by an expert before starting out.

Assemble a Safety Kit

Many car owners belong to an auto club such as AAA, and it's comforting to know that if you have a flat tire or other unexpected problem along the way, help is only a phone call away. Carrying a cell phone will add to your safety and security. Another key preparation is to assemble an emergency kit. Kits are available commercially, but they don't always have a wide assortment of usable items. You usually can save money by assembling the contents yourself. Suggested items for the kit include: flashlight with fresh batteries, warning device (flares or reflective triangle), jumper cables, first-aid kit, travel tool kit, cloth or roll of paper towels and a blanket.

Prepare for Storms and Wet Weather

Motorists caught in a sudden summer thunderstorm will be safer if they learn and practice wet weather driving skills. Knowing what to do is important because the odds of having a collision increase in wet weather. A hard rain can limit visibility so that a driver can't see the edges of the road, traffic signs, or other cars. On vacation or running an errand, a driver who knows how to manage reduced visibility and slick pavement is more likely to stay in control. The following tips will help motorists navigate their way through wet weather:

  • Turn on windshield wipers as soon as rain begins to fall. If intermittent wipers are used, be certain they are set to a speed that will clear the windshield before visibility is compromised.
  • If windows begin to fog, turn on the car's defroster.
  • Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility. Many states require headlight use in wet weather.
  • Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase.
  • If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately and pull as far off the road as possible.

Prepare for the Summer Heat

Planning a successful summer driving vacation involves more than arranging overnight stays or knowing how many states will be visited on the journey. Attention to details, including preventive automobile maintenance, is the key to a stress-free driving vacation. Most drivers think accidents and roadside breakdown happen during other people's vacations. Yet, millions of motorists each year experience a roadside emergency and find out they are unprepared. Before taking a trip, have your car inspected by a certified automotive technician. Some technicians inspect vehicles at no charge; others charge as much as $50. Ask about the cost beforehand, but have an inspection performed. Now is the best time to prepare your car for the long summer months ahead. To keep free of heat-related problems, the following maintenance items should be checked:

  • Radiator hoses: Old hoses can develop cracks and small leaks, especially near the clamps. Have old, worn, cracked or bulging hoses replaced and clamps tightened.
  • Fan belts: Inspect for and replace frayed or cracked belts. It's a good idea to carry extra fan belts for emergencies.
  • Coolant: Check coolant level and strength. If the coolant has not been replaced in more than two years, it may be time to drain and flush the radiator and add a new 50/50 ratio of coolant-to-water mixture.
  • Air filter: Hot, dusty summer driving can clog the car's air filter. Replacement is usually easy and relatively inexpensive. Your car will breathe easier with a clean air filter.
  • Fluids: Check the levels of your engine oil and brake, power steering and transmission fluids. Don't forget your windshield washer fluid.
  • Tires: Replace heavily worn or bald tires and check the tire pressure in the cool of the morning for an accurate reading.

Have you closed your MVA records?

Since September 1997, Maryland residents can request that their Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) record information be made private both to individual requests and to commercial or bulk mail requests. Prior to this law change, driver records were open to disclosure. Last fall, both federal and state legislation offered residents the opportunity to close their information. When they call 888-682-3772, customers are guided through the automated, free procedure for closing records. Residents who choose not to close their MVA record information may have it accessed by the public at a cost of $5 for each non-certified copy. The fee covers administrative costs of record retrieval. The MVA provides additional means for residents to close their record information. Customers can visit any MVA office to complete a privacy request form, access MVA's home page or Fax on Demand system at 410-424-3050, 24 hours a day.

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