Checklist helps drivers make their cars safe and secure over the most traveled weekend in the calendar year


thanksgiving (select to view enlarged photo)

CARSON, CA--Nov. 20, 2013: Because approximately 90% of people traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend are likely to be driving, the maintenance and safety of cars on the road is in sharp focus this month.

Owing to a combination of factors, Thanksgiving road trips can be among the toughest of the year. Typically, these trips are long (and tiring!) with most folks averaging 600-mile round trips for their turkey day celebrations, often over unfamiliar roads and landscapes. Though many of the accidents that happen over this much-traveled weekend will undoubtedly be caused by human error, we are completely in control of – and should take responsibility for – the mechanical side of this equation. AutoMD.com has compiled a list of the top 5 simple maintenance checks to make before hitting the road.

T-Day Driving Tip #1: Stop Putting Off Preventative Maintenance

Ignoring simple preventative maintenance – such as changing engine oil and air filters – is never clever, but it's even more important before a long journey. This will not only reduce future repair costs but can also keep vehicles safe on the road. Failing to make minor car repairs today, such as replacing a thermostat or front brake pads, could put a car at risk of both short and long-term damage. Other simple, but important, repair and maintenance tasks include: changing the transmission fluid; checking the coolant level, mixture, and condition; and checking the vehicle's tire pressure on a regular basis. And don't forget to top off windshield wiper fluid for the long journey ahead. Seeing clearly is key to driving safely.

Click here for a list of repairs car owners should never ignore.

T-Day Driving Tip #2: Save Money and Lives, Don't Neglect Your Tires!

For a long journey, it's incredibly important to maintain correct air pressure in your tires. Driving on underinflated tires can increase tire wear and lead to significant tire damage from heat, potholes and other road hazards. Plus, keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Having the proper tread is incredibly important for safety in long journeys - driving on bald tires can reduce vehicle traction and lead to an accident. Loss of vehicle control is the last thing anyone ever wants but it becomes doubly more dangerous when the roads are so crowded. The average life of a tire is between 40,000-60,000 miles. For the safety of everyone on the road, make sure old tires are replaced.

Click here for AutoMD.com's Tire Care Tips.

T-Day Driving Tip #3: Don't Ignore Dashboard Warning Lights or Other Symptoms

Dashboard warning lights are just that, warning lights! Pay close attention to them – as they could be warning you about a serious maintenance problem that could lead to expensive repairs or unsafe driving conditions. One mistake many drivers make is not being familiar with the different warning lights on their dashboard – reading the owner's manual before hitting the road will help drivers distinguish the common warning lights: Check Engine Light, Oil Light, Temperature Light, and Brake Light. The owner's manual will also recommend an action when the lights are illuminated. Mechanics at AutoMD.com say that you should never ignore the Check Engine light just because you think the car is running fine. One key reason for this is your MPG could be reduced by as much as 30% and a blinking Check Engine light could indicate a severe misfire that may damage a car's expensive catalytic converter. And, of course, ignoring the oil and temperature lights can result in complete engine failure – at a cost both to your wallet and the safety of everyone in your car.

T-Day Driving Tip #4: Running Late? Don't Drive on Fumes – It's Not Worth It!

Just because your destination is close at hand – and you can almost smell that turkey dinner – now is not the time to ignore the fact that your fuel indicator light has gone on or that your fuel level has dropped below a quarter tank. Most cars on the road today have electric fuel pumps mounted inside the fuel tank. Back in the 70s and 80s, when cars had carburetors, they could be driven until all the gas was gone, re-fuel, and then drive off again with no problem. However, today's fuel-injected engines rely on in-tank electric pumps that use gas to cool and lubricate components. Driving a fuel-injected engine on fumes could cause the pump to fail, leading to a repair costing hundreds of dollars. Not to mention arriving really late for grandma's famous Thanksgiving feast.

T-Day Driving Tip #5: Don't Diagnose Car's Symptoms Yourself

After doing the basics, more serious issues can always arise and, while it's important to do the research, AutoMD.com's mechanics recommend that drivers don't attempt to diagnose their car's symptoms for their mechanic. Today's vehicles are extremely complex, and while it's important to do some preliminary research, there are many vehicle symptoms that can be misleading. For example, a driver may be convinced that his car requires new spark plugs or an engine tune-up, when it really needs the MAF (mass air flow) sensor cleaned. Telling the mechanic to replace the spark plugs instead of asking him to diagnose the problem, means he will do the repair, charge for it and leave the issue unresolved.

Click here to see a list of commonly misdiagnosed vehicle symptoms and repairs. And, finally, if a car does have a serious issue - the biggest mistake is failing to get a 2nd opinion. The costs can vary wildly!

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