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Avoid unexpected delays: 5 tools for unplanned road trip pitstops

Woman With Flat Tyre On Car Phoning For Assistance1 / 3
Pouring coolant2 / 3
A woman does the penny test on her tire treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, you need new tires.3 / 3

During the Fourth of July holiday, 42 million people back out of their driveways and begin their family road trip, according to AAA. Before turning onto the interstate, evaluate if the trusted family vehicle will be able to make it this year's remote campsite.

"When you're traveling long distances you have to make sure your vehicle's tires are looking good,"says Cassie Schmidt office manager at Dakota Tire, Brakes and More. "No one wants to end up by the side of the road."

According to Schmidt, summer is often a busy time for their business since most plan their camping expeditions or long site-seeing trips during June, July or August. Most schedule their annual vehicle check-up during the summer. Schmidt says often during an oil change mechanics can check on tire pressure and tread. It's also a good time to ask about any issues you've been having with your car.

"No question is a dumb question when you are talking to your mechanic," Schmidt says. "I even feel like I should know some things, but I still ask the questions to my coworkers here — just to confirm things."

Before slamming the trunk, grab these five fix-it-yourself tools to be prepared for any unplanned pitstop.

1.An old towel

Schmidt says that having an old towel is essential as it helps a person with multitude of quick vehicle fixes.

An old towel will provide a barrier between your hands and hot radiator. Along with protection, an old towel can be used to clean off the dipstick before checking the engine's oil level.

"Fold up the towel to have something kneel on," Schmidt says. "If you have a flat tire and you don't want to crouch by the side of the road with your shorts on."

2. At least one quart of your vehicle's engine oil

Be sure to buy a quart of your engine's specific oil. Each make and model requires a specific oil type like 5W30 or 10W30. Spend at least 15 minutes reading over your vehicle's manual to familiarize yourself with its specific needs.

"A quart of oil is always a good idea," she says. "If something would happen to your engine and you're running low on oil in the middle of nowhere, then you would be able to pull over and fill it up so you can reach the next city."

3.One gallon of radiator fluid

Like oil, any engine needs an adequate level of radiator fluid at all times.

The radiator is essential to your engine's cooling system. Its fluid travels around the engine's cylinder heads and valves to absorb its heat. The fluid then takes this heat and brings it back to the radiator where it is dissipates safely using cooling fans.

If an engine overheats, it can be easily corrected. Wait for the engine to cool — at least 30 minutes to be safe — then remove the radiator cap with an old towel or gloves on, and pour in the fluid until it reaches the "fill" line.

4.Tools for changing a spare tire

Most vehicles always have a "donut" or a spare tire in the trunk, but not all have the necessary tools to take off the flat from the rim. Ensure that you have tools like a lug wrench with a socket on one end and pry bar on the other, and jack. Depending on the vehicle, additional tools may be needed like a wheel lock, extension bars and an alignment stud.

5.Jumper cables

A staple during long Midwestern winters, many remove jumper cables to make room for that extra floatie.

During the summer, battery issues occur due to water loss from evaporation in high temperatures. The average lifespan of a vehicle battery is three years. If your vehicle battery hasn't been replaced recently, leave that unicorn floatie at home.

"Really the biggest thing is before you take off for a family trip is to just have a checkup to make sure that you would have to use any of this stuff," Schmidt says.

April Knutson

April Knutson is lifestyle-focused journalist producing stories for the Forum News Service about people, health, community issues, and services. She earned her degree in both English Literature and Mass Communications. After working as a digital marketing specialist and web design consultant for a few years, she joined Forum Communications in 2015. She grew up on a farm near Volga, S.D. Follow her on Twitter @april_knutson.

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