Skid Marks

Prep tips for the summer long-drive


With the Holy Week and long summer break upon us, it’s always the perfect time to go on a vacation with family and friends.

We at Inquirer Motoring believe that some of the best vacations involve a long drive through scenic locations and beautiful vistas here in the Philippines.

Having said that, if you plan on taking your car, here are some tips to remember before embarking on a long road trip:

1. Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape.

Prior to departure, ensure that your vehicle is in excellent working condition. A fresh tune-up/change-oil session is ideal.

Check your tires, have 4-wheel alignment performed as necessary, rotate them, air them up, and check their condition.

Tires five years or older should be replaced as the rubber compound becomes brittle the longer it is exposed to UV light and continuous heat-cycling.

Don’t forget to check the condition of your spare tire too.

Since it’s summer, it’s best to have your car’s air-conditioning system cleaned and serviced to ensure you get the best, coolest performing in this intense heat.

Additionally, having new tint installed is a great idea to help improve car cooling as well as reducing UV light exposure to your car’s interior and to your skin as well.

V-Kool, 3M and Diamond IR tint offer some really excellent, high UV-resistant tints while also offering additional protection for smash-and-grab break-ins.

Check also your vehicle’s lights (headlamps, brake lamps, turn signal indicators, etc.) as well as your wiper blades. You never know when a summer shower will hit, and it’s best to have all the electrical accessories working in excellent condition.

PIAA offers a huge range of light bulbs that offer increased visibility at night, as well as silicon wiper blades that improve visibility during sudden downpours.

A complete set of tools is a must, as well as a tire jack and wrench, an old blanket or towel to use as a mat when changing tires, and workman’s or mechanic’s gloves to avoid burning or scalding your hands and fingers.

Don’t forget the reflective early warning device triangles (red and yellow).

Lastly, have your car’s battery checked and replaced as needed. Batteries take a beating under constant use, and extreme temperatures wear them down further.

2. Pack these extras:

Aside from tools, you should pack some additional items such as a gallon of distilled water to top up the cooling system as well as for drinking and washing/cleaning, a bottle of coolant, and a liter of engine oil so you can top up as necessary, especially if your car is older.

A mobile phone car charger is a must nowadays, as well as a battery pack just in case you need to make emergency calls.

Light snacks are ideal to keep you from getting hungry. When you’re hungry, your focus and concentration while driving lessens, so it’s good to drive with something in your tummy.

Despite the advent of Waze, Google Maps or other GPS-based location apps and maps, in the event that you find yourself in a dead spot or lose battery power, a map is always useful to find your way back to civilization.

A first-aid kit is a must, plus over-the-counter medicine such as paracetamol, basic pain-killers, indigestion and/or upset stomach pills, multi-use ointments, and of course sunblock, especially if you’re headed for the beach.

If you’re going to a cold place up north, a battery jumper-cable set is a good idea as car batteries can suddenly die when exposed to cold weather.

3. Plan your trip well in advance.

Before leaving, you should map out and plan your trip thoroughly. Ideally, you should stop every 60 to 90 minutes for a short 5 to 10 minute break to visit the toilet, stretch your legs, or to grab some drinks and food to wake yourself up.

Shell Fuels Pilipinas has an app that shows you the nearest Shell gas station where you can fill up gas, buy some treats, and basically take a short break.

If you’re going on a 500-plus kilometer road trip, break it up if possible over a few days to reduce stress on yourself and the car, and to enjoy the scenery.

Traffic can be very bad especially during Holy Week, and delays may take hours before you reach your destination.

By breaking up your trip into smaller, shorter distances, you are less stressed out, are seeing more of our beautiful country, and will be rushing less.

Additionally, some small towns might not have premium gasoline or diesel fuel, so if you’re driving a new-model vehicle that requires such, you will have to plan accordingly and fill up at the larger mainstream gasoline brands along the way since you could encounter car problems if you fill up with low grade fuels.

Be realistic with your schedule: you can’t expect to cover 300 km in 3 hours in real-world driving conditions because of traffic, stopping at the toll booths, the odd stops to refuel, rest or eat.

Be generous with your schedule so you’re not rushing and driving like a maniac.

4. Be comfortable inside the car.

Wear comfortable clothes on long drives; avoid tight-fitting clothing. A light cotton or dry-fit shirt with loose pants or shorts for men, along with thin-soled flat shoes or proper driving shoes is good.

Avoid wearing thick-soled basketball or running shoes as it makes pedal modulation more difficult and might prevent you from braking properly in an emergency situation.

For women, the same is highly recommended: loose clothes of light material or breathable fabrics.

Stretchy jeans and pants for men and women are also a good idea.

Women should avoid wearing heels and flip-flops for driving as both footwear can become entangled in the pedals, preventing them from braking properly in an emergency situation.

Sun glasses for long drives are also a must as they reduce glare and strain on your eyes, and helps you focus more on the road ahead.

Polarized lenses are best for driving as they reduce glare, improve contrast, and allow you to see better in harsh lighting conditions that normally can blind you.

A good selection of music to match your mood is a must, so prepare your playlist well in advance too.

5. Drive safe!

Always stick to the speed limit: 100 km/h on major highways and expressways. If you activate Waze on your mobile phone, it will indicate the speed limit on whatever road you’re travelling on.

Drive smoothly to save on fuel and avoid stress on yourself. Avoid unnecessary aggressive manoeuvres, yield the right of way at intersections, slow down on high foot traffic areas, and most of all, give way to pedestrians when passing through small towns.

Remember, you’re just a visitor there, so respect them and their way of life.

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