3 Signs Your Road Trip Is About To Take A Turn

There's no denying that long family road trips are a lot of fun, but they can also place plenty of stress on your vehicle. While long hours on the road may leave you feeling tired as a driver, they're nothing compared to the wear on your car. Unfortunately, this extra strain can cause issues on even otherwise reliable and well-maintained vehicles.

When problems show up, trying to drive through them can cause more damage, lead to more expensive repairs, and even result in a stressful and frightening roadside breakdown. On the other hand, recognizing that trouble is brewing gives you the time you need to get your car safely to an auto service center. If you notice any of these three troubling signs, it's time to put your trip on hold.

1. Spiking Coolant Gauge

Do you pay much attention to the temperature gauge on your dash? That innocent-seeming needle measures something critical to your car's health: its coolant temperature. A high reading means your engine is beginning to operate outside its normal safe range, a situation that can go from relatively minor to incredibly expensive in minutes.

If your coolant gauge is beginning to move beyond its normal range, stop the AC and turn the heater on full blast. This strategy may buy you a few minutes, but you'll still need to get your car off the road (and the engine turned off) before your coolant needle hits the red zone. Don't even attempt to finish your trip with an overheating car—get your car to a service center immediately.

2. Flapping or "Whomp Whomp" Noises

Safely driving over long distances requires being in tune with your car, which means paying attention to unusual changes in sound or behavior. Flapping sounds or rhythmic "whomp whomp" noises often indicate problems with one or more tires. These sounds can mean anything from minor pressure issues to severe tire damage. 

If you hear these sounds, slow down immediately and pull over when it's safe. Check your tire pressure, look for evidence of punctures, and check your sidewalls for bubbles, chips, or cracks. If you spot an issue, don't drive on the tire. Most auto shops can inspect, repair, or replace tires, so it's better to get your car checked instead of risking additional damage.

3. Oil Warning Lights

Knowing what your oil warning lights mean can save you from destroying your car's engine. Most cars have a low-oil-level indicator and a low-oil-pressure indicator.

The low-level indicator is urgent but not an emergency. If you see this light, quickly find an auto parts store and top up to an appropriate level. However, if your car continues losing oil, you'll need to get it to a mechanic.

On the other hand, a low-pressure indicator is an immediate emergency. If this light comes on, you may only have seconds to save your engine. Pull to the side of the road as safely as possible, shut the car off, and call for a tow to a nearby service center.

Contact a local auto service, such as Cliff's Automotive Repair & Exhaust, to learn more.