August 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

Soup it up

Planning can stave off road trip stress

Auto service retailers suggest preparation key to making vacation memorable in a good way

With about a month before the start of school, there’s still time to take that family vacation road trip, or at least to plan a great Labor Day end-of-summer weekend up north (and to find an alternative to coming home on I-75, where the traffic seems to starting backing up just south of the bridge; no, not the Zilwaukee Bridge but the Mackinac Bridge).

To make your trip memorable in good ways, Manny, Moe and Jack, the trio that personifies Pep Boys, the national automotive retail and service centers, suggest you equip your vehicle with more than your children’s video devices and a cooler full of snacks.

Speaking of which, Pep Boys sells seat back organizers (MSRP $12.99) with compartments to hold all that stuff within reach of those in the back seat. Oh, and don’t forget the cords to recharge them.

First and foremost, however, when it comes to safety on the road is the Bell Automotive Products 100-piece roadside emergency kit ($29.99, though when we checked the Pep Boys website, it was on sale for $19.90 and you could order online and then pick it up at your local store).

The kit, which is assembled by Bell, which people from auto racers to bicycle riders know for its safety helmets, includes a first-aid kit, booster cables, screwdriver, flashlight (and batteries), blanket, tire sealant, gloves, a “help” sign, rain poncho and more.

While that emergency kit includes jumper cables, I’ve noticed that my friends with classic cars all carry a booster pack with them. Pep Boys sells Peak Performance-brand devices ($49.99 and up).

A booster pack is a portable battery device with its own jumper cables, but instead of jump-starting from another vehicle, you simply plug the unit in at home to charge it and then have it ready should you need to jump-start your car (or ATV or lawnmower) even if there’s no other car available. Some have a built-in USB port and even a standard electrical outlet.

And to make sure you most likely won’t need to use any of these things, Pep Boys has a “Summer-Ready Prep Package” ($79.99) that includes a fuel system service, new air filter, tire oration, brake inspection, battery test and more.

Oh, and while we hate to mention it, the approach of Labor Day means winter weather is just around the corner, so we asked Manny, Moe and Jack about their tips for getting ready for driving on snow and ice.

Their suggestions:

■Check your tires for wear and pressure, and remember that tire pressure can drop 1-2 pounds per square inch for every 10-degree drop in temperature (they didn’t push buying special winter tires, but I will, because they can be the difference between being stranded and being home safe and sound);

■Make sure your battery is in good shape to start your car in cold weather;

■Change your oil and consider a viscosity that makes it easier for your engine to start and to run in cold conditions;

■Check the coolant in your radiator and make sure it isn’t running low;

■Check belts and hoses to prevent cracking in frigid temperatures;

■Replace windshield wipers;

■Check the clear covers over your headlamps. If they’re turning yellow and limiting your visibility, consider a do-it-yourself headlight restoration kit.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at