Gearing Up for the Derby – Is Your Vehicle Ready for the Races?

It’s that time of year again. All of us here in Lexington are excited about the annual Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday of May. This year marks the 144th “Run for the Roses,” taking place on May 5. While we’re busy choosing just the right hat to wear to the race, it’s also a good time to give some thought to the well-being of the family steed: the trusty vehicle we’re counting on to get us to Louisville and back.

Here are some tips on ways to ensure that your car or truck will get you to Churchill Downs safely—and in style:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A thoroughbred horse like those that run the Derby wears specialized, custom shoes on their hooves to help them get the most traction on the track. Your car is no different. If your tires are worn they won’t get the proper grip needed on the pavement, and during rainstorms, that can be positively dangerous. Even if they’re in good shape, if your tires are underinflated they can make handling difficult and can lead to a blow-out at highway speeds. Plus, too little air in the tires can have a detrimental effect on fuel economy. Have your tires checked, and if necessary, replaced.

Whoa Nellie

When a jockey needs to slow down or stop his steed—after the race, of course—he or she pulls back on the reins and his highly-trained horse knows what to do. In our cars, we step on the brake pedal and the same thing happens…or it does if you’ve taken care of your vehicle’s brakes. Today’s braking systems use ABS technology that helps the car come to a safe stop without skidding or losing control. But they still require routine maintenance to ensure that the physical components of the brakes—pads, cylinders, rotors, etc.—are all in tip-top shape. Have your mechanic take a look and you’ll be more confident on the road, knowing that your metal mare will get you where you’re going safely.

A Fluid Situation

A Kentucky Derby entrant is essentially a finely-tuned athlete. Just like their human counterparts, they are fed a carefully-chosen diet designed for maximum performance. Your car or truck requires specific fluids to keep its essential systems running at top speed. These include engine oil, brake, transmission and power steering fluids, coolant, battery acid and windshield wiper fluid. If any of these levels are out of whack, it can cause problems ranging from the annoying (a non-starting car due to a dead battery, a dirty windshield that can’t be cleaned) to the traumatic—and expensive (transmission repair/replacement or an overheated and blown engine). Checking the fluids is something we all can—and definitely should—do. Make it a habit to give them a look each time you fill up at the gas pump. A little time spent doing this can head off big trouble later.

Put Your Best Foot (or Hoof) Forward

When a horse approaches the starting gate at Churchill Downs, the animal has been carefully and meticulously groomed. After all, no one wants to look frumpy wearing the roses in the winner’s circle. When you roll up to the Derby in your vehicle, you’ll want to have it looking its best. So take a little time to fix the little things: that ding you got at the mall from a shopping cart; that cracked turn signal housing; the loose piece of window seal. You’ll feel better and your car will definitely look better. Oh, and one more thing. Before setting out for the race, be sure to visit a car wash.

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