Summer is the perfect season for a road trip. After you've checked your fluid levels, tire conditions, wiper blades, headlights and taillights (and unchecked your check engine light), it's time to accessorize the buggy for camping, biking or hitting the beach.
For all those adventures you're about to have, you should invest in the following:
A cooler turns your car into a rolling restaurant dispensing snacks, drinks and full-blown meals just by throwing in a bag of ice with your supplies. Coolers can ride in the back seat, trunk, or if you're rolling in a pick-up, in the bed. Keep in mind that a hot trunk or back seat will dissolve your ice faster.
Most coolers have handles or slots for optional brackets that you can use to keep things from sliding around. Bungee straps, cargo netting, or short pieces of rope can also be used to hold things in place. If you go for a higher-end cooler (some can top $300) and it's going to be exposed in a truck bed, consider a set of lockable brackets.
Adding a rack and some bikes opens a whole new world of trails, paths and byways that you might never see through a windshield. Bikes aren't as fast as cars, but they always beat walking.
There are bike racks made for just about every kind of car, truck or SUV. The major types include trailer hitch racks, roof racks, trunk racks, truck bed racks and spare tire racks. All of these use a system of straps, clamps and brackets to keep the bikes and the rack in place.
When installing the rack, follow the manufacturer's directions so nothing comes loose on the highway. Prices range from $40 to $800 for bike racks depending on how they mount and how much they can haul.
Is the surf up? Have you thought about going paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing? If so, you're going to need roof racks and some tie-downs to get your alternative vehicles to the water.
Some roof racks are designed to attach to a car's rain gutters, but newer models don't have gutters. Rest assured there is a rack out there somewhere that will fit your car, truck or SUV. There are even websites (including right here at Advance Auto Parts) to help you compare models. Used racks can be had for under $150, but new ones can run as high as $500.
Once again, follow all the manufacturer's directions carefully when installing the racks and make sure whatever you are hauling is held in place with tie-down straps, bungees or ropes. As the sailors say, “if you can't tie good knots, tie lots of them."
If you're parking out in the wilderness, adding some dashboard protection isn't a bad idea. They protect your car's dashboard from sun damage and can add an element of security by obscuring what's inside.
Sun protectors usually fold up when not in use and are made from a reflective material to block out the heat. Prices start at under $10. Dashboard protectors are a more permanent solution. They just cover the dash and are made from fabric, plastic and carpet. They can be custom-matched to your car for a better fit. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 and up depending on quality and level of customization.
Camping setup | Uriel Mont
Going camping? Taking the dog? One of these bad boys is a good way to keep track of the tents, packs, bags, food, drinks, clothes and all that other gear you need to survive the great outdoors. They are designed for cars or truck beds and are usually made from fabric.
Trunk organizers contain different-sized pockets, handles and tops, and many come with a system of straps and hooks to keep them in place. If you're using one in an open truck bed, make sure it and whatever is inside is secured with tie-downs, cargo netting, straps, ropes or bungees.
Once you have your gear strapped in and tied down, all you need to do is crank up the tunes and hit the road to an endless summer road trip.
What's on your list when turning your car into the ultimate summer party vehicle? Let us know in the comments.