Few things are as synonymous with summer as a road trip! When the weather warms up and you’re able to escape the daily grind for a few days to experience the open road, it’s a great feeling! But there’s nothing that can bring your road trip fun to a screeching halt like an unexpected car problem.
Avoid getting sidelined on a steamy highway during your trip by giving your vehicle a thorough inspection to ensure everything is in working condition. Read on for our list of 10 can’t-miss checkpoints before you plan a road trip:
Once you’ve planned how long your road trip is going to take, make sure you have a plan in place for while you’re gone. Unattended homes can be a target for thieves. Make sure you’ve made arrangements to have your mail held and for someone to keep an eye on your property while you’re out road-tripping this summer.
When planning a road trip, you have to start with the basics, and tire maintenance is as basic (and essential!) as it gets. A good tire inspection will begin with looking at the condition of each tire. Is there uneven tire wear? Are there any bulges or tears in the side walls? Is the tread worn down? You can conduct a simple tread test by sticking a quarter head-first in the groove. If the top of Washington’s head is visible, then you need new tires. If you suspect uneven tire wear it may be time to balance or rotate your tires, or possibly have an alignment service.
If you notice any change in the behavior of your brakes—such as squeaking, requiring more pressure, or vibrating—then it is time for replacement. Your local auto professional can also service your brake fluids if they need to be flushed out and replaced with fresh fluid so your vehicle will be road-trip-ready.
In addition to replacing your brake fluids from time to time, ensure that all your other fluids are topped off. Everything from oil, to antifreeze, to windshield washer fluid can get low in your car and should be prioritized as one of the first tasks your cross off from your car maintenance inspection checklist.
Did you know that hot weather can shorten a battery’s life? A professional can check the strength of your battery and its ability to remain charged. You also need to ensure the terminals are free of dirt and corrosion. A little baking soda and water can clean them up.
Oxygen is just as important to your car as it is to you. Make certain that your air, engine, fuel, and oil filters are clean before a long trip. You’d get overheated, too, if you were running with a mouth full of cotton.
The frequency of required oil changes varies from car to car, but is often around 5,000 miles in newer cars (hybrids excluded). Check your owner’s manual for the recommended frequency and always keep an eye on the dated sticker in your windshield that tells you when you will need your next service.
When all your maintenance checks are complete, you’re ready to begin packing the back. Keep the center of gravity in your car low by placing the heaviest items on the bottom of your pile and pushing them toward the middle of your vehicle. Also, if you’re traveling in a vehicle with an open back end (such as a van or SUV), make sure the lighter items on top are secured so they don’t fly forward in a sudden stop.
If you’re planning a road trip, you’ll also want to take a look at the latest offering of road trip apps. You’ll have loads of road trip essentials right at your fingertips with apps like:
Waze: This crowd-sourced traffic app lets users report road hazards, speed traps, and more, along with guided, turn-by-turn navigation. Available for Adroid, iOs: free.
Tollsmart: When you’re trying to budget for a road trip, don’t forget toll roads! Tollsmart lets you look up the price of toll bridges, roads and tunnels along your route. Available for Android, iOs
Roadtrippers: If you’re on the road and looking for a roadside attraction or other point of interest, you’ll want to check out the Roadtrippers app. Plan your stops into a trip plan that you can sync across multiple devices. Available for Android, iOs: free.
Spotify: What’s a road trip without tunes? Curate the ultimate road-tripping playlist with this app! Available for Android, iOs: free.