If you’re preparing to head out on a road trip, whether it’s with your friends or family, it’s important to understand some of the things you should do to keep your vehicle safe, reliable, and operating at peak efficiency.
Editors Note: This blog was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2021 to include technical and industry changes.
How to Prepare for Your Next Road Trip
1. Make Routine Maintenance a Habit
Easier said than done, but it’s important to make routine maintenance for your vehicle a habit. Whether you’re overdue for an oil change or should have had your windshield wipers replaced months ago, it’s important to catch up and stay proactive on your car’s professional maintenance.
You might forget all about that owner’s manual in your glove box, but it contains useful information that might come in handy. From towing a trailer to changing a flat tire, your owner’s manual has important instructions that should be considered when taking care of your vehicle. You can also find information like jumpstarting the car if the battery dies and even dealing with an overheated engine. If you don’t want to keep track of a hard copy, many car manufacturers offer electronic owner’s manuals that you can download and keep on a hard drive.
2. Check Your Fluids
Something you should complete before every long drive is a thorough inspection of your car’s fluids. This includes your engine's oil, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. If you find that your vehicle is low on any of these, you may have a leak on your hands. Have this inspected and repaired before departure. If things look burnt, old, or smell off, have a professional automotive technician take a second look. You may need to have your fluids flushed and replaced – a minor service that can be completed same-day.
Several car battery issues arise when summer hits, along with other heat-related issues. For one, you may have build-up on the posts from the winter months that needs to be cleared. If ignored, you can eventually lose connection to the battery. If your terminals are dirty, baking soda and water will clean them out along with a hard bristle brush. Heat can also cause the battery fluid to evaporate.
On average, car batteries last around three years. If your battery is older, you may want to have it replaced before you head out on your trip, especially if you are experiencing any recent connectivity issues. To ensure you won’t have any starting problems this summer, get your battery tested by our professionals.
4. Test Your Brakes
Before you head out, be sure to take your vehicle for a cruise. Test the normal operations, but especially your brakes. Your brakes are important in the safety of you, your passengers, and everyone on the road. If your brakes are older or you have no idea when the last time you had them inspected was, be sure to take your vehicle in for service. A professional will be able to ensure that they aren’t worn out or in need of replacement.
5. Inspect Your Tires
Your tires are your main connection to the road, so you must have the proper tire services performed to keep them in the best shape possible, including rotations and alignments. Keeping them in quality shape makes sure they are prepared to take on the miles you have planned ahead.
It’s important to make sure your tires have no tears or bulges in the side walls. If your tires don’t have a good amount of tread, you may need a new set altogether. Having the proper tread ensures you have decent traction in all weather conditions.
Besides the appearance and tread of the tires, it’s important to inspect the tire’s air pressure. You can find the specific air pressure your tires need in your car manual. Also, if you don’t know already, be sure to understand how to replace a tire if you happen to get a flat.
6. Check Your Headlights
Headlight lenses get cloudy over time, which reduces their strength and places you and your passengers in danger. It’s important to complete the proper cleaning or replace the clear plastic covers before going on your road trip.
Also, be sure your lights are working – especially if you’re planning on driving at night. Double-check your brights/high beams as well for the ultimate peace of mind.
7. Pack an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit, not only for your car but for your passengers, is essential. As frequent road trippers ourselves, we recommend ensuring you bring enough water and snacks for you and your group in case of the unexpected.
These items can be lifesavers in a tough situation:
Flashlights (with extra batteries)
First aid kit
Water and snacks
Properly inflated spare tire
It’s also important to understand how to pack efficiently when considering what to bring and what to leave behind. Too much weight on a car will make it more difficult to maneuver in an emergency and increases the risk of a rollover. Fuel economy is also reduced with extra cargo, so leaving behind some items may save you money in the long run. Keep in mind that roof-top cargo boxes should only be filled with light bulky items and the roof rack can be removed to lighten the vehicle.
If you’re looking for more advice on what you and your family should pack before you embark, check out our blog on what else you should consider bringing on your next road trip.
8. Check Your Air Filter
Does your air filter need to be replaced? The air filter is typically replaced twice a year. It’s easy to remember if you have it changed at the start of summer. The filter stops contaminants in the air from getting to your engine. It stops debris such as dust, dirt, and even leaves before they cause any damage.
9. Enroll in Roadside Assistance
This can give you an extra sense of security if something doesn’t go as planned. Whether your battery dies, gas runs out, keys get left in the car, or a tire blows out, having access to reliable roadside assistance can be a game-changer if the unexpected happens. While there are plenty of options out there to add roadside assistance to your monthly budget, it may already be included with your car insurance. Give your insurance agent a call to learn more.
10. Visit Your Local Automotive Shop
Last but certainly not least, visit your local automotive shop before your trip. Whether you need a range of services or just a quick look over by a professional, the team at Christian Brothers Automotive is here to help you get your vehicle ready to go wherever you want to go this summer.
As your local team of trusted automotive experts, we’re proud to offer Courtesy Inspections on every vehicle that enters our shop. Our experienced technicians will complete a complimentary courtesy inspection of your vehicle’s major operating systems to review the health and safety of your vehicle.