Planning for a road trip is a fun and exciting experience. You have many things to consider, including where you will stop to fill up on gas, eat a meal, or take a pit stop for fun roadside sightseeing. However, in all the planning, be sure you make time to have your vehicle properly maintained. This single step can help keep you and your passengers safe and get you to your destination.
Although regular vehicle maintenance is an important part of vehicle ownership, when taking a road trip you’ll want to take more steps to be sure your vehicle is in proper working condition for the road ahead. Here are some items to consider taking a look at before you head out on the open road.
Tires and Wheel Alignment
Tires to a vehicle are like shoes are to a person. You want to have a solid set of tires to help the driver react to road hazards and keep everyone safe. Getting a flat tire is sometimes unavoidable, as certain road conditions and debris can cause the unexpected. However, checking your own tires before heading out into the unknown can prevent a flat tire disaster. Check the tire pressure to make sure they are not over or underfilled.
Having a tire rotation performed on your vehicle or doing it yourself can ensure even wear on your tires and helps the wheels grip the road efficiently during your drive. Another easily forgotten item to check is your spare tire. You don’t want to be in the unfortunate predicament of needing it, only to discover it has gone flat.
The brakes on your vehicle keep you and other drivers safe. They can wear quickly, especially on long trips. Sometimes the signs of wear are not visible until they start to make noise, which can sometimes be too late. Having your brakes checked is important to keeping your loved ones safe. Because road conditions are unforeseeable, you’ll want to ensure you can stop quickly and reliably if an animal darts out in front of you while driving or if you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Oil lubricates important components in your engine and ensures that it’s working properly. It is the blood that runs through your automobile’s engine. Changing the oil before you put a lot of miles on your car can help reduce wear and tear and keep things running smoothly. Fresh oil cleans the moving parts of an engine and reduces the amount of friction and heat created.
Checking the fluids in your vehicle is another easily overlooked step in preparing for a road trip. You’ll want to make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped off. This will help you keep your windows clean on long stretches of highway and improve visibility as you drive.
Coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and differential oils should be filled to manufacturer-recommended levels before you begin your journey. Brake fluid impacts how each part of your brake system works. It must be fresh and free of moisture. The engine coolant, or antifreeze, helps to maintain the engine’s proper operating temperature. Make sure it is filled to the recommended level and free from floating particles.
Cooling and Heating System
You don’t want to be out on the road in the hot summer or cold winter to discover your heating and cooling system doesn’t work. Unhappy passengers can quickly create a stressful situation in a vehicle and cause unsafe conditions for a driver who needs to focus.
Before leaving on a long trip, check to make sure the system is working properly. Listen for any noises, and observe the quality of the air. If you feel like it is not cold enough, or not getting warm enough, have your system checked out by a professional.
Have an emergency kit ready for your trip to prepare for the unexpected. Try to carry:
- Jumper cables
- Fresh water
- First-aid kit
- Emergency blankets
- Spare tire tools
- Work gloves
- Cell phone charger
Belts and Hoses
Look under the hood of your vehicle to check your belts and hoses. Having a belt snap or a hose spring a leak while out on the road can leave you stranded and in an unfortunate predicament. Check for cracks in the belts, as these parts can get brittle with time. Press on them to make sure they are tensioned properly. Examine hoses for fluid leaks as well, especially at the ends. Sometimes these items are hard to replace and require placing special orders. Getting these replaced before your trip can save you money on towing and rentals.
Cabin Air Filter
Air quality is an important part of a road trip journey. Check the cabin air filter in your vehicle. This filter prevents things like pollen, dust, and other pollutants from entering your automobile through the air vents and air conditioning system. If you or your passengers have allergies or other medical issues, a clean cabin filter could prevent an asthma attack and helps to keep everyone comfortable in the enclosed cabin.
You want to have your brake lights, turn signals, and headlights checked before hitting the road. These lights help other drivers see you easily, let others know if you are stopping or turning, and keep everyone safer.
The Exhaust System
A vehicle’s exhaust system is crucial to a properly working road machine. You don’t want to be in the middle of a desert road when you find out there are issues. The exhaust system is important in maintaining a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and power. When checking this system, listen for hisses, popping noises, and sometimes clanking. Noises can signal problems with the muffler, exhaust manifold, tailpipe, or even the catalytic converter. A faulty exhaust system can leak toxic gases into the cabin, so checking this one thing is crucial to a successful road trip experience.
Ensuring your vehicle is road trip ready, no matter the time of year, can help save you thousands of dollars in repairs and towing fees. Proper vehicle maintenance helps to make your road trip a success and can add years of life to your vehicle.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.