Summer is here and we all know what that means - Road Trip!
Nothing ruins a family vacation like a broken-down car halfway to your destination. Before you take the family out for some fun in the sun, make sure the family car is up for the journey.
Use this road trip checklist to make sure your car is in tip-top shape for your next vacation.
Essential Road Trip Checklist
The first step to preparing your car for a safe journey is to go through the most important items. You should check your cars mechanical functions and prepare yourself for any problems.
Begin with the fluids and moving parts of your vehicle to make sure you're as ready as you can be for the trip. Once you know your car is in good shape, prepare for unforeseen circumstances and problems.
It's a good idea to check your fluid levels on a regular basis, but you should definitely check them before leaving on a trip.
Regularly checking and changing your oil is the most important car maintenance step you can take. Newer cars often come with oil life sensors, but you should always check your oil level and quality once or twice a month.
Before leaving on any major trip be sure to make sure your oil is in good condition and that you don't have a leak. Oil changes are so affordable these days it's better to get an early change than risk damaging your engine.
Having a responsive and effective braking system is the most important safety feature of a car. You should pay extra attention to your brakes if you plan to travel through mountains. Nothing is more terrifying than finding yourself without braking while driving down a mountain road.
Be sure to check your brake fluid periodically. Water and other contaminants can sometimes enter the system, requiring a fluid flush and replacement.
Power Steering Fluid
Modern vehicles rely on a hydraulic system to give you more control over your turning. If your car has a leak or your fluid has simply begun to break down, you may notice a loss of turning responsiveness.
Double check your power steering fluid level and the quality of the fluid regularly.
Checking your coolant is especially important for hot summer drives. Make sure your reservoir is filled to the proper level and the fluid itself is in good condition.
If you're low on fluid check for a leaky seal or bad hose. It's always better to fix a small problem before it becomes a major repair.
A good rule of thumb is to let your car run in a spot for a few minutes then check it for any leaks. This lets your engine get up to temperature and systems pressurize.
Noticed a grinding or thunking sound when your car shifts gears? You may simply be low on transmission fluid. Make sure to have your vehicle checked for leaky seals or loose hoses after you replace your fluid.
Other Things to Check
Make sure you go through a full car maintenance checklist before you head off on your trip. The major wear and tear components of your car all need regular maintenance and replacement.
There are several things to check on your tires before a long trip. First things first, always inspect the tread and general condition of your tires. If your tread is 2/32 of an inch or less, it's officially bald and needs to be replaced.
You should also make sure your tires are pumped up to the right air pressure. Not only are low-pressure tires a safety risk, they rob your car of gas mileage.
It's a good idea to monitor how your tires are wearing down when checking your tread. If you have inconsistent wear you may need to get your tires aligned to prevent early replacement.
Always check your brake pads when you inspect your tires. While most modern brake pads begin to make a loud squealing sound when they have reached replacement age, it's always a good idea to double check.
If any of your pads are less than 1/4 of an inch thick you should go ahead and replace them for safety's sake.
If you're driving around with a dirty air filter you may be robbing your car of power and gas mileage. Have your filter checked whenever you change your oil and replace it when necessary.
A bad car battery is a major annoyance on a road trip. Having to get a jump is time-consuming and often doesn't fix the root problem.
If you've noticed that your car is hesitant to crank or takes longer than it used to it's smart to have your battery tested. Most car batteries have a lifespan of 4-5 years.
Headlights and Signals
A burned-out headlight or tail light can become very expensive if you get pulled over. Have a friend or family member walk around your car before you leave and double check that everything is working.
Brake lights are of course the most important signal to have but faulty turn signals are also a safety risk.
Basic Emergency Kit
Even brand-new cars can experience unexpected problems. A flat tire, a faulty part or even a minor accident can all become major issues if you aren't prepared.
A big part of preparing your car for a road trip is putting together an emergency kit. It doesn't have to be a huge and comprehensive thing, just the basics to get your car moving again and keep your family safe.
The essential car kit items include:
- Tire sealant foam
- Drinking water
- Replacement fluids
- Jack kit
- Spare tire
- Jumper cables
- Rope or straps
- A few useful tools
- Duct tape
Most Importantly - Have Fun!
Taking the time to follow a road trip checklist can help make your vacation a blast. You make it much less likely you'll experience a major issue during your trip.
If you would like to learn more about car maintenance, check out these other informative articles.