Summer is a great time to pack up the car and head off on a good, old-fashioned road trip with your family or a group of friends. The last thing you want is car trouble spoiling your fun! Here’s what you need to do before you go to make sure your car is ready to carry you to your dream destination.
1. Inspect, Repair and Replace
Start your road trip preparations by giving the car a close inspection or having your mechanic look it over. Does anything look or sound “off?” The brakes should respond well without noise, and all the lights should be in working order. Air filters for both the engine and the cabin should be clean. If the wiper blades are more than six months old, you’re better off replacing them with a new, high-quality set.
Look under the hood for damaged, deteriorating or dry belts and hoses. Make sure the spark plugs are clean and the battery terminals aren’t corroded. The battery case should also be intact with no damage or cracks. If anything needs to be fixed, get it taken care of before committing to driving long distances.
2. Top Off the Fluids
Just like your body, your car needs the right amount of fluids to say “healthy” and run smooth. Oil is probably the first one that comes to mind, and you should definitely check that and have it changed if it’s dirty or add more if it’s low. You also need to check:
Power steering fluid
Windshield washer fluid
It doesn’t hurt to keep an extra container of each of these on hand just in case you need to top up again during your road trip. If any of the fluids seem to be unusually low, have your mechanic check for leaks before you head off.
3. Check the Tire Pressure
Fuel efficiency counts on long road trips, especially if you’re traveling across state lines and have no idea how much gas is going to cost at the next rest stop. Maintaining proper tire pressure is an easy way to get more out of every gallon and enjoy a smoother ride. Underinflated tires cause you to lose 0.4 miles per gallon for every one PSI drop below the manufacturer’s recommendation. On the other hand, overinflated tires don’t grip the road as well and could put you and your passengers at risk.
Check tire pressure before you go and every 1,000 miles during your trip. Adding air when necessary not only improves gas mileage and keeps you safer but also prevents premature and uneven wearing of the tread.
4. Pack an Emergency Kit
Although nobody wants to think of all that might go wrong on a road trip, it’s best to be prepared. Then if something happens, you’ll have everything you need to fix the problem or to stay safe until help arrives.
In addition to a basic first aid kit, it’s a good idea to pack:
A tire jack and spare tire
A flashlight and batteries
A solar charger for your phone
Emergency reflectors or flares
Snacks and bottled water
Make sure there’s a list of emergency numbers in the glove compartment, as well, and have everyone familiarize themselves with the emergency call feature on their phones.
When your car is all set to go, you can hit the road with confidence. Continue to perform routine maintenance and checks on long trips to ensure safety, and check everything again when you get home so that the car will be ready for your next adventure.
About the Author
Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to NutritionStudies.org, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the NutritionFacts.org 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.You can find out more about Sam at GreenGutWellness.com.