Many people take the time to prepare and plan for a road trip and forget to do something that is critical to both the success of your trip and the safety of your family. Take about 30 minutes and follow some simple car care tips before your trip. I’ve mapped out how to prepare your car for a road trip. Follow these tips and you’ll have a safe and fun road trip.
Road Trip Planner: How to Prepare your Car before taking a Road Trip
Check Your Tire Pressure
I know it sounds like something so basic, but many people forget to do this when planning a road trip and it costs them lots of money in wasted fuel economy and poor tire wear. Use a tire pressure gauge (digital ones are more accurate) and set the pressure to manufacturers standards. On most newer cars you can find the PSI on a tag on the inside of the door frame on the drivers side or in the manual. While you’re doing this take a minute to CHECK YOUR SPARE. Many of us forget the spare until we need it, and that’s a terrible time to find out your spare is flat.
Check Your Tread Depth
While you’re putting air in the tires take a minute to look at the tread wear on your tire. If you see any uneven wear you should have them checked out before venturing on a long road trip. You also want to check the tread depth to make sure the tires aren’t worn out, you can use a tread depth tool to make sure you have more than 3/32, or use a penny and make sure the tread goes past Lincoln’s head.
Check Your Service Record
See when you are due for an oil change or factory service. If you are within 500 miles of your next service go ahead and get it done before the trip. Normally, when you are completing a full service oil change, most services will check the rest of the fluids for you. Tip: if you recently paid for service on your vehicle, many national chains, will top off and check your fluids for free in between service intervals.
Check Your License, Insurance, and Registration
I don’t really think you’ll plan for a road trip without any of these things, but it will help to find them so you will have them all in one place if needed (you don’t want to be scrambling to find these things as “Officer McSpeed-Trap” stands by waiting). It’s also important to check when your insurance policy expires since it may expire while you are on an extended road trip.
Check Your Wiper Blades and Lights
Take a moment to look over and clean off your wiper blades. If you notice the rubber is dry, cracked, or rough and brittle, or you see streaks on the windshield when using them, it may be time to change them. This is especially important if you are driving into a wet climate like Florida or Washington from somewhere arid and dry like Texas or Arizona. Many westerners aren’t prepared for a flash rain storm that can bring visibility to a very low level if your wipers aren’t up to par.
Check Your Lights and Indicators
Turn on your lights and walk around the car to ensure they are all working. Then turn on each turn signal and do the same. If you have someone with you also take a minute to have them press your brake pedal to make sure all your brake lights are working. You don’t want to get pulled over for having any lights out, or worse end up in an accident because of poor lighting.
Check the Inside of Your Vehicle
Take a few minutes to clean out the vehicle and check that everything in the car is something you’re going to need for the trip. When taking long trips every inch of space will matter and you’ll be glad you took that extra stuff out of your trunk. If you’re traveling with pets make sure the area they will be occupying is free of any harmful chemicals or chew hazards, and give them some clean bedding to sleep on.
Wash and Wax Your Car
Many people plan on cleaning their car after a road trip, but dont’ realize how helpful it can be to wash the car before the trip. It’s one of the most important long term car care tips on the list. In addition to ensuring good visibility through all the windows you’ll be adding a protective layer of wax to the car to protect it from all the road grime that will build up throughout your trip. The first time I drove through a desert I was shocked to see how much dust built up on the car and waxing it first prevented damage to the clear coat.
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