Road trips are always a great way to liberate yourself and explore new areas of your country.
It can be a great leisure activity amidst a monotonous lifestyle. However, it can end up as a stressful experience if your car is not prepared for it.
Nothing can be bad or scarier than your vehicle being broken down away from home in the middle of nowhere.
Traveling is supposed to be fun, but 57 percent of US families found it stressful when surveyed as per travelagentcentral.com. Lack of preparation and planning seems to be the obvious reasons, which is why we have come up with this post to help you prepare for the trip.
If you want your car to be up for the challenge, follow these tips, so you do not run into problems on the road. Some of the tips sound obvious but still need to be listed here, while others aren’t so obvious, but you will need them to save your trip from being counterproductive.
1. Perform a maintenance checkup
The first thing to do before you hit the road for a long trip is to have your car inspected by a professional. Perform a maintenance checkup where the vehicle goes through a comprehensive diagnostic check on all parts such as brake pad checks, tire rotation, etc.
Also, inspect the serpentine belt, air filter, and windshield wiper through an experienced mechanic and consider replacing them if you see any wear and tear.
2. Check fluids
Fluids are the most important items that guarantee vehicle longevity. Start your road trip by checking the fluids, including the engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer. Each of the fluids ensures that your car maintains its optimal performance.
While an oil change is recommended every 5,000 miles (see the Vehicle Owner’s Manual), there is perhaps no better time to change your vehicle fluids before a long road trip.
We recommend that you change the fluids at least a week before you leave on the trip so that you have enough time for other preparations.
3. Check the tires
Tires checkup is essential for various reasons. Proper tires help in accelerating, braking, and adequate handling of the vehicle in turns. They also play a role when you are driving in bad weather and slick road conditions.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) found tire damage as the third most common problem faced by drivers in 2017. To avoid facing this issue, we suggest keeping your vehicle tires inflated to the recommended levels.
Uninflated tires not only damage the vehicle alignment but also put your life in danger. Additionally, low tire pressure can lead to fuel wastage and cause the tire to run hotter due to friction.
Properly inflated tires, however, do not mean that you are all good. It is also advised to inspect your tires for cuts, abrasions, and proper tread. Most tire manufacturers recommend a tread depth of 2/32 of an inch; however, certain conditions may call for even greater tread depth.
It is equally important to keep a spare tire in the car to reduce your chances of getting stranded in an unknown location.
4. Check the car’s battery
Battery issues constituted the most common problem faced by car owners in 2017, according to the American Automobile Association. You can unplug the wires and remove the battery from the car on your own.
Take it to the nearest electrician or automotive supply store to test that it is in good health. Take your time to clean the terminals of the battery and make sure there is no debris that can interfere with the battery’s performance.
If you are taking a rented or used car, you need to ask about the details of the car’s battery. New car buyers also need to know about the health of the battery because most batteries don’t indicate when they die out.
Hence, do not wait for a replacement until you are stranded in the middle of your journey.
5. Check the lights, heater, and A/C
Long road trips often involve driving at night, which requires the use of headlights, turn signals, and indicators. So, make sure all the lights of the vehicle are fully functional. Test the headlights, tail lights, and indicators and consider replacing them if they are dim.
Also, check that the interior lighting is in working condition because you will need them during the trip.
You will also need the car’s A/C and heating system to be working up to their potential. They can be a huge comfort when you are traveling in extremely hot or cold weather.
A quick inspection will let you know whether they are operational; otherwise, you will need a professional to take a look.
6. Pack an emergency kit
If you have planned and prepared properly, your car will be in great shape for the trip, but life is full of uncertainties. Therefore, you must be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
Equip yourself with a car emergency kit and a first aid kit, which will give you peace of mind when the help is miles away. To increase your comfort level, make sure you have the following items when packing an emergency kit:
- First aid kit
- A set of jumper wires
- A blanket and towels
- Gloves to handle dirty work
- A set of basic tools, including wrenches, screwdrivers, etc.
- Distilled water, snacks, nuts, and dry fruit
- Chargers for electronic devices and other essentials
Besides, you must also take the car owner’s manual and documents, which can save you hours of frustration. If the trip involves driving on rough terrains, you need to take physical maps of the area you are visiting.
Also, take your driving license and other necessary documents such as the insurance coverage and the breakdown details with you in the car.
Long road trips are fun, but the difference between fun and misery lies in whether or not you have prepared your car for the trip. With proper preparation and following the above tips, you can make sure that you enjoy your journey.