20 Things to Check Before Your Next Road Trip

I am going to just say it, I love road trips! There is nothing I love more than taking a drive and enjoying the countryside. 

However, going on a road trip can turn into a nightmare very quickly if you experience every driver’s fear, the dreaded breakdown. With the price of a tow bill reaching over $300, it can quickly become a costly nightmare.

Modern vehicles have become very reliable, but there are still things that we can do as vehicle owners to make sure our next trip goes smoothly. We have come up with the 20 things to check before your next road trip, take a look below:

  1. Check the oil 

Pop the hood and check your oil. This is something that you should be doing on a weekly basis anyways. However, it is really important if you are going on a road trip. Are you going on a long road trip? If so, maybe your oil will need to be changed when you get to your destination. Instead of having an unknown mechanic service your vehicle, get it changed before you leave by your trusted technician and save the hassle of getting this done during your trip.

  1. Check your tire pressure

Make sure that you check your tire pressures before you leave. If you are wondering how to do this we have created an ultimate guide on how to check your tire pressures. Ensure that your tire pressures are set according to the door placard. If you do not own an air compressor, check out your local gas station. Most stations still have an air filling station. 

The brakes

If you are unsure of the condition of the brakes on your vehicle or you have been noticing something different during braking. Take your vehicle to your local mechanic to get them to check the brakes. I am a firm believer that it is better to get your brakes replaced before they cause you an issue. Nothing worse than having a brake caliper seize up when you are far from home. 

  1. Air Filter

Just like humans, our cars need to breathe as well. Air filters are an easily serviced item that is generally quick to check and replace. Ensure that your air filter is one of those things that you quickly check on your car before your next road trip.

  1. Cabin Filter 

In my career I have always noticed that people check and ensure that they have clean air filters for their engines. One thing they do forget about, if they are even aware that it exists is the cabin air filter. The cabin air filter filters out dirt and other foreign material from inside the cabin of the vehicle. On a road trip a lot of time is spent inside of the vehicle, ensure that the air you breathe is properly filtered by checking and replacing this filter if needed.

  1. Transmission Fluid

Check your transmission fluid level. This is checked just like your engine oil however make sure that you follow the directions from the manufacturer to check it. Generally transmission fluid is checked with the vehicle level, running, and warmed up. The fluid should appear a reddish or goldish color. Odor can be another important thing to inspect and bad transmission fluid will have a burnt odor. If you have any questions about your transmission fluid condition, check with a local auto mechanic. Nothing worse than having a major transmission issue during a road trip.

  1. Check your tires

Check your tires, they are important. When you are checking your tire pressures, also ensure that you inspect the tire’s condition. Inspect the tread to ensure that there is a good amount of tread life remaining, also inspect the tread and sidewall for weather cracking or other signs of damage. If these issues are noticed, replace your tires.

  1. Coolant 

Your coolant level needs to be checked. Ensure that the fluid level is between the min and max marks of the coolant overflow jug. If you are going to be traveling to a colder climate ensure that you check the freeze point of the coolant as well to ensure that the coolant does not freeze.

  1. Steering components 

This one is better left to a mechanic or an experienced diy’er. Check your steering components to ensure that there is no play or damage to the components. This will ensure that your vehicle drives straight and prevents excessive tire wear from occurring during your road trip. 

  1. Check all of your lights

Inspect all of the lights on your vehicle. This is easily done with a neighbor or friend. Have someone use all of the lights while the other person inspects. Check the headlights, tail lights, blinkers and also the brake lights. Replace the bulbs if you have any lights out.

  1. Battery

Get your battery tested before you leave. Most automotive repair shops or even local parts stores will test your battery at no charge. You can catch a battery when it is starting to fail and prevent a  dead battery when you are far from home. 

  1. Belts
image of an engine bay

A good under hood inspection of your vehicle should be done. When inspecting belts you should look for any physical damage to the belt. Are there cuts, fraying, strands coming off the belt? Also inspect for cracking caused by the belt drying out.

  1. Spark Plugs/Wires

Check your spark plugs and wires. If they havent been changed for a long time or you do not know if they have been changed, take the time to do it now. This will ensure that the engine is running at its best and improve fuel economy. Let’s be honest, with todays fuel prices any improvement in fuel economy is great.

  1. Charge your portable car jump starter

No one every thought you would be able to start a vehicle with a device only slightly larger than your phone. But, today they now exist. Ensure that your portable car jump starter is properly charged. Nothing worse than having a dead battery and not being able to boost it because you forgot to charge your booster.

  1. Replace the windshield wiper blades

I also recommend replacing your windshield wipers before a big trip. Wiper blades are not very expensive and by replacing them you can ensure that they will work (streak free) if you run into rainy or otherwise hazardous conditions on your road trip.

  1. Fix that pesky check engine light

Do you have a check engine light that has been on for so long you have forgotten about it? Now is the time to fix it. Even if the check engine light has not caused you issues yet, the worst time for problems to arise is on a road trip. Get it fixed, depending on the code and part that is faulty you may possibly have a fuel economy increase as well.

  1. Clean your windshield, inside and out 

Over time the inside of your windshield and the other windows on your vehicle can become dirty. This causes difficulty looking out the windshield. This is most noticeable at night or during the rain when seeing becomes difficult. Clean the inside and the outside of your windshield before you trip. This will ensure you will have the best view possible when the weather gets bad. 

  1. Check your air conditioning 

Depending on where you plan to travel, ensure you get your air conditioning checked before you leave. A faulty air conditioning system can cause issues if you are traveling somewhere warm. Just imagine instead of checking out the beautiful scenery you spend your time sweating in a hot car. Not my idea of a fun road trip.

  1. Clean the interior of your car

If you are anything like me the inside of your car looks, well, a little cluttered (maybe biohazard would be a better word) at the end of a road trip. Take the time to clean the vehicle top to bottom before you leave. This will ensure that your vehicle is comfortable during the road trip and not too hard to clean as you return home. 

  1. Wash your car and fill the tank
image of a person hand washing a dark gray car

This is one of the little things that help make the trip go right. Take the time to fill up your gas tank and also run your car through the car wash. This will ensure that as you get started on your trip you don’t have to stop right away to get fuel. 

There are many other things that you can check on your car before your next road trip. Hopefully these 20 things to check before your next road trip will have to on the road and enjoying your trip!! Have fun and drive safe.

John Morris
John Morrishttps://autoknowit.com
John Morris is the technical editor for AutoKnowIt.com. His years of experience in automotive repair as well as an automotive professor have prepared him to ensure that even the most technical information is accurate and concise at all times.

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