Preparing Your Car For A Long Road Trip
Whether you and your family are getting away for the weekend or planning an extensive vacation, a long road trip requires careful preparation. Cars are built to be more reliable today than ever. But, even with proper maintenance, parts can still fail. Fortunately, by planning ahead and taking the right steps, you can reduce your chances of breaking down. You can even fix minor problems yourself after you’ve pulled your car to the side of the road. Here are 3 important things you should do to get your vehicle ready for the road trip.
Two Weeks Before You Leave
Take your car to a trained auto mechanic at least two weeks before leaving for your vacation. A lot of drivers wait until the last day before visiting the repair shop. That’s a bad idea. If your vehicle needs repairs or replacement parts, your mechanic might need more than one afternoon to do the work. Plus, auto repairs aren’t infallible; things can go wrong. When they do, it’s usually within the first 150 miles. Giving yourself a couple of weeks to “test drive” the repairs allows plenty of time to have them fixed if problems occur.
Prepare Your Roadside Emergency Kit
Even with the best preparations, you can find yourself stranded by the side of the road. For example, you might get a flat tire, your battery may unexpectedly fail, or you might be involved in a traffic collision. Pack a flashlight, bottled water, hazard flares, and jumper cables. You should also have a spare cell phone battery, a small pad of paper and extra pens. That way, if you are involved in a traffic accident, you can take notes and write down the other driver’s information.
A Few “Quick Fix” Essentials
Any long car trip requires carrying a few extra auto supplies. Your vehicle should already have a spare tire and a small jack in the trunk. You should also pack a few bottles of motor oil and transmission fluid. Plus, in addition to the items in your roadside emergency kit, pack a can of tire sealant, a few roles of electrical tape, and basic tools, such as a screwdriver and pliers.
One last note about the small jack in your vehicle’s trunk. Test it before leaving your house. Often, they’re designed for portability rather than strength. For larger vehicles, the jack may not be sufficient; in some cases, using it may even be dangerous.
Preparing for that long road trip can be time consuming task. Being prepared and covering all your bases and keeping up with the car maintenance will give you piece of mind for the journey ahead.
Taking your car on a long road trip should be worry-free. But, you need to plan ahead in order to avoid problems. Visit your mechanic a couple of weeks before leaving, replenish your roadside emergency kit, and pack a few extra auto supplies. If something goes wrong while you’re on the road, you’ll be better prepared to resolve the issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before I head out on my road trip, what kind of maintenance should be done on my car?
Besides a full tank of gas, and checking air pressure in my tires.
Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist:
— Fluids. Check fluid levels under the hood: oil, coolant, brake fluid,
windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and battery fluid.
— Wiper Blades. Replace worn blades to help safely navigate during
— Tires. Make sure all tires (including the spare) are properly
inflated. Look for uneven tread wear and bulges. Most roadside
emergencies are due to blowouts. If it has been more than a year since
the last tire rotation, take the car to an ASE-certified technician and
have the tires rotated and balanced. Also have the alignment checked.
— Belts & Hoses. Check for visible cracks or bulges and have any
suspicious belts or hoses replaced by a certified technician. If belts or
hoses are four years old or more replace them anyway.
— Lights & Horn. Test the brake lights, turn signals and headlights to
make sure they work properly and have enough illumination. Change any
weak bulbs. Also tap the horn a few times to make sure it will blow every
time it’s needed.
Safety Supplies & Equipment:
— Tool Box. There are many compact, all-purpose tool kits on the market,
but the most important items can probably be found around the house: blade
screwdriver and Phillips-head screwdriver, pliers, a knife, and duct tape.
Always carry a jack and know how to use it! Also carry jumper cables,
flares, a flashlight and a crescent wrench.
— Water. A gallon jug of water could mean the difference between being
stranded on the side of the road and making it to the next exit. When
taking scenic highways instead of interstates, it’s recommended that
motorists carry two gallons of water.
— First Aid Kit. In addition to Bandaids(R) and Bactine(R), carry
sterile gauze pads, a small roll of medical tape and burn ointment just in
case a mishap occurs when checking under the hood. Make sure the kit has
a triple antibiotic skin ointment and bug repellent, as well.
Roadside Emergency Numbers:
Motorists are advised to keep these two phone numbers in the car, just in
the event of a breakdown or roadside emergency. For a tow, call AAA at
1-800-222-4357. And to find the closest repair shop with ASE-certified
technicians and a national warranty program, call 1-800-LET-NAPA. There are
8,700 independently owned NAPA AutoCare Centers around the country that
motorists can count on for honest car repair.
— Beat the heat and prevent beverage and food stains by putting towels
down on the seats.
— Take a “pit stop” every two to three hours to stretch, rotate seats and
— Wear cotton, loose fitting clothes that breathe well.
Guide to Family Fun:
— Chilled veggie slices are crunchy and tasty.
— Low-salt, non-buttered popcorn (low-salt keeps down thirst; non-
buttered keeps grease off fingers).
— Whole grain crackers like Triscuits(R) or cereal such as Cheerios(R)
can help satisfy a hunger pain until the next meal.
— Chilled water – at least one quart per passenger. Stay away from sodas
and sweet juices: carbonated beverages require more pit stops and sweet
juice drinks can increase thirst.
Keep older children enthusiastic about the road trip by giving them travel
duties and let them rotate jobs so that everyone gets to have fun!
— Junior Navigator: Responsible for keeping the family on course.
Parents can give a child a map with the route highlighted from home to the
— Road Reporter: Responsible for keeping a diary of sights seen. Also
responsible for recording family comments, favorite happenings and funny
What are the most important things to check on a car before going on a road trip?
What are the most important things to check on a car before going on a road trip? I have a 2003 Acura with 65k miles. Should I do the 60k mile maintenance before the trip? Should I get the tires checked? oil change? What are the important things to check on a car before going on a long trip?
All of the accessible and reasonable fluids to check, depending on your last one and the distance of your trip, change the oil. And, depending on the distance, check the tire pressure for sure and the overall tire quality. Tire pressure will affect your total MPG. Also, check the “V” or serpentine belts on the engine, if need be, replace them and put the old one in the trunk. Never now when you could break a belt, the old one is better than being stranded in Timbuktoo. Hope this helps and happy travelin.
effects on car over long road trip vs intown driving?
I am going to be taking a long road trip from texas to northern Illinois? It’s going to be about 1000 miles. We’re trying to decide if we want to take our car (in order to save some money) or rent a car. What are the effect on a car after along road trip? We have a 2001 lumina with 95,000 miles on it. If we decide to take the car, what maintenance should we do before we go?
use your own car…simply service it first.
I have 108K miles on my Ford Ranger. What should I do before I make a 5 hour car trip?
I change my oil regularly. I’m going to have the coolant flushed from the radiator and engine before I go. I planned to change the spark plugs and wires since they’ve never been changed since I got the truck at 89K miles. My brakes sound really bad so my car friend told me he’d put on new pads and rotors for free if I bought the parts. I’ve never made a road trip longer than about an hour and a half ever since I bought the truck at 89K miles. I just don’t want the truck breaking down on the way to my destination. Any other tips, preventative maintenance ideas??
Everything you mention sounds good. Plus: 1. When your friend does the brakes, make sure he checks the rotors to make sure they don’t need to be turned or replaced. 2. Check your transmission fluid, as well as all other fluids before you go. 3. Check your belts. If you have a serpentine belt that is not new, you might want to consider carrying a new spare…it can easily be replaced on the road. 4. When you change the coolant, change the thermostat and radiator cap…it can save you from overheating. 5. Keep some extra fuses and and a couple standard light bulbs (1157, etc) in your glove compartment. Add dry gas and fuel injector cleaner to your tank when you fill up on gas. Drive safely!
Is taking your car to a mechanic a good idea before a road trip?
A week from now I’m planning on driving to Maryland with my ’03 Olds Alero with 59k miles, a 7 hour drive and back. I want to avoid car troubles on the trip so I’m going to take my car to a mechanic to get it looked at before I go. Is this a good idea? Or is it just giving the mechanic permission to try and rip me off? Every once in a great while (every few months) the car stutters a bit when i turn the ignition. Could that be the starter? How much would that cost to fix? Besides that there’s nothing that seems to be wrong with the car. I’ve been keeping up on all the recommended maintenance for the car as well.
“Every once in a great while (every few months) the car stutters a bit when i turn the ignition.” I dont know that this would be your starter do to how long the problem has lasted ans how it comeas and goes.
Definetly get your maint. done and have it looked at before trip. Try and develop a relationship with a mechanic that you trust. This will help both you and the mechanic.