In the rush to get your bags packed and stowed in the car, road trip maintenance might be the last thing on your mind.
But if you neglect to do a mechanical check-over of your vehicle–even with a newer car–you could end up stranded far from home. On top of that, you could be stuck with the high cost of auto repair.
Taking a road trip by yourself or with friends and family is always a good time–but getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire or other car disaster isn’t as fun. Before you head on your holiday vacation, you should make sure your vehicle undergoes a thorough safety inspection.
So what road trip checklist do you need to go through before you head out on your next adventure? Read on to find out.
First on the car maintenance list is taking a look under the hood. Be sure to check the fluids in your car to make sure you don’t have a leak or need a refill.
If your levels of oil or coolant are low, you might have a leak. You can also identify a leak if you notice any liquid spots underneath your car.
You should also check your levels of brake fluid. Without enough brake fluid, your car won’t be safe to drive.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be driving in bad weather conditions, you need to make sure that all your lights are working correctly.
Driving in rain, in the dark, and in an unfamiliar region means that your lights need to be in top shape. Check your headlights and high beams to make sure you can use them when needed.
Also, check your brake lights and turn signals to stay safe on the road and avoid an accident.
3. Brake System
Keeping your brakes in great condition is one of the most important parts of your maintenance checklist.
As brake fluid begins to age, it can start rusting your brake components. Check your brake reservoir to make sure that it hasn’t turned brown–and that it’s topped up to the “full” mark.
Another factor to consider is your brake pad wear. As your brake pad begins to wear down, braking will become more difficult and less responsive. Once the pad wears down below 5mm thick, you’ll need to replace it.
Be sure to keep your brakes updated with high performance, reliable Brake Pads.
4. Wheels and Tires
When you’re driving for hours on a road trip, your tires need to be sturdy and reliable. They’re what connects your vehicle to the road and help propel you forward.
First, take a look at the tread depth. Once a tire starts to get worn, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. With old tires, your car will have less traction and is more likely to slip.
Then, check the surface for any damage. Look for rips, tears, or bubbles.
Finally, be sure to check the tire pressure. If it’s too inflated, the center of your tires can wear out faster. If it’s underinflated, you’re more likely to experience wear along the sides and edges of the tire.
When a battery is fully charged, it should be at 12.6 volts or above. While running, it should be between 13.7 and 14.7 volts.
In order to test the battery, start your car and look at the headlights. If they’re dim, then the battery might need to be charged before your road trip. Another sign is if your headlights get brighter when you rev the engine.
Your headlights should stay consistently bright–that means your battery life is healthy and strong.
Be sure to also check for any cracks, leaks, or signs of corrosion on the battery terminal and case. Ensure that the battery is firmly mounted.
If the battery is looking dirty, use an even mix of baking soda and water to wash off any dirt and grime.
6. Be Ready for Anything
Even if you’ve checked every inch of the car or taken it to a mechanic for a full checkup, things can still go wrong. Be prepared for the worst.
Make sure you have a small emergency kit with essentials like a flashlight, blanket, first-aid tools, batteries, fire extinguisher, bottled water, and snacks.
For a potential breakdown, keep a spare tire, jumper cable, and tire gauge on hand. You never know when you might have to do maintenance on the road.
In the case of an emergency, be sure you have the vehicle owner’s manual in the glove box, have a fully charged cell phone on you, and know which number to call if you need assistance.
7. Test the Car
Once you’ve checked the car up and down for any mechanical issues, it’s time to put your vehicle to the test. Do a quick run up the freeway.
Listen for any noises, feel for strange movements, and watch for any other signs of trouble. Even if you run your car every day with no issue–take the time to pay close attention to the feel of the car while you drive.
Do you hear grinding or squealing from the brakes? It could mean warped rotors or worn pads.
Does your car pull in different directions when you go fast? Check your tires and look for alignment problems.
Make note of anything that doesn’t feel right. When in doubt, you can always take it to a mechanic for a second look.
Road Trip Checklist for Your Next Adventure
If your car acts up while you’re on a road trip, it could cost you a lot of time and money–and even ruin your whole vacation.
Keep this road trip checklist in mind next time you’re doing maintenance. It might just save your next road trip.
Looking for more tips and tricks for your next travel adventure? Check out our travel section for more articles.