Car Maintenance Checklist for Road Trips

Tune up before hitting the road.

Whether you want to visit friends and family or you’re just ready for a change of scenery, the urge to pack up and hit the road can sound awfully tempting.

You may think prepping for a road trip is just a simple matter of packing a bag and hopping in the car, but there’s a little more to it than that.

Before you pull out of your driveway, run through this car maintenance checklist to help ensure you safely reach your destination.

1. Check your oil.

Low oil can wreak havoc on an engine, so make sure you’re keeping up with your car’s regular oil changes. Most modern lubricants require a change every 5,000-7,500 miles, so check your car’s mileage. If you’re at or approaching 5,000 miles since your last oil change, replace the oil yourself if you know how, or take it in to a mechanic.

2. Check fluid levels.

How are the levels on other fluids? Coolant? Transmission? Power steering? Wiper fluid? Overheating or ruining your transmission while you’re on the road is a sure way to end your trip early, so have your fluid levels inspected and replaced as needed before you leave.

3. Check your tires.

How full are your tires? How old are they? A blowout can not only end your trip, but also can put you and other drivers in harm’s way. Before leaving, use your tire gauge to make sure your tires are properly filled up. Furthermore, make sure your tires have enough tread—it could be as simple as sticking a penny between the treads—and watch out for any visible signs of wear and tear.

4. Check your brake pads.

Malfunctioning brakes would certainly be an unwelcome surprise on your trip, so before you leave, make sure your brake pads are still in working condition. Locate the brake pads inside your wheel and make sure there is still at least a quarter inch of pad left; any less should be replaced.

5. Check all lights and signals.

Malfunctioning or broken lights and signals may seem insignificant, but they could become a hazard to you and other drivers down the road. Before you leave, make sure your headlights, brake lights, and tail lights are all in working order. Check your signals on both the front and back of your car, and also check your hazards.

6. Replace your air filters.

Besides causing a musty smell in your car, a dirty, clogged air filter can have an impact on your vehicle’s performance. The less air that passes through your filter, the less your engine is able to breathe and generate power. If your filter is old and dirty, switch it out.

7. Check under the hood.

Opening your vehicle’s hood and inspecting the belts and hoses therein may seem intimidating, but it’s really much easier than it seems. To check your engine’s belts, simply press down and check for any slack—the belts should be taut with little give. Check your hoses for any leaks, particularly at their connecting points. Anything that looks frayed or worn should be replaced before your trip.

8. Check your battery.

Does your car have enough juice to make the trip? If you’ve had any trouble starting your car lately, it may be time to swap out the battery. Take your car to an auto parts store to have the battery tested; if it’s near the end of its lifespan, buy a new battery.

What are some ways you prep your car for a road trip? Let us know in the comments!

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