Car packed with suitcases

How to Get Your Car Road Trip Ready

Um, hello, it’s pretty much road trip season, but is your car prepared? No one likes having a car emergency, but there’s pretty much nothing worse than breaking down in the middle of a road trip far away from home. 

This article is sponsored by iFixit, the DIY community dedicated to helping anyone fix anything. iFixit is home to the largest collection of repair guides on the internet, including guides for auto repair. Read until the end for an incredible road trip giveaway, including a copy of my book and a jump starter! All opinions are my own.

Here’s how you can prepare your car so it’s in tip-top shape when you set off on your next adventure. 

Checking tire pressure

Tires

First of all, you want to make sure that your tires aren’t due for replacement, which you can do with a penny or a handy tread depth gauge. Worn tires aren’t safe in the best conditions, but if you’re driving through a summer storm, they’ll feel pretty useless. 

While you’re at it, check for bubbles, gashes, or dry rot. Those tires are about to get a workout, and we want to make sure they’re ready! Most tires with bubbles on the side wall, any kind of gash, or significant dry rot will have to be replaced before you head out on the road. If you wind up needing new tires, figure out your tire size first before you start shopping so you’re looking for the right tires. 

You’ll also want to check your tire pressure. You can find the correct tire pressure for your specific vehicle inside the driver’s side door jam, not on the side of the tire. That’s right folks, you’ve probably been lied to for years! 

The PSI on the side of the tire is the maximum tire pressure that the tire can operate with safely, not the optimal pressure for your specific vehicle. Improper tire pressure, especially on a road trip, can lead to rapid tire wear and increased fuel consumption, and it’s flat-out dangerous. Learn how to check your tire pressure using this guide from iFixit.

Oil Level

Next, check your oil level and color. The oil shouldn’t be gritty, milky, too dark, or thick. The oil level should be between the two markings on the dipstick. Put the dipstick out, wipe it off, and reinsert before looking at the second level. That’s the one that tells you what’s up with your oil. If your oil change is due, make sure it’s taken care of before you head on the road.

Wiper blades

Check your wiper blades and washer fluid. Do the blades have streaking or tears? Toss them and replace them with a fresh set. If you’ve never replaced your own wiper blades before, take a look at this how-to guide I wrote for iFixit for step-by-step instructions (with pictures!).  Also, make sure the washer fluid is filled up just in case you need it on the road.

Bulbs

Make sure your bulbs are all working to reduce your risk of an accident and getting pulled over, which is a win in my book. If you don’t have anyone who can spot you to check the bulbs, try driving up to a wall and using the reflection of the lights to guide you. It’s much easier than getting in and out of your car a bunch of times. 

Pre-Road Trip Inspection

A pre-road trip inspection from your local independent mechanic is a great way to ensure that nothing safety-related, like brakes and suspension repairs, needs to be handled before you take off on your next adventure. If your oil chance is due, or you’ve been deferring other maintenance like replacing your cabin filter or aging battery, now would be a great time to do that too.

Ready to get on the road? Enter below for a chance to grab a bundle with some fantastic goodies, including a copy of my book, Mechanic Shop Femme’s Guide to Car Ownership, a jump starter, inflator, and the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit.

 

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