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Yes, you probably know some of the basics of making your car is road trip ready. Getting an oil change, tires inflated, extra coins for toll roads. However, I think I might surprise you with a few new additions to your routine! Consider this article an all-in-one place for how to prep your car for your trip. It’s easy for you to keep this handy and make sure your travel goes smoothly.
Last year, when planning my move to Wisconsin, Morgan and I decided that we would take a road trip vacation to both get a well-deserved break. We also wanted to take one of those once in a lifetime trips we’d always remember. Before we headed out from New York City to Wisconsin, I wanted to make sure my 2002 Toyota Camry was well-prepared.
I focused on the same things I’m sharing with you now: checks that would cover the basics from maintenance to evaluating safety components. Nobody wants a car breakdown on the road, whether it’s a big safety issue or for comfort.
Get an oil change
Let’s say you have another 1000 miles until your oil change is due. Your road trip is 1500 miles long. Don’t wait until you come back from your trip. Take care of this simple maintenance before you go! Want to learn more about oil changes for your vehicle? I wrote this comprehensive guide that I know you’ll love.
Check your air filter and change if needed
It’s incredible the amount of fuel you can save on a long road trip – if you change out your dirty and clogged air filter! In most vehicles, these filters are inexpensive (think $15-20). They can be easily changed even without too many tools, even on your own. It’s hard to mess up the job, and saving gas when it’s $3/gallon is always a perk!
Suspension, brake, and tire evaluation
Maintenance is important before an extended road trip because safety is the #1 priority. Get your brakes, suspension, and tires checked by your repair shop. Worn parts can leave you stranded if they break under the pressure of a long trip. Waiting for a tow on the side of the road is no good way to spend a vacation, work trip, or move.
This isn’t a complicated or time-consuming thing to do and so worth it! Your shop can also check the wear and tear on seat belts and any extenders, too. If you end up considering replacing tires before your trip, read my tire tips first before making the investment.
I like to get a wheel alignment before heading on a road trip. This isn’t required, but your vehicle can easily be knocked out of alignment just by hitting a pothole or curb at the right (or wrong) angle. Getting a wheel alignment will prevent rapid, uneven tire wear and that dreaded drifting on an open stretch of road.
Make sure insurance card and registration are in your glove box
While some states allow you to present your insurance card on your cell phone if pulled over, beware that you may not have the reception on your phone to access it. I can’t ever forget that one time I was pulled over in rural Wisconsin and I had absolutely no signal!
While I got away with only a speeding ticket, I could have been cited for failing to produce your registration and insurance card. It takes only a few minutes to make sure you have hard copies, so get it done and you drive without worry.
What can be worse than having a tire blow out? Having a tire blow out and realizing your spare tire isn’t properly inflated, that’s what! Check your spare tire before your road trip to be sure it’s in good operating condition.
Make sure you have all the tools that come with the spare so you can remove a flat tire if needed. You could also view a refresher video on how to change a tire. A few minutes of prep will spare you the cost and time-suck of getting a tow truck while on the road.
Check your battery and fluids
It’s super easy to have your repair shop check your fluid levels and battery while you’re getting other things looked over. You don’t want to wake up after a restful sleep ready to get on the road only to find that the car doesn’t start or find a puddle of fluid underneath it.
Most standard fuel engines have several kinds of fluids helping keep everything running right. For example coolant, power steering fluid, engine and transmission oil, and more. Shops often offer this service as part of an oil change service, but ask to make sure.
Road trips can be some of the most memorable vacations for all the best reasons. Use the tips above to be prepared and make sure your car is as ready as you are to make the trip.
Are you thinking of buying a new to you vehicle this summer? I’m teaching a class to bring you all the car buying information you need. You’ll have the expertise on both the car and the financial side of car buying. This class will sell out, is 100% virtual, and recorded live, so even if the dates don’t work for you definitely register!
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