Road trips are all kinds of awesome! Whether you’re looking to duck out of town for the weekend or plan a long journey across the country, the chances are that you’ll have fun. However, a road trip can quickly turn into a rolling headache if you start having trouble with your car. Because of that, we’ve prepared a simple list of 7 things to check when preparing your car for a road trip. Taking a good look at each of the items on this list will greatly reduce your chances of being stranded on the side of the road.
Check the Engine and Transmission
The drivetrain of your car is what keeps everything moving. As a car owner, you should always be aware of your car’s condition. Stay on top of the scheduled regular maintenance, and don’t neglect small problems.
These small issues can easily snowball into major problems that end up with an expensive AAA bill or worse, according to https://www.eeuroparts.com/. Give your engine and transmission a good sound and visual check. If you’re not sure you’d be able to tell that something is potentially wrong, get your mechanic involved. They’ll be more than happy to help out!
Top Off the Fluids
Modern engines are more reliable than ever, but they’re also more dependent on essential fluids. Long before you decide to go for a road trip, make sure that these fluids are topped off. Check your engine oil level and your transmission oil level if your particular vehicle allows for it. Some cars have a gearbox dipstick while some don’t.
We can definitely add brake fluid to this group as well, but we’ll talk more about that when we reach the braking system. If your car is close to an oil change interval, it might be a good idea to get it done before you set off on the road trip. With these essential fluids taken care of, top off the windshield fluid as well. An engine that purrs like a kitten won’t do you much good if you can’t see where you’re going.
Inspect the Brakes
When people talk about cars, they mostly discuss how fast they are. Everyone wants to know that magical 0-60 figure. However, as awesome as acceleration is, being able to stop is probably more important in the grand scheme of things. Checking your braking system should come next on your “pre-flight” inspection.
You’ll want to check the brake fluid levels and ensure that it’s clear. Brake fluid should be changed once a year, so if you haven’t changed it, it might be a good idea to do so. Also, check your brake pads for wear. Don’t set off on a long journey with worn-out brake pads. That’s a recipe for disaster! Keep in mind that worn out pads can drop your brake fluid level. This happens because the piston inside the brake caliper has to extend further to compensate for worn out pads.
Check the Tires
Often overlooked, tires are one of the essential parts of any car. After all, they are the only thing keeping you on the road. If there’s one rule of thumb to follow, it’s to never skimp on things that separate you from the ground.
This includes shoes, bed and you guessed it – tires. Check your tires for tread and tire pressure. All tires have tread depth indicators you can use to tell how worn out they are. Driving on worn-out tires will impact the way your car behaves on the road. Additionally, consult your car’s manual to find out the optimal tire pressure is for your vehicle.
Speaking of tire pressure, it might not be a bad idea to get a small air compressor. There are models out there that plug right into your cigarette lighter socket. Although small, these can come in handy if you notice that one of your tires is leaking air or hit something hard enough to deflate the tire.
Check Your Alignment
Since we’re at the subject of tires, they can also tell you if your alignment is off. What you’re looking for is uneven wear on the inside or the outside of the tire. If you notice uneven wear, that might indicate bad alignment. In more severe cases, you could be dealing with suspension issues as well. Either way, that’s something that is better diagnosed before you leave town.
Why is alignment important, you ask? Several reasons range from purely financial to safety related. We’ve already mentioned uneven tire wear. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of money on tires if the alignment is off. But that’s not the biggest issue. If your alignment is out of whack, it can affect the way your car handles.
In mild cases, you’ll notice it drift slightly to one side or the other when your hands are off the steering wheel. If you let things get out of hand (no pun intended), you’ll find yourself wrangling your car, fighting to keep it straight. That’s about the point where things become very serious.
A large part of road safety is being able to see others and being seen yourself. To ensure that, do a thorough inspection of your signalization. Make sure that all of your indicators are working, that your headlights are on point, and that your brake lights are working. If you have fog lights, check those as well.
Lights can be essential even during the day if you’re driving in heavy rain. A pair of headlights can mean the difference between being seen and being violently cut off in downpour conditions, especially if your car is silver.
Most older and many modern vehicles come with spare lightbulb kits. If yours didn’t, you should get yourself a few spares and keep them in the car. Truth be told, some modern headlights make it impossible to replace the bulb without disassembling a massive portion of the car. Still, having spares in your car will ensure that whoever ends up replacing your headlight bulbs will have the right parts.
Tools and Accessories
Last but not least, make sure that you have all of the basic tools with you. Even if you’re not a fan of wrenching, you must have the basic tools such as the tire iron and similar. More importantly, if your car uses safety lug nuts, you better make sure that you have the key with you in the car.
Otherwise, something as simple as a ruptured tire can lead to a whole lot of headache. On a similar note, make sure that your tow adapter is in your vehicle as well. Most towing services will likely have an assortment of these, but it never hurts to be on the safe side.
If you’ve covered all of the items on our list and found no major issues, you are already ahead of the curve. Even though giving your car a good look won’t necessarily make it immune from breaking down, and it will absolutely reduce the risk. A simple inspection like the one we’ve walked you through above can weed out most of the severe issues. Everything else is either not going to leave you stranded, or requires a crazy amount of bad luck and would make for a bad day no matter where you are.