If you are not planning to travel across the world, then the best kind of trip that you can choose is a road trip. The road has its own special appeal, and it is something that will probably never go away. Sure, people do live fast today, and often simply have to get on and off a plane in order to reach a certain destination in time. But if you have all the time of the world on your hands, then you should really consider prepping your car and heading for an “on the road” experience.
Still, no matter how good your plan for the trip is, it will quickly fall apart if you are unable to depend on your car. Getting into such trouble during your daily ride to work or to pick up your kids from school isn’t the end of the world, but imagine what it would be like if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, miles away from “civilization”. This is why you need to take good care of your care during the entire year, and especially before you head out. There is a number of things that need to be checked and maintenance tasks that need to be performed before you are confident that you are ready to go.
Take care of the “little” things
Before we get down to discussing what you need to do about your car before the trip, let’s cover some of the other things that you’ll probably don’t want to worry about while you are away.
For example, you’ll want to make sure that you have paid the bills ahead, or make sure that the bill pay is set up while you are away if you plan the trip to last longer. It’s important to talk to your neighbors so that they know that you’ll be gone and your house needs to be watched over. If you have a pet, you need to schedule a place for them to stay at a few weeks before you go. As for your mail, make sure that it is forwarded at the post office.
Charge all the electronics that you are going to use along the way, and make sure that you’ve got all your travel documents packed with you, as well as copies if it is necessary. Finally, check the forecast, to know what kind of weather to expect.
Perform general car maintenance
As for the general car maintenance, there are four things that you need to check: brake pads, light bulbs, belts and hoses, and air filters.
Your brake pads need to be in good shape so that you can slow down or stop properly. They wear away when used until they become too thin to work the way they should. If you hear a screeching noise, then it means that they are most probably worn out and it is time to replace them. Getting the new ones means no irritating noise and, of course, a much safer trip.
The next thing that needs to be checked is your light bulbs. Turn the car on, switch on the headlights, leave the car in park, and inspect whether any are burnt out. You’ll have to do the same for your left and right turn signals, and then place something heavy to hold the brake pedal in order for you to see whether your tail lights are fine as well. Broken lights are not only a guaranteed way to get pulled over by a police officer but a very dangerous way to traverse the road at night.
After that, open the hood of your car and check the belts. They need to be tight enough and without any fissures and frays. Also, make sure that all the teeth are in place. If any of these problems are apparent, then it is time to replace the belts. As for the hoses, make sure that none of them are leaking fluid. Pay particular attention to the joining points. If a hose breaks during the trip, your engine is going to be in big trouble.
Finally, your air filters need to be in top shape, because you really don’t want all the dust, dirt, and other unpleasant substances to get inside your car. The point of an air filter is to stop this from happening, so if they are clogged, the quality of air in your car is going to be unbearable. The best advice is to replace them with every 12,000 to 15,000 miles that you have passed, depending on the car that you are driving.
Check the tires
Your tires need to have the right pressure during your road trip, so make sure that you inspect them with a good-quality gauge and an air hose. Don’t go for the pressure that you can see noted on the tire itself – that is the maximum amount that it can take, and if you go that high, driving fast or under great heat can make them blow.
On the other hand, low pressure will make you waste fuel and overheat the tire. The most common place for newer cars where you are going to find the instructions for the right tire pressure is on a sticker which is inside the driver’s door. It is also essential that the treads on the tires are not worn out. Or even if they are somewhat worn, they mustn’t be so unevenly.
Check the fluids
Your car runs on fluids, so it pretty much goes without saying that you should check them. For starters, there is the most important fluid for your vehicle – oil. The general advice for older cars is to change it every 3,000 miles, but newer vehicles can go up to between 7,500 and 10,000 miles before you need to do something about it. Still, it is suggested that 5,000 miles passed is the best time to do take action.
Also, never go below the minimum, and make sure that it’s not black or grainy. Next, there are also the radiator fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield fluid, so make sure that you check them all out before the trip.
Visit a car service station
In case that you are not all that familiar with your car, and all of this sounds like a lot of hassle, then it would be the best idea would be to pay a visit to a luxury car service. There you will have professionals check every inch of your car properly, so you won’t have to worry about whether you have done it well-enough yourself. The worst thing you can do is act like you are Mr. Know-It-All, and then realize that you have made a huge mistake that will ruin your road trip.
Road trips are a load of fun, but it is always crucial that you stay on the safe side. First, take care of all the things at home. Prepare everything that you are going to need along the way. Pay special attention to your car. It needs to be in top shape for the trip if you want to avoid dangerous or uncomfortable situations. After all, you want your trip to be an exciting and unhindered experience, right?
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.