Looking to get out of the house and hit the road for more exciting horizons? Save yourself the heartache of a ruined vacation by making sure your car or truck is up for the challenge. Below are five tips for preparing your vehicle (and yourself) for an upcoming road trip.
- Prep your vehicle for the long journey. This entails the following:
- Thoroughly inspect your tires beyond just pressure. The importance of checking the amount of air in your tires is obvious to most drivers, but there are other important elements to evaluate. Take a close look at whether the treading is worn, as well as the overall age of the tire. Not sure how? Check out this article for a fuller description
- Fill-up on essential fluids. This includes wiper fluid, coolant, oil, transmission, power steering, and brake fluid
- Check the battery for signs of corrosion
- Consider replacing your cabin filter and air
filter, if you haven’t done this recently
- Assess the condition of your engine belt
- Determine whether you should replace ripped windshield wipers
- Test the various lights. This includes headlights, blinkers, brake lights, and hazard lights
Remember to not only assess your primary vehicle but also any trailers you will be hauling. If in doubt about checking any of the above, turn to a skilled mechanic for a check-up. However, don’t wait until the last minute to do this in case a repair is needed and replacement parts must be ordered.
- Practice essential skill sets until you’re confident. If you never changed a tire before, you don’t want your first time to be along the side of a busy highway. Make sure you are familiar with the specific tools you plan on bringing and practice completing the following (if applicable):
- Changing a tire
- Jumping a dead battery
- Checking your oil
- Properly hitching and unhitching your trailer
- If hauling a trailer or operating a vehicle larger than what you’re used to, test-drive it until you’re confident
- If driving a car with which you’re unfamiliar (such as a rental), make sure you know how to use the headlights, safety features, infotainment system, etc.
- Stock your car with the essentials. This includes your spare tire and related tools, jumper cables and a portable jump starter, extra windshield wiper fluid, extra bulbs, and a flashlight. A first-aid kit, paper towels, garbage bags, a spare key, and extra hand sanitizer can be game-changers, as well. Lastly, make sure you have your vehicle’s manual in your glove compartment, as well as numbers for AAA or similar services.
- Do research to better understand your route and prepare accordingly. Driving from Baltimore to New York? You’re almost guaranteed to have easy access to gas stations, well-stocked rest stops, and cell phone reception. However, if you will travel down more remote roads with potentially spotty cell connection, it’s on your shoulders to prepare for the worst. Come equipped with paper-based maps, extra food and water, and warm blankets for cold nights. Take into consideration seasonality; if heading out in winter, it’s best to have a shovel, chains, ice scraper, and sand to help give your tires traction if you slide into a ditch.
- Pack your vehicle strategically and not last-minute. You’ll want time to arrange your belongings so you have full visibility of mirrors and windows. Store your license and registration in a place easily accessible (like the glove compartment) rather than accidentally buried under a mountain of luggage. What’s more, avoid placing items on top of the car, as the extra bulk creates wind resistance and worsens gas mileage. However, if it’s absolutely necessary, follow these guidelines to be extra thorough when securing your belongings.
By not waiting until the eleventh hour to pack your car, you have time to try out various arrangements and reconsider your choice of bags. Ideally, you’ll want to test the arrangement with your passengers in their seats; after all, if one of them doesn’t have enough legroom, their road trip experience will be a whole lot worse.
Best of Luck and Enjoy Your Upcoming Road Trip!