Road trips are the drives that make memories. It can be an incredibly exciting adventure. Exciting because of the destination, but don’t let your adventure become a nightmare. Whether a car, SUV, or truck, there’s a lot of planning and prep work that goes into preparing for a long trip. Aside from actual travel plans, car maintenance is required to make the long haul possible, comfortable, and safe.
Think of the fluids in your vehicle as its lifeblood. There are six car fluid checks to make before your traveling excursion.
Oil is probably the one thought of first. You certainly do not have to be an expert on car maintenance to know that motor oil is critical for your car to operate. The oil in your vehicle helps lubricate moving mechanisms, like pistons, crankshafts, and camshafts, so they can move easily without friction. Your car should undergo an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles traveled to ensure everything continues working smoothly.
Radiator fluid, also known as coolant or antifreeze, keeps your engine cool. For long drives, it’s especially crucial to keep your car engine cool. Radiator fluid should be flushed and replaced every 50,000 miles traveled.
Brake fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid, which transfers force into pressure to squeeze your car’s brake rotors to slow them down. There’s nothing that can panic you more than traveling 70 miles per hour down the freeway, only to find that your brakes aren’t working properly. Be sure before you head out, your brake fluid is topped off and to flush it every 30,000 miles traveled.
Power steering fluid helps turn the wheel easily at any speed. Without this, your steering wheel can become less responsive, as well as causing overheating and damage to your vehicle. Many auto professionals differ in when they believe your steering fluid should be replaced, so it’s best to get a pro’s opinion based on your car’s make, model, and year.
Transmission fluid helps to facilitate gear shifts, cools the transmission, and lubricates moving mechanisms. It’s recommended to change your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles traveled.
The last, and seemingly most unimportant, is washer fluid. Since this fluid isn’t necessary for the vehicle to run smoothly, it can sometimes be overlooked. However, as dirt accumulates and as many bugs will likely meet their fates on your windshield during your journey, having washer fluid filled and ready will keep your visual field clear.
Your journey can’t begin if your car is refusing to start. Check and make sure that your car battery is in good health before you take off. One good way to check this is by turning your headlights on and then starting your car’s engine. If your lights brighten once the engine is turned on, your battery might be dying. Several different auto shops can also do free voltage tests on your car battery.
It’s always safe to keep a pair of jumper cables in your car, so you won’t be caught too off guard if your car is refusing to start.
Check all your car’s lights before starting your trip – headlight, brake lights, blinkers, and interior lights. All your lights working properly is a huge safety concern, as lights being out can reduce visibility and make it more difficult for others on the road to see you and gauge their distance from you. If you have a headlight or brake light out, the size of your vehicle could look deceiving, almost like a motorcycle with a single head/tail light, posing a threat to motorist around you thinking your car is smaller than it actually is. Additionally, the police can pull you over for having a light out. Remember, headlights, tail lights, blinkers, and hazards are all for the benefit of those sharing the road with you, so your car is visible. You can help keep everyone on the road safe by making sure all your lights are working properly before you head out.
Check your tire pressure for the correct amount of air and make sure that your tires are not under or overinflated. Correctly pressured tires will reduce wear, be more compliant to drive on, and save gas mileage. If your car doesn’t alert you to a change in tire pressure, it’s recommended to manually check the pressure every 1,000 miles. Although your pressure settings might be in order, it’s important to rotate your tires every 5,000-8,000 miles traveled. This will help your tires last longer given the shift in balance, weight distribution, and wearing down of the tread.
Wiper Blades and Other Vehicle Maintenance
Wiper Blades: There’s nothing more annoying than watching old wipers spread water, dirt, and dead bugs around your windshield rather than clearing it all off. This is especially true of long hauls where all these things can accumulate. It’s recommended that windshield wiper blades be replaced every 6-12 months to ensure your visibility isn’t hindered.
Brake Pads: Brake pads provide friction to slow your vehicle down, and that friction will cause your brake pads to wear down over time. Depending on how you use your brake pads and how they’re made, it’s recommended to change your brake pad every 25,000-70,000 miles traveled.
Air Filters: Check your air filters before your drive to make sure they are clean to keep debris, dust, and dirt out of your car’s engine and interior.
Checking under the hood of your car can be daunting and overwhelming if you don’t know much about cars. But pop the hood open to make sure all cables are securely connected and that nothing is loose, leaking, or fraying.
Pack and Prep Smartly
The heavier your car, the more gas you’ll use. While it’s tempting to take a lot of your belongings with you, your gas mileage will thank you for packing lightly. Try to pack smartly and carry only the things you know you’ll need during your time away from home. Be sure to keep up to date registration in your glovebox in the event you get pulled over or need it for any other reason. Prior to your trip, have roadside assistance’s number in your phone or any other emergency numbers you might need. Set your car playlist, podcasts, or audiobooks ahead of time, so you’re not shuffling through entertainment options on your phone while going 70 miles per hour down the road.
Car Emergency Kit
Keep a basic emergency kit for use during your travels. These basic kits are good to always keep in your car, but even more so when you’re traveling and away from home. Jumper cables, fix-a-flat, flashlight, car chargers, and fresh water can be especially helpful if you run into an emergency while on the road. Additionally, it’s especially important to have tire changing tools, as well as a spare tire if your car can hold one. While most phones have a flashlight nowadays, keeping an additional flashlight can be very helpful; you never know if you’ll be without electricity and a dead phone. While adding to the weight inside your car, keeping fresh water in your car can be very important, as we often take fresh drinking water for granted until it’s no longer available to us.
So, there you have it. Seven great tips to get you ready for that summer road trip. If you are in the planning stages for your next adventure, Gary and his professional team at Stewart’s Donnybrook Automotive in Tyler, will be happy to discuss other suggestions for car maintenance or ways to make sure your road trip is safe, exciting, and memorable.