Driving your vehicle to familiar destinations isn’t the same as taking a road trip – it will put a much heavier toll on the car and it requires proper preparations. This will make your trip safer and more comfortable and is, therefore, a useful investment to make.
There are a few major repairs and check ups that you should take on before the trip – otherwise, most of the work should be done on a regular basis as part of mundane care that every driver should undertake.
Making Sure Your Car Battery Can Withstand the Trip
A battery is usually good enough for about 2 years, after which it will require regular and yearly check-ups by an expert. If you notice corrosion on the battery itself chances are that you’ll need to visit a mechanic before going on a trip. Cables and connectors should also be cleaned with a brush.
A voltmeter should indicate that a battery voltage is over 12 volts. That’s usually the case with brand new batteries and as you continue using them the voltage should drop. If the voltage gets lower than 5 volts while the car is running, you’ll need a new battery.
Replace and top the Fluids
In most cases, the essential fluids without which the car wouldn’t work need to be topped based on the mileage. This means that you should top them off before the trip but also be mindful of the mileage you’ll drive and be ready to do it again before the trip.
Oil should be changed every 3000 to 5000 miles depending on the car, radiator fluid every 40.000 miles, as well as the power steering fluids. The transmission fluids need to be replaced every 30.000 miles and windshield fluids before every long trip.
Tidy up and Organize the Car
It’s often overlooked how important it is to keep your car clean and well organized before a long trip. This will make you more comfortable during long drives and allow you to stay focused on the road ahead.
It’s especially important to organize travel documents, such as a passport and an international drivers license. These documents need to be up to date in order to be considered valid. A driving permit needs to be updated annually and passports usually last five years.
Preparing the Tires
Making sure your tires are ready for the trip is essential for your safety since faulty tires cause many accidents. It’s best to check the tire pressure every 1.000 miles. For long drives, this means that you’ll need to check the pressure mid- trip.
The tires should be rotated every 5000 to 8000 miles depending on the weight and age of the car and your driving habits in general. In the end, tires usually have an expiration date and that’s after 25.000 miles when it’s best to simply buy new ones.
Checking the Brake Pads
The brake pads are probably the most important part of your car when it comes to safety and it gets worn down the more it’s used. It’s best to be on the lookout for the screeching noise that they produce when it’s time to replace or repair them. When it comes to preparing your vehicle for a road trip – don’t wait to hear the sound on the road – replace them beforehand.
The pads can last between 25.000 and 75.000 miles depending on their type and quality. This isn’t an item you should try to save on, especially as the more expensive option will pay off in the long run.
The Importance of Changing the Air Filters
Air filters play an important role in protecting the car’s engine and interior in general from dust and small debris. This is especially useful if you plan to go off the road during your trip and if your engine needs to withstand more dust and sand.
The filters should be replaced once a year or every 12.000 miles. These filters are the least expensive part on our list and almost anyone can replace them simply by following the provided instruction.
Don’t Overlook the Lightbulbs
Having a broken lightbulb can cause you to get pulled over and pay a fine. In the worst-case scenario, it can also make you less safe on the road since it’ll be more difficult to stop. It’s, therefore, a good idea to check all the lightbulbs – headlights, taillights, and blinkers before going on a longer trip.
Start by checking the lights while the car is running. Go around it and take note if any of the bulbs are flickering or if it’s dull in comparison to others. If you don’t notice any of these issues, you may not need to replace the lightbulbs at all, but keep a spare with you.
Keep Track of Belts and Hoses
There are many belts and hoses that keep your car running and they tend to be susceptible to wear and tear as they are being used. Replacing and repairing them is often intimidating to new drivers since they may seem like a mess when you first look under the hood.
If this is the case for you, it’s best to leave this to a professional and to do it on a regular basis and before any major trip. Such a check-up will prevent leaks and potentially other more damaging maintenance issues.
Plan Your Route
A great thing about a road trip is the freedom it provides. However, it still may be useful to sketch out the route when it comes to nearby gas stations and mechanics. That way you’ll know where to pull over in case something goes wrong or you want to do an additional check-up while on the road.
Having a GPS helps with this part of the planning as well. A GPS on your phone will be good enough if you’re driving close to large cities, but if you plan to go off the road, you may want to rent a GPS device to bring along.