You are about to take a long road trip, either by yourself or with some family or friends. Hopefully you have yourself all packed up. You have probably stashed some snacks and a drink in the center console and cup holders. But, is your car ready to go? And no, we do not just mean filling up the tank and getting some good tunes going. Read on in this comprehensive overview of all the ways to get your car ready for a fabulous road trip.
The last thing you want to have happen on your road trip is for your car to break down. This means money, time, strangers, and possibly a tow. Your fun road trip and destination are now long gone, all because you did not prepare your car properly.
Check All the Fluids
There are a lot of fluids: oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield fluid. They each do different things, and each are important in their own way. Oil is probably the most important, but this does not mean you should neglect the others.
Your oil keeps all the moving parts of your car nice and lubricated. If the oil is gritty or dirty, there is a problem. Your oil should be changed every 3000-5000 miles. If you have already done this, then just be sure to check the dipstick before you leave. It would also be a good idea to go ahead and buy another container of oil. Chances are, especially on older cars and for very long trips, you will need to add more oil.
Your radiator fluid keeps the engine temperature from getting too hot. When this is low, your engine overheats. It is also known as antifreeze or coolant. Be sure that this is topped off.
Brake fluids are crucial to keeping your brakes in working condition. Be sure you have had the regular maintenance every 36,000 miles, and top it off if need be. Power steering fluid is less important. Still, if your car has not been checked out, you will want to be at ease knowing that all systems are operating as they should. If the wheel is hard to turn (and you have power steering), there is a good chance the fluid is contaminated. Finally, be aware of your transmission fluid. This stuff keeps the gears operating optimally. Most cars can last a lifetime without having to have the transmission fluid changed. Still, it is a good thing to know about. You can always change it every 60,000 miles for good maintenance practices. Finally, do not forget about your windshield! You need that baby clean if you expect to see the road! Windshield fluid is easy to find and replace. Go to a gas station and buy it. Fill it up. That is it.
Your Four Wheels Must Roll: Check Out Your Tires
If your tires are bad, your ride will be bad. A couple things to check...
Air pressure. If you have too little air, your gas mileage will suffer. Too much air and your ride will be uncomfortable. If there is uneven pressure across all four wheels, the tires will wear differently. Every 1000 miles, you should check the air pressure. You may need to do this on your trip too.
Tire rotation. This should be done every 5000-8000 miles. This can help your car’s suspension, and other structural things. Moving the tires around just ensures that all four are wearing evenly over time. It is cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) than buying new ones and replacing them, which you should do regardless every 25000-50000 miles.
The Odds and Ends of Car Maintenance for the Road
Check the brake pads, the air filters, the light bulbs, and the belts and hoses. This way, you will know for sure that your car is in good working condition, and a reliable machine to use on the road. After all, it is responsible for your life. Brake pads should be replaced especially if you hear metal on metal, or a screeching noise, every 25000-75000 miles. Air filters are a direct reflection of the air that you are breathing inside the car. It can be gross, so get those things cleaned up. They are also important for protecting dirt and debris from getting to the engine. Replace every 12000 miles, or more, if necessary.
As for light bulbs, you can get a ticket. Check the turn signals, brake lights (put something heavy on the brake and get out of the car to look), and the headlights. Finally, glance under the car to see if you see anything out of place. Leaks are a concern, as are loose bands and anything dangling.
Finally, you will want to check your spare tire and the jack, the battery, and that the car manual is in the glove compartment. If you bust open a tire, you will want to have your spare. Make sure it is there and in a dependable condition. Do not forget to check the jack so that you can perform the swap yourself. Next, test the battery with a voltmeter (they last anywhere from three to five years). Look for corrosion around the terminals. Always remove the negative cable first. Clean terminals with baking soda and water using a toothbrush to help get rid of corrosion. If you see liquid leaking out, get a new battery. Check the battery’s water as well.
So, that is it for the car maintenance aspect. Yes, it is a lot, but think about it this way. When you know that your car is ready, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. If something goes wrong, you may even be better prepared to fix it. This should take no more than a few hours to complete, which could save you your entire trip, or your life. Just do it.
Packing the Car
Now is time for the big pack. Of course bring your luggage. Try to put it in the car and not on the roof. The roof can create an imbalance to the center of gravity and increase the chances of your car rolling in the event of an accident.
You should also pack an emergency kit to include the following: blanket, snacks, drinking water, tire gauge, foam tire sealant, jumper cables, flashlight with extra batteries, duct tape, towing line, funnel, knife, and rain coat. Chances are that you will not use any of these. But let’s say you run out of gas and it is snowing. You are stuck on the side of the road until help arrives. It is cold and you are hungry. You grab the blanket, your flashlight, and a bunch of snacks, and life instantly becomes sunflowers and rainbows again.
Bring some sunglasses, a first aid kit, your GPS and phone and chargers, and important car information like registration, insurance, warranty information, and emergency contact and service information. Leave no room for catastrophe!
On the Road - Long Trip Road Etiquette
You have done the work and now is the time to sit in the car for hours on end. Bear in mind the following. Do not text and drive, or talk and drive. You are not the only car on the road and even if you can do it, other people cannot. And if you are distracted, you might miss the person next to you who rams into you because they are more distracted. Be present, be safe. Stop frequently. Stop every time you want to use your phone! Car rides are supposed to be fun. Enjoy the scenery. Make sure your pets and kids are safe. Drive slowly and peacefully (it helps your gas mileage too).
Now Here is the Fun Part: Pack Yourself and Go
You have your car, which is a prized Camaro, ready to go. Now is the time to get your things together, but don’t forget those Camaro accessories. Get the radio or stereo hooked up. Make sure your Bluetooth is connected and you have a great playlist for all types of traffic and weather. Double check that your heat and AC work. Put your seat in the right position. Get comfortable. Make sure your snacks and drink are within easy reach at all times. Do not forget to buckle in.
Reset your odometer so you know how many miles you are traveling in all. If you are traveling with another person, check in with each other on a regular basis. Have a plan like, every two hours you switch drivers. Maybe one of you does not like to drive in the rain. Maybe somebody loves to drive at night. Get it all planned out so that the rest of the ride can be fun. Driving and road trips do not have to be a stressful experience. Let the GPS do all of the work.
Going for a road trip is great fun. It is even more fun when your car is having a good time too. These steps listed above are a sure way to getting you and your car and your other passengers to your final destination as safely as possible. Put in the effort so that you can enjoy the ride too without thinking about the worst that could happen.
Or, at the very least, just check that you have a full tank of gas (at least half at all times), and that your horn is working.
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