Does your vehicle pass the road trip checklist? Keep reading to find out.
Road trips are a great alternative to traditional plane, train, or bus-based travel right now. If you want to avoid packed airports, and the germ-spreading potential of recycled plane air, driving yourself to your vacation destination is the way to go. It also ensures that you are only traveling with your “close-knit” crew, be it friends or family, and not exposing yourself outside of your social bubble.
Before you through a weekend bag in your trunk and pick a travel playlist, we recommend doing a once-over inspection of your vehicle of choice. Here are 7 things you should always check on your car before setting out on the wide, open highway.
1. Fluid Check & Oil Change
If it’s been a while since your last oil change, you should get one done (or do it yourself) before any long trip. You should change your oil approximately every six months (depending on M/KM usage). While you are at it, check the status of your transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant, as well.
2. Battery Voltage
If you have your own test equipment, you can do this at home. Otherwise, take your vehicle to a trusted service provider and ask them to test the battery voltage. If the reading is too low, or it’s been over three years, you might consider a battery replacement. If your battery needs a charge, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours to do so. So, leave enough time in your schedule to handle this before you go. Battery problems are one of the top reasons AAA listed for emergency intervention on the road, so make sure you are ready.
3. Brake Check
Typically, the brake warning light on the car console will come on if there is an issue; however, it’s always good to do a quick self-lead check. If you already did the fluid check (above) then you’re ahead of the game. When testing your brakes: listen for any abnormal noises (squealing, scarping), note if the vehicle is erroneously pulling to one side or the other, and make note of the pedal feel as you press it. If anything seems out of whack, take it to a shop to get checked.
4. Turn Signal Lights & Headlights
For this, you’ll need a partner. Have someone stand outside your vehicle as you flash each turn signal (have them check back and front lights), brake lights, headlights, and fog lights. Remember that a burned-out bulb can get you a very easy-to-avoid ticket! Be sure to change any light bulbs that are performing poorly.
5. Tire Air Pressure (Including Spare)
Tire trouble is not only very common on long trips, but it is so, so easily avoidable. Check the tire pressure before you leave and keep a portable tire pressure gauge in your vehicle for on-the-go inspections. Fill your tires with air according to the levels recommended in the vehicle’s manual. If you have a spare tire: fill that one up, too! After all, it won’t do you any good to lug around a spare tire if it’s flat.
6. Insurance Paperwork, Registration, and License
Sometimes the most obvious things get forgotten about. Do a quick check to ensure that the insurance paperwork is kept somewhere obvious and accessible. Check the expiration date on your license. And make sure your plates aren’t due to expire any time soon.
7. First Aid Kit & Emergency Items
This is one of the most important parts of any road trip checklist. Be sure to have a roadside assistance emergency kit in your vehicle at all times, particularly when you are about to embark on a long road trip. You can also cobble one together yourself. You’ll want to include bandages, alcohol pads, a flashlight, candles, matches, jumper cables, reflective devices, and maybe even an emergency blanket.
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