Ready to turn your grocery hauler into a road trip car? This article will go over some road trip car preparations.
Cross country trips can be a lot of fun if you properly plan ahead. Ending up broke down on the side of the road is a sure way to ruin your vacation. Not to mention the cost of tow and repair bills. So make sure your car is ready to go. You should start planning at least a week before your road trip. If you find a major issue, it could take several days for the repairs to be completed.
Basic things everyone should check
If your vehicle is fairly new, in good condition, or has been well maintained, you can check most of the crucial items yourself. Most of the time, a mechanic isn’t necessary unless your road trip will take you into extreme conditions. Checking the “vitals” is a must do before taking off on any road trip.
Check fluid levels
Before starting a driving vacation, I recommend getting an oil change for your road trip car. Most places will check all of your fluids for you and alert you to any problems. But you can check for vital fluids yourself fairly easily. The fluids you should be most concerned with include:
- Engine oil
- Transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Power stearing fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
Most vehicles have these fluids stored in easy to see places and in marked clear reservoirs. This allows you to check the fluids visually. It’s a good idea to dust off your vehicle owners manual to verify the exact locations and ensure each fluid is the proper color (discoloration can be a sign of engine problems). If you need to add fluids, easy instructions should be provided in the manual.
To check for leaks, leave a piece of cardboard under your vehicle after you’ve driven it long enough for the engine to warm up. While very small leaks aren’t cause for much concern, it’s probably best to have any leaks checked by your mechanic before you leave. Again, it’s better to over prepare than under prepare. And it’s probably something you’ll want to fix eventually anyway. Better to do it now instead of 1,000 miles from home.
Be sure belts and hoses are strong and snug
Check for wear on all your road trip car belts and hoses. Belts that are frayed, cut, cracked, or degraded need to be replaced before you leave. Hoses should be firm and flexible, not soft and squishy. If they feel brittle, have holes and cracks in them, or look worn out, they should be replaced.
Check the battery
Road trip car batteries are the cause of many roadside problems. Visually inspect the battery for holes, cracks, and gouges. Be sure the cables and terminals are clean, in good condition, and secured. If you feel the battery needs to be cleaned, refer to your owners manual for the proper procedure. If the battery is older than 4 years old, you should have it tested (this is usually very cheap – sometimes free) and probably get it replaced.
Does the car pull to one side or the other when you apply firm brake pressure? Do you hear any grinding, squealing, or metal on metal sounds? If so, consider having a mechanic look at them. Getting new brake pads is fairly inexpensive, but if wait too long, major damage can occur and would really spoil the vacation cash fund.
If your trip takes place during the summer months and/or you’ll be driving through hilly mountainous terrain, be certain your cooling system is working properly. Check your owners manual to see how often the anti-freeze should be flushed. If it’s due, than get it done before you leave. Anyplace that does oil changes can do this for you, or follow the directions in your manual. On most vehicles, it’s a quick and easy process than anybody can do.
An overheated engine can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your road trip car. You don’t want that happening anywhere, but especially while you’re far from home.
This is where the rubber meets the road! Visually check your tires for bulges, uneven wear, and tread depth. Any unusual tire wear may indicate you need a vehicle alignment or you could have some other suspension problem. You might want to consider getting your tires rotated as well. Most manufactures recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. If you’re due, get it done before your trip. Check your manual for the proper tire inflation levels as well. The number one cause of tire blowouts is because of improperly inflated tires. Having the correct air pressure in your tires can also help save you money on fuel costs.
Preventative maintenance can save you big bucks
Nobody wants to spend money if they don’t have to. But if you have an older road trip car, or you haven’t done a great job maintaining your vehicle, consider taking it in for a checkup. Your mechanic will check everything mentioned above and more. It will be money well spent, and you can further enjoy your trip knowing a professional has looked everything over. The benefits of preventive maintenance doesn’t end when your road trip is over. Properly maintaining your vehicle will benefit you in the long term. So while most vehicles don’t need the attention of a professional, it can be worth it if you have an older vehicle.