Who needs flying when you can head out on the open road? There’s something exciting about a road trip, and in America, you can cover thousands of miles, see hundreds of sites and do it all from your trusty vehicle. However, you don’t want to get 10 miles down the road and notice a problem with your car for a road trip, or worse, get a long way from home and establish that the car might need some more maintenance.
How can you prepare your car for a road trip? What are the best things to do to ensure that your car makes it the whole way with no big problems? Anyone who has ever had to cut a trip short or change their plans to take the car to a shop in some unknown city or town will know how frustrating it is. It is especially annoying if you could have avoided the problem with a few precautions and preparations.
Get the Car Regularly Serviced
It doesn’t matter if you have a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line car with custom wheels and tinted windows, if you don’t get a mechanic to check the car over periodically and check for any potential issues, then you might end up with something cropping up on one of your long drives.
Legally required safety tests for vehicles vary from state to state, but it is a good idea to get your vehicle checked over on a regular basis even if you don’t legally have to. Mechanics can check and service oil, and other consumables, but they can also spot any signs of potential wear and tear that could cause an issue on a long drive. If you are going hundreds or even thousands of miles, don’t take any chances on this, TDot Performance
Take a First Aid Kit, Phone and Car Battery Charger
Just in case anything happens, all of these items should be in your vehicle. A first aid kit specifically for cars might include things like fire blankets. They’re good investments. A phone is vital to contact the emergency services but it is no use if it runs out of battery, so a power bank or car battery charger is also needed within your car before that long road trip.
Don’t Leave it Late
If you leave your car checks to the last minute you’re likely to rush them and this can lead to a lot of issues, or you can easily forget something.
There are some very basic things that you should check virtually every time you take a long journey.
You should always check the tires, both for the correct pressure and whether they have enough tread to last the journey comfortably. If you have the capability, check the battery health of the car.
Take a bit of time to check the oil and see if it needs to be topped up or changed before you go on a trip.
Check all of your lights around the car to see if you have any bulbs out.
Check that your brakes are working, and have been inspected recently.
Check wipers are working, and that you have wiper fluid in the reservoir before you head off on your journey.
All of these steps are really very simple but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. They can cause frustrating issues that are hard to solve, especially at night or driving in rural locations.
Always Carry Spares
Preparing your car for a road trip is not just about making sure everything is in top working order. While it is vital to check that everything is working before you head out, you never know when you might need spares, and cars have a lot of “consumables”.
You should make sure that you have a spare tire first and foremost, and a kit to fit the tire. It isn’t ideal to have to stop at the side of the road and change a tire but it is far better than being stuck without one and having to wait for a recovery truck.
Other spares people don’t always think to carry include oil, wiper fluid and even lightbulbs and fuses. It’s a good idea to make up a little kit of all these spares and keep it in the trunk of your car. That way, you can make sure if a bulb blows or you are low on oil on a long drive, you can prevent it from drawing your whole trip to a halt.
Pack Up The Car Carefully
This is an error that it is easy to make. You don’t have to worry about airlines and not having enough baggage allowance, so you can take as much as you want with you, but cars do have limits. A sensible family car might already have four or five of you in as you head off on a trip, so don’t try to pack your car with luggage you don’t necessarily need.
Only take stuff you know you are going to need, and pack the luggage so that it can’t move around or become loose in the event of a crash. Restrain and tie down items if needed.
Luggage should go in the trunk, not in the cabin, so if anything does happen you will know it can’t easily hurt you. Consider roof racks as an alternative method of storing your items and taking them cross-country.
Make sure you don’t overload the car. Every car has a maximum weight when fully loaded, and even if you have performed all of the checks we mentioned, you might overload your brakes or your suspension and cause an accident. Plus, if you have overloaded the car and made it dangerous you could be liable.
Take a Test Drive and Fill Up With Fuel (or Charge)
You should take a little test drive before you go anywhere to check that all is running smoothly. Ideally, do this with all the luggage in the car. The ideal test drive is to go and get fuel or even to charge your car up if you have an electric or plug-in hybrid car. Why fill up before you go? Well, if you don’t have a route planned with all of the gas stations on the way then you might end up driving many miles without anywhere to fill up. We recommend never letting the vehicle get anywhere near empty on a road trip just in case.
If you don’t have the newest car or you don’t often take long road trips, you might be worried about how you can do so safely. The good news is that most of the preparations and precautions only take a few minutes, but they’re worth it for your peace of mind, you can just kick back and enjoy the journey.
It all might sound like quite a lot to do just for a road trip, but it is sensible to keep your vehicle in the best possible condition at all times and prepare just in case something does go wrong. By thinking of all of the worst case scenarios, you can ensure you are prepared just in case something does go wrong.