Research shows that around 100 million Americans will take a vacation this summer. Does yours involve the wind in your hair, a pushpin on a map and gas station snacks?
If so, it's time to create your road trip car checklist!
While these can be some of the greatest adventures that lead to the best memories, it's unlikely your itinerary involves spending the day broken down on the side of the road.
Make sure your vehicle is ready to go the distance as soon as you press on the gas. Ready to learn more? Let's go!
1. Get an Oil Change
Before you hit the road, take your car in for an oil change. Failing to do so, even in the winter months, can create excessive wear and tear on your engine. Check your levels on a regular basis and top them off as required, rather than waiting for a glaring dashboard light to remind you.
For years, traditional advice mandated that drivers switch to a heavier oil during the sweltering summer months. However, today's cars can function in myriad weather conditions and temperatures, so oil weight isn't as big of a concern.
However, these models are more advanced than ever before and many require a specific type of oil. If yours is fewer than 15 years old, check your manufacturer's specifications and look for an oil that meets the necessary viscosity levels.
2. Check Your Coolant Levels
Sure, the cooling system in your vehicle is responsible for keeping you comfortable as you cruise down the highway in the middle of August.
However, did you know it also plays a major role in your engine's performance, as well? When it runs at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it's equipped to protect your car against heat-related damages, including:
- Motor oil viscosity loss
- Lower fuel combustion efficiency
However, if internal temperatures climb to 250 degrees or higher, the cooling system begins to break down. When this happens, your engine could overheat.
Check your coolant levels to make sure you've got enough fluid to keep the excess heat in check. While you're at it, make sure the radiator feels cool to the touch. If it's warm, that signifies it's under pressure and at risk of causing coolant burns and radiator damage.
In addition, check all related components, including your radiator and coolant hoses and connections, to ensure they're sealed against cracking and leaking. If you notice any issues, take your car in for repair services.
Not sure when to top off these fluid levels? Add coolant any time the reservoir drops below half full and make sure it's always diluted with water. Other fluids to monitor include the ones that help control you:
- Windshield wipers
- Power steering
3. Safeguard Your Tires
It goes without saying that your tires need to be in top condition before you put your precious cargo on top of them. This is one of the most important steps in preparing for a road trip.
Start by looking at the treads on yours. Are they deep, or looking a little threadbare? If you're not sure how to gauge, insert a quarter upside-down between them. If the tread is deep enough, it will cover George Washington's head.
In addition to tread, also monitor your tire pressure. While many drivers may look at the metrics listed on the side of the tire and go off that figure when adding air, keep in mind that this is the maximum pressure your tires can withstand.
Look at your owner's manual to find the suggested pressure and use that to make sure yours are plump and ready to take you where you want to go! As a backup, always travel with a spare tire and inspect it for leaks on a routine basis.
4. Make Sure the A/C Runs
Nothing ruins an epic summer road trip like a busted A/C system! Make sure you can stay cool and comfy on the road by checking yours.
First, inspect the belt for any signs of obvious damage. If it looks threadbare or about to break, it could render your compressor ineffective, which hinders A/C functionality.
Keeping in mind that they're toxic and only a professional should handle them, have your mechanic check your A/C coolant levels and top them off if needed.
5. Keep Safety Top of Mind
Now that all of your main vehicular checks are complete, it's time to talk rider safety.
First, make sure your backup camera is in excellent working condition. More than 50 children fall victim to cars running over them every week as they run in and out of their blind spots.
Working with an older-model car that doesn't include a backup camera? Install an after-market one. The rearview camera doesn't provide the visibility you need, and rolling your windows down to crank your neck around isn't enough, either.
Speaking of visibility, take the time to clean your headlights and taillights to make sure all oncoming cars can see you, which is especially important as you drive your sleeping family to the next hotel for the night. Use a cleaning kit from your local auto parts store or upgrade to halogen bulbs for the brightest shine.
Cruise in Confidence With This Road Trip Car Checklist
Congratulations! You're about to leave your everyday routine behind and embrace the open road. There's nothing like a vacation on wheels, and this can be a great way to see the world while covering some tracks.
One crucial first step before you get behind the wheel? Complete this road trip car checklist! Make sure your vehicle is as ready as you are to get going!
Want more car-related advice you can use? That's why we're here.
We're auto care experts well-versed in all aspects of maintenance, from transmission services to multi-point inspections. Locate a service center near you today and make this a getaway to remember!