Tips to Prepping Your Car for a Long Road Trip
by Alek Sabin
Are you thinking of heading out for a road trip soon? Whether you are going on vacation or visiting family, you’ll definitely want to give your car a good inspection before leaving to ensure that everything will run safely and smoothly. Nothing puts a damper on your trip more than having something on your car break down miles away from any mechanic, especially when so many things can go wrong with your vehicle. Here is a quick list of things you’ll want to check on your car before embarking on a road trip.
How are your headlights and tail lights? Enlist the help of a friend during the evening to ensure that your headlights, taillights, high beams, blinkers, brake lights, and reverse lights are all functioning properly. Simply have your friend stand outside your car and observe your car as you test out each set of lights. If you’re going to be doing a lot of night driving, then you’ll want to make sure that your headlights are bright enough to give you visibility. If there is a lot of haze on the headlight that is dimming it, you can clean that off with toothpaste.
You’ll want to inspect your tires as well, as you’re about to put some significant mileage on them. Be sure that they exhibit the proper tire pressure, as specified by your car manufacturer. You should also ensure that they all have sufficient tread depth of at least 4/32”. For more on inspecting your tires for safety and proper function.
You’ll also need clean, working wiper blades in order to see sufficiently while driving, especially if there is going to be rain or precipitation on your drive. If it’s been longer than six months since you last switched out your wiper blades, it’s a good idea to replace them. If you’re unsure if it’s time for a replacement. Spray some windshield cleaner and see if there are streaks and wet spots left by your wipers.
Checking your fluids may sound like an obvious suggestion, but many car owners forget just how many fluids there are to check when inspecting a car. In addition to the usual oil and windshield wiper fluid checks, be sure to take a look at your transmission fluid, antifreeze/coolant, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. If you are unsure when these fluids need to be replaced, check with your regular mechanic for a consultation. Most importantly, though, make sure that your vehicle is topped off with the appropriate oil for your specific model and the season in which you are driving.
How are your car’s brake pads? You’ll want to know that they are in safe and working order before heading out on any lengthy trip. To inspect your brakes, first, listen for any unusual noise that might occur when using your brakes. Then look at the wheel and be sure that there is no dust accumulation around your brakes. Look through your wheels to inspect your brake pads as well, ensuring that they are of proper thickness. Usually, there is a slot in the center of the brake pad that will serve as a wear indicator; if the slot is almost non-existent, then you should replace your brake pads as soon as possible.
If you are driving during the summer months, then you’ll certainly want a functioning air conditioning unit in your vehicle. There’s nothing more miserable than driving in a hot car that can only blow hot air. To check the AC, turn your car’s air conditioner on and ensure that it is blowing cold air and that there do not seem to be any obstructions in the vents. Check all belts for cracks, wear, and glazing as well. Are the cooling fans on the condenser or radiator are running when the air conditioning is on? If not, then take your AC into a mechanic to check if everything is working properly and if it can be easily fixed. If you are in a tough spot, you can get an external AC that is installed over a cooler with ice. These can be a cost-effective solution for long, hot drives when you can’t afford a new compressor.