Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip

Whether you're running late for a meeting or going for a casual drive, you expect your car to be ready to go. If you take good care of it, the vehicle will be.

But then, when you plan to go on a long and punishing ride, you shouldn't expect the same performance from your vehicle. At least not without preparation. Road trips happen to fall under this category.

Road trips can have you driving for hours through rough and smooth terrain. Thus, it's essential to prepare your car for the long road ahead.

Here are five straightforward things you can do to prepare your vehicle for a road trip.

Change the fluids.

Just like the human body, cars need fluids. You already knew that. What you might not know is that various fluids require different levels of attention. You need to refill your gas tank every few miles, but you don't need to check your car's coolant more often than every two weeks.  

You'll get much more mileage on your oil, but it's still a great idea to check if you're planning a road trip. How's the color? If it's turning black, it's time to visit your mechanic. Or, change it yourself if you have the skills.

Next up are your brake and transmission fluids. Besides smoothing out the driving experience, these liquids can keep your vehicle from breaking down or getting in an accident.

You can tell when these need attention. Spongy braking and jerky transmission tell you that it's time to visit the mechanic. Additionally, if you haven't changed them in a while, you should have them checked, just to be sure.

Check your tires.

If you walk by a perfect set of tires often enough, you'll notice when they need some air. The round consistency gives way to an incomplete circle. The longer you drive, the more air the tires let out. It's also possible to feel unevenness in tires from the driver's seat, although that's uncommon.

Since you're planning a long trip, you should pump your tires before you take off. Take care not to overinflate them as that can reduce their grip.

You should also check your spare tire and equipment. Having a flat in the middle of nowhere is one of a car owner's worst maintenance nightmare. The tire can appear deceptively full while on its side, so pull it out of the trunk and give it a good look.

Lastly, you need to make sure your tires are fit for the trip. Most tires will last between 25,000 to 50,000 miles. Severe wearing of the tire threads is also a sign that they need to be changed.

Do general maintenance.

Maintaining a car is almost a full-time job. The older the vehicle, the more attention it's going to need. Many people prefer to swap out their cars before it starts breaking down in embarrassing places.

If you're planning a road trip, you need to give your car proper attention before it demands it. You might have reservations about the cost of carrying out proper maintenance on the vehicle. The good news is, sites like buy used parts like diesel cores. With that extra cash, you can get new parts and save yourself future headaches.

Some other parts to consider are the brake pads and the air filters. The wear and tear on your brake pads depend on how frequently you drive. When you start hearing screeching noise, it's time to change the pads.

It may be harder to tell when your air filters need changing because they are soundless components. However, the side effects include low fuel economy and reduced intra-vehicle air quality. Air filters are very inexpensive to change, so this shouldn't be a problem.

If you've been putting off replacing any other parts in your car, you should do it before leaving. Making emergency repairs will cost much more than a fair negotiation with your mechanic.

Master the rules of the new road.

You never really know how bizarre road rules are until you're on the wrong side of the law! While everyone knows what side of the road to drive on, nuances like window tint and phone mounts are harder to guess.

Some states don't allow window tints on vehicles, and that's definitely something you need to know. Even if you don't take it off, you at least know what to prepare for. Plus, other rules like where to mount your device can be easily followed.

There's also the matter of toll booths. They may cost dimes if you know what you're doing, but several dollars if you don't. It's definitely worth a few minutes online to check and see what to expect.

Final preparations

If you're familiar with the road, you may be good to go at this point. Otherwise, do some research and prepare for the worst. Having some cash handy can be helpful if you ever have to visit a mechanic along the way. Also, ensure that you have your spare tire and equipment; don't remove them for more trunk space.

Knowing what route you'll take can shave hours off your travel time and save you some gas. You can also find out early on which roads are paved and which ones are less traveled.

It's also a good idea to clean and organize the car. It makes the road trip more pleasant for everyone involved. You'll also know where everything is and can keep your eyes on the road the whole time. It can be distracting to search for your charger in the glove box when it's under the passenger's seat!

Lastly, listening to playlists is a tradition as old as road trips themselves! If you're going to spend hours driving in a car, you might as well listen to something lovely. You'll be surprised at the difficulty involved with finding tunes the whole family will enjoy, so creating a playlist beforehand is definitely the way to go.

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