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Publish Date - May 10, 2022

Author: Jeff Good

Categories:   Useful Automotive Information   

Five Essential Steps to Take Before Going on a Road Trip

There’s nothing quite like going on a classic American road trip. We’re all drawn to the call of the open road, and as much as we love destination trips, there’s something about packing up your car and traversing this vast nation that can’t be matched by hopping on a plane and going to some big city.

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There’s nothing quite like going on a classic American road trip. We’re all drawn to the call of the open road, and as much as we love destination trips, there’s something about packing up your car and traversing this vast nation that can’t be matched by hopping on a plane and going to some big city.

Road trips have roadside attractions, small town diners, and the vast American country landscape. It’s quite an attractive vacation option (and if you are looking for some great pit stops, we have a few suggestions)

When you start a road trip, you’ll have a lot of logistics to think about. What route will you take? What hotels or motels will you stay in?

But before you pack your things and go, you’ll want to make sure that your vehicle can make it the entire trip. That’s why we created this checklist, so you can know exactly what you should do to make sure your car doesn’t leave you high and dry and ruin your road trip.

1. Check Your Oil and Your Fluid Levels

You should always make sure to change your oil regularly, and if it’s been a while since you’ve done so, you’ll want to address that before you start your trip. Old or overused oil can cause your engine to heat up, damaging or maybe even destroying your engine over time. And you won’t want to run into that while hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

Now, there are plenty of places that can change your oil for a relatively low price, but if you want to save some money you can always change the oil yourself. You won’t need to actively check your oil levels if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, but as a good rule of thumb, you’ll want to get your oil changed if you’ve driven more than 5,000 miles, or it’s been six months since your last oil change.

That said, you might still want to check your levels, just to be sure. To do so, you’ll want to use your dipstick to check your oil levels against the top notch (the high limit) and the low notch (the low limit) on the stick. If the oil is low, you’ll want to top it off before heading out.

Once you’ve made sure your oil is appropriately topped off, you’ll want to address the other important fluids that keep your car running smoothly. You can find where you can access each with your manual, but you’ll want to make sure your levels are good for windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant in your radiator. If any of these seem low, make sure to top them off to ensure that you won’t run into any mechanical issues during your trip.

While it’s an essential step to take before starting a road trip, it’s important to remember that keeping track of these fluids should not be saved for special occasions. By checking these levels regularly and consistently, you’ll find you can improve the longevity of your car (and save thousands in the long run).

2. Check Your Tires

Your tires are an important safety feature for your vehicle, especially when you're going to be traveling long distances. Worn tires are less safe, since they can’t keep contact with the road as well, so it’s important to make sure you have the right tire pressure, and that your tires are not old and worn.

Using a tire pressure gauge (if you don’t have one, get one— a simple one runs you only a few dollars). If the pressure reads within the proper limits stated in your owner’s manual, make sure your tire tread depth is more than 1/16th of an inch, to ensure you’re not running on worn tires.

You can use the penny test to check on those tires by sticking a penny upside down into the groove of your tire. If there’s gap between the top of the penny, and Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.

3. Address Lingering Maintenance Issues

Now, it’s pretty common to put off nagging issues that your car might be facing. That random light that’s been on for the last few weeks? It’ll probably work itself out. But when you are going to be traveling far from home, you don’t want to risk the “Check Engine” light being a dud, you’ll want to make sure your car is going to be able to drive you to your destination.

You can check the lights on your board (to see if they’re actually a problem) by purchasing and using an OBDII scanner. Of course, you can also just take the car to the mechanic to double check on those lights, and make any repairs that would be needed. (Just make sure it’s a mechanic you trust, and not one who will find “issues” that aren’t really there.)

4. Check Your Air Filter

It’s easy to forget about your vehicle’s air filter, since they’re pretty dependable and rarely need replacing. That said, they are also essential to the proper running of your engine, and if you suddenly find an issue with your filter, you can be in a difficult situation out on the road.

Your air filter (typically) is connected to your intake (look for a ruffled plastic pipe). All you need to do to check your filter is to open the box connected to that intake, and examine the filter to make sure it is white, and clear of debris. If it looks dirty, you can get a new filter and replace it fairly easily on your own.

It’s unlikely that this will be a problem, but if you have to replace it, there is some good news. These filters last for tens of thousands of miles, so if you have a fresh filter you won’t have to worry about it for quite some time.

5. Make Sure You Have an Emergency Kit

Now that you’ve checked your fluid levels, tires, filter, and addressed any lingering warning lights, your car is set for the trip. But the unexpected can always happen, so you’ll want to make sure you have an emergency kit to stash in your trunk. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, and it’ll gather dust back there, but it’s always best to be prepared.

There are a few main items you’ll want for this kit, including

  • A spare tire
  • A jack
  • A tire iron
  • Jumper tables
  • A flashlight
  • A first aid kit
  • Water and non-perishable food items
  • Blankets
  • Rain Gear
  • Cat litter

The cat litter, for example, will help if you get caught in snow or icy conditions. This list should also give you everything you need to replace a flat tire, as well as provide you with warmth and sustenance in case you find yourself broken down in a particularly remote area.

Now, if you are currently hoping to purchase a car or vehicle that will take you on that dream road trip, look no further than the services offered by!