There is no greater American pastime than taking a road trip. There’s something so enjoyable about stopping at the little cafes, roadside booths, and attractions along the way, and creating memories along the way. As an extra bonus, gas prices are lower than they’ve been in years, making a road trip more affordable than ever.
One thing that you have to do before beginning your epic road trip is making sure your car is road worthy. If your car isn’t in the shape it should be before you hit the highway, you could end up spending your vacation on the side of the road.
Whether your car comes from one of the finest new car dealerships in town or is one of the trusty, rusty used cars that never stops running, it is important to check-off each item on our roadtrip checklist before hitting the highway:
- Check the Tires
The most common breakdown that occurs while you’re on a road trip is tire failure. It is easy to overlook the state of your tires while going through your usual hustle and bustle of life, but the stress you put on your tires when you drive long distances on a road trip can really do them in. Not to mention, driving on tires that are worn out or have the wrong air pressure can take a toll on your car’s performance and fuel economy.
Before leaving town, do a visual inspection to make sure the tread to make sure it is not low or worn out. Check your tire pressure and add air if it is low (you can find the recommended tire pressure for your car’s make and model on the inside of the driver’s door. Many tire shops and car dealerships are happy to check for you if this is outside of your skill set). If you are ever unsure of your tires’ maintenance, take it in to the car dealerships you got it at and have them give the tires a checkup.
- Change the Oil
Staying on top of oil changes is a big deal, even if you are not leaving town. As you drive it, the oil that lubricates the engine picks up gunk that can make the car sluggish and impacts its performance. Even worse, if your car runs out of oil, it will cause the engine to seize, which will send it to an early grave. The technical term for this phenomonon in the mechanic world is “no bueno!”
Your grandma might have told you you need to change your oil every 3,000 miles or three months. That was true in your grandma’s hay day, but is not the case anymore. Due to the progression in the way engines are designed to use oil now, and improved refinement processes, now you can get away with changing your oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on the how much wear and tear you put on it. The point is, before undertaking a long road trip, it’s a good idea to take your car into the shop or one of the new or used car dealerships in your area and have the oil changed.
- Inspect the Cooling System
The second most common reason that a car ends up on the side of the road is that it overheated. As you drive hundreds of miles, the engine gets hot, like really hot. This is not a problem as long as the cooling system is doing its job, but issues that prevent it from working might not be obvious until you have smoke billowing out of your hood.
Before starting your “Road Trip Jams” playlist, make sure to have the cooling system serviced. This involve flushing the coolant, checking for any leaky hoses, and replacing any damaged parts (such as the water pump or radiator). Making sure your cooling system is happy is a good way to make sure you don’t overheat while driving.
They say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Instead, we say it, “An ounce of car maintenance is worth more than the hours and tears and dollars it will cost if you break down during your road trip.”