Just the thought of planning for a long road trip can inundate you with visions of a long to-do list. Yet you might be excited to get rolling on it all the same. When you want to figure out how to prepare car for long trips, start planning the car details first. It could take some time to get every car matter handled the way they need to be. From documentation to accident preparation, follow our guide to know how to prepare car for long trip.
Standard Vehicle Maintenance
It’s important to maintain vehicle maintenance year-round, but in our busy lives, we don’t always get to it. You don’t need to be a mechanic or auto repair expert to know how to prepare car for long trips, you just need to know what to look for when you get to your pre-road trip maintenance. There are a few things you can do on your own, and a few you will need to get to auto repair.
To begin preparing your vehicle, test all of your key components. Take notes on any lights that are showing up that shouldn’t be, such as engine or oil lights.
Your standard vehicle lights should be checked as well. Make sure that your headlights, your blinkers, interior lights, brake lights, and reverse lights are all working well. Check your hazards also. Look for any signs of your lights being burned out or even cracked. A cracked or missing taillight may lead to a traffic stop or traffic violation along the way and is very inexpensive to get fixed at a local auto repair shop.
Any signs of burned-out lights should be tended to immediately, for safety purposes alone. Some people are able to switch them out on their own, and you may be able to do that. Knowing all of your lights are in good working order is a good way to know how to prepare car for long trip, but if you can’t do it yourself, take it in to get the lights switched at.
Before you decide to take it in, check your brakes and your A/C. If your brakes sound like they are making noises, such as with a scraping noise, take it into a repair shop. You also want to look for any odd smells from your car or brakes. Your brake pads may need to be replaced. These are usually less than $100 if you need them replaced.
Make sure that you’re A/C system is working as well. If it is early in the season, and you haven’t used your A/C yet this year, go for a drive for about 15 minutes to see that it starts correctly, and stays on. If it isn’t, put it on a list of possible car repair problems, and consider taking your vehicle for a tune-up before you go on your trip.
These components of your vehicle are the most important to get checked out-and-out of the way before you go on your trip. Faulty brakes or faulty A/C are problems that represent safety hazards. Faulty brakes mean you can’t control the vehicle in the event of an accident. A broken A/C may cause problems if you are driving in humid weather. Going on a long road trip without A/C could not only be uncomfortable but could also be unsafe for yourself and other passengers.
Gas Stations Check-Ups
There are a few things you can do the day that you leave or the morning of your trip that can be done at the gas station as you are filling up for the first time on your trip.
A standard thing to check is your windshield fluid. You will need this for any weather and can pick one up at the gas station for just a few dollars. Keep an extra in your vehicle for on the road. You may run into bad weather out-of-state and wind up using it very quickly. You may also want to consider a window tinting service to get your windows tinted so that your interior stays cooler while you are on the road.
Tire safety is another important thing you need to know to understand how to prepare car for long trip. If you think the tires need to be rotated, save that for a mechanic. Get a tire pressure gauge from the hardware store for a few dollars, and learn how to use it on your tires. It should only take a few minutes.
On the inside of your driver’s side door there is a white sticker with a black table with numbers on it. The appropriate tire pressure for your model will be listed there. Use the number listed here to check your tire pressure, and test it a few times to get the hang of using the gauge. Fill up your tires to that amount, and no more.
Many gas stations have tire pressure gauges on the actual air pump, so you may not even need to buy a gauge for yourself. The best time to fill your tires before a long trip is after your vehicle has been parked or resting for several hours. This is the case in any season or any kind of weather.
You will get the best read on your tire pressure when your tires are not warm. Be more careful about tire pressure during hot and humid weather. Humidity can increase the pressure on your tires by approximately 1 or 2 pounds. Fill the air on your tires when they are cool to get the best reading and to ensure that they are as filled as they need to be before your trip.
If you are unsure at all about how to check your tires or what tire pressure is, put it on the list for a tune-up. Many mechanics will automatically check that or include that in a standard service or tune-up.
A tune-up is the best way to handle most of these little things, and it can be very affordable.
Tune-Ups Before a Road Trip
In order to remember how to prepare car for long trip, take into account how much a car problem usually costs you when it is unexpected. A car problem on a long trip can cost you in towing, auto repair out-of-state, and even out-of-state medical costs. You might also see increases in your insurance, traffic violations, and legal bills if the car problem is bigger than you might anticipate.
A tune-up is one way to get ahead of that possibility, and it can be done very affordably. Get your fluids checked, including brake fluid, transmission, oil, antifreeze, and coolant, and have your filters checked. Have everything topped up. Your mechanic will also want to make sure that your belts and hoses are in good condition and will last the trip.
It is recommended that oil changes happen every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but you can extend this by using synthetic oil during oil changes. Newer models using synthetic oil may not need oil changes until the 7,500 to the 10,000-mile mark. If you are not sure if you need a tune-up on oil or not, check the oil yourself with a dipstick. If the oil appears black, or it is below the fill mark on the dipstick, have your oil changed as soon as you can.
Radiator fluid is another fluid that you need to keep topped up. Your engine is what produces the heat in the hood of your vehicle, and radiator fluid helps to keep things from getting too hot. This is also known as coolant or antifreeze. If your coolant is low, your engine will overheat. Have the radiator flushed every 40,000 miles, or have it done before you go on that road trip.
You also want to look at what is happening with your transmission. If you don’t know of any problem, then you probably don’t have a problem. However, if the car feels a little jerky when driving, that could be a transmission fluid problem. The transmission fluid helps all of those gears work smoothly. That fluid should be changed every 60,000 miles or so.
If you are getting a mechanic to check your tires, you may want to ask them about rotating them as well. That should be done approximately every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. You don’t want to have to do that while you are on the trip. Rotating your tires helps with suspension and balance, particularly when you are experiencing multiple kinds of road conditions.
Tire replacements only need to happen every 25,000 to 50,000 miles. This could be a repair that is over $500. If you aren’t sure whether they need replacement, an old trick is the penny trick. Put a penny inside the tread of your tire with the head of Abraham Lincoln pointed upside down and positioned into the groove. If the top of his head is still showing, you need to replace the tires.
Clean the Car
You will be packing a lot for your road trip, and you want to keep it as organized as possible. The best way to do that is by making sure the car is clean before you head out. Clean the car from the inside out.
Do a thorough vacuuming of all interior. Empty your trunk so that you have a lot of room in it for all the things that you will be bringing. Wipe down all surface areas with disinfectant and a damp cloth. You can also purchase wipes that are specific to the car interior if you aren’t sure what to use inside the car.
Ensure that there is no sticky residue in any cup holders, change holders, or dashboard. Your coffee cup may wind up sticking to an old drink and that will turn into a bigger mess.
You also want to ensure that you wash the outside of your car. Bird droppings will eat the paint of your car, and you are going to experience a lot of that on a road trip.
Organize the interior of your car into cubbies or storage sections for things you will need on the trip. You are going to need phone chargers, adapters, and any other accessories for tech. Have one place for everything. Create a space in the car for snack storage that is easy to reach, even when you are driving. Have a section in your car that is reserved just for trash.
These simple organization tools will show every one of your passengers that you know how to prepare car for long trips. They will feel more secure and excited just knowing everything is ready for them from the minute they get in the vehicle.
If you have purchased used cars for sale prior to the road trip, be sure that you learn the features of the car before you head out. Test them out before you hit the road so that when it comes time to turn the hazards on or store something in a cubby while you are driving, you know exactly where it is.
Organize Documentation and Essentials
Now that your car has been tuned up, cleaned up, and organized, you are ready for last-minute details. It’s time to prepare for your emergency essentials and be sure that you have all the documentation that you need before you go on your trip.
Get your car insurance documentation handy, and if you are using road maps or itineraries, keep them in one place. Purchase or put together an emergency roadside kit and a first aid kit. Get your spare key and use keyrings that will make them easy to find. Carry your spare key on you, or have your passenger do so in their purse.
You may also want to use a special key ring for either your main key or spare key so that it’s easily identifiable in the event of an emergency. Items such as key ring bracelets can help you keep track of every spare key that you have. Have these essentials organized, and you’ll feel good about knowing how to prepare car for long trip.
Plan for Accidents
Accidents and personal injury happen every day in every state in America. Plan for them. Have the numbers of a truck accident lawyer, car accident attorney, motorcycle attorney, or accident injury attorney at the ready when you are preparing yourself and your car for a long trip. Even have 247 towing services on speed dial for that just-in-case moment. You’ll never wonder how to prepare car for long trip again when you have emergency numbers down to the letter.
The numbers of a personal injury law firm in the states you are visiting will be good for your emergency list. The number of a traffic violation bail bonds service is handy also. Research the medical facilities in the areas you are traveling to so that you know where to go if you are seeking car accident injuries treatment.
The hope is that you never have to use any of these numbers and that you have an emergency-free trip. However, a lot of the stress from one of these situations can be managed by having the phone number of a solution at the ready. When you have that last-minute item tucked away in the car, you’ll feel good about how well you know how to prepare car for long trips. Keep this checklist handy for every trip into the future.