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How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

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Each year, countless families load up the car, truckSUV, or minivan for adventures through highways and backroads. But before you plan your road trip, make sure that your vehicle is ready for the long journey. Here are 7 ways to prepare your car for a road trip:

Check Your Fluids

I always like to get an oil change before a long road trip. Even if your vehicle isn’t due for an oil change, you should still check levels and top off as needed. Also, be sure to check brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, antifreeze, and windshield solution.

Get a Safety Triangle Inspection

The Safety Triangle Inspection consists of a three-part process during which a professional technician checks critical interconnected system components that control steering, stopping, and stability. This inspection begins with your shocks and struts. Shocks and struts are critical components that:

  • Help evenly distribute your car’s weight over all four tires, improving handling during turns.
  • Work together with braking components to help your vehicle stop sooner under rough driving conditions, by keeping tires and wheels in contact with the road.
  • Work together with tires to help maximize tire-to-road contact, improving vehicle stability, and minimizing weight transfer.

Worn shocks and struts could negatively affect passenger comfort, rate, and pattern of tire wear, wheel alignment, brake life, and durability of other chassis parts. Like most safety-critical chassis components, shocks and struts do wear out over the course of normal operation. The rate of wear depends on a wide range of variables, such as road and environmental conditions, your driving style, and vehicle load. 

It is good practice to have shocks and struts inspected every time your vehicle is brought in for tire, brake, or alignment service.

Check Tires

Along with your safety triangle inspection, be sure to check your tires. Look for frays, worn treads, and tire pressure.

I once took a road trip with my family and failed to check the tires beforehand. We ended up having a blowout. My kids were frightened when they heard the tire explode and watched as I struggled to control the car before pulling over to the shoulder. We were stranded for two hours while we waited on AAA to change the tire.

Don’t make this mistake. Make sure your tires are in good shape before hitting the road. Get a new set if necessary.

Inspect Your Lights

Check your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals to make sure they are working properly. If your headlights are cloudy, you can use toothpaste to clean them and make them clear again.

Replace Air Filters

Replace old air filters as dirt can restrict airflow and make it difficult to defog your windows. A good practice is to change your air filters every time you get an oil change.

Check Your Battery

Once again, you must learn from my mistake. Fortunately, I found an auto parts store and was able to get a new battery and change it in the parking lot. The friendly store clerk even loaned me some tools. Before you leave for your road trip, have a professional test your car battery and replace it if it’s weak.

Replace Frayed or Worn Hoses and Belts

Open up the hood and look for belts and hoses that are in poor condition. Get these components replaced immediately to avoid problems.

These simple auto checks will help keep your family safe and your vehicle in top shape as you embark upon your journey.

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