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Preparing Your Car For A Road Trip Part 1

Published on July 31, 2012 under Humble Mechanic

Hey everyone! Today I want to share some tips on preparing your car for a road trip. My wife and I are taking a road trip soon, so this is perfect timing.

What I really want to get into today is, things we should do about 2 weeks before a big road trip. What is a big road trip? Well for us it will be driving a little over 2000 miles in 4 days. That is a lot of time on the road, so I want to be sure that my car is

  • Up to date on all the maintenance
  • Functioning properly
  • Safe
  • Clean

Maintenance

This one is pretty easy. About 2 weeks before your trip, make sure your car is 100% up to date on all the maintenance. That might mean you are a little early for an oil change, but it is better than being 1000 miles past due.

This is a time where taking your car to the dealer is going to be the best choice. Dealer mechanics see all the common issues with your car. They know to look for leaks in certain spots. Spots that a Jiffy Change place might not. For those of you that “hate” taking your car to the dealer. I would really consider it before a long road trip.

Taking your car in a couple of weeks before your trip will give you time to make any repairs your car will need. It will allow plenty of time for your mechanic to order parts. It will also give you a day or so to really consider the repair. You can use the tips listed in “How to tell if a mechanic is ripping you off“. I would really recommend getting the following services done.

  • Oil and filter change
  • Tires rotated and balanced, this will also give a mechanic a chance to look for strange tire wear or nails, screw ect.
  • Not a MUST, but really consider a 4 wheel alignment. That slight pull is not a big deal around town, but imagine 12 hours dealing with it.
  • Cabin air filter, you will be in the car a long time. You don’t want to A/C to be smelly
  • Top off ALL fluids
  • Replace windshield wipers
  • Full inspection of car for leaks, and any other maintenance issues like brakes and belts.

Again, doing these things about 2 weeks before the trip will give you time. If you are a DIYer make sure you do a full inspection too.

Is Everything Working?

Now is the time to make sure everything works. Go ahead and push all the buttons. Make sure things like your windshield washer sprayers work. Do a walk around and inspect your lights. You don’t want to get pulled over in the middle of the night, in another state for having a light out do you?

This is also the time to break out the tool kit that came with the car. Make sure your jack works, and that you have all the items needed to change a tire. DON’T FORGET THE WHEEL LOCK!

If you are planning on using a GPS, a power inverter, a phone charger make sure they work. I would consider getting a backup phone charger in case one stops working. You will be relying on these during your trip make sure they work. Also check and make sure all your 12v outlets work. You can have 100 chargers, but with something to plug them into they are worthless.

Safety Check

This is something you do with out even knowing. This time I want to make sure you are knowingly checking. Look at all the things like your seat belts, air bags, brake system(again) light(again). For me, part of my drive will be through the mountains. I need to make sure my car is 100% safe.

Also when it comes to safety, make sure your first aid kit to good to go. I would take it out of the car, and inventory it. Be sure that nothing is expired, or ruined by heat/cold. Or that something didn’t spill inside the kit. If you don’t have a first aid kit, check out “Building a vehicle first aid kit“.

I would also take the tool kit you built out and make sure everything is cool! If you carry a “bug out bag” or a “get home bag” I would do the same with that bag.

Remember, this is just part 1 of the series on prepping your car for a road trip. We will get into more things you need to do to prep your car in part 2 and maybe part 3.

Is there any rituals you guys have for road trips? Other than hitting the road at 3am I don’t think I do. Well that an obsessing about the trip for weeks. But that is just me!

Don’t forget Shop Shots tomorrow. If you want your car featured in the Reads Rides section, email me a couple of pictures and some detail about your car. Send them to Charles(at)HumbleMechanic(dot)com Put something like READERS RIDES in the subject so It doesn’t get filtered into spam.

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10 Comments

    1. Charles

      @Rebecca, thanks for the info. You guys have a good blog over there. I was looking on the site. The whole time thinking, “I know Academy Ford from somewhere”.

      It turns out, I know the commercials. My VW training center is in Jessup.MD. How funny is that?

  1. Gezika

    I always have a small cooler with ice and drinks so I’m not stopping and spending all my money on drinks the whole trip. It adds up quickly. Not to mention my stash of snacks and gum. Driving for hours on hours is boring and munching on something seems to help me.
    I always have my road safety kit in the trunk with the flares, fix-a-flat, flashlight, emergency blanket and all the other things.
    And while you’re at it, if you’re driving alone don’t forget your music or audio books. Nothing is worse than scanning radio stations for hours only to hear commercials. :/

    1. Charles

      @Gezkia, those are AWESOME tips. I will be sure to add them when I work on part 2.

      Audio books and podcasts keep me sane on trips. I do most of my traveling solo. You are dead on with the radio scanning.

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