Preparing your Car for a Summer Road Trip

by Michael Satterfield

Summer is road trip season, exploring back roads for a long weekend, or heading cross-country for the adventure of a lifetime, while road tripping is a lot of fun, overlooking the basics before you hit the road can make or break your trip. Whether you are driving your own car, driving a rental, or buying a cheap car for the trip, here are the basics you need to check before hitting the road.

Tires: One of the most important things on any car is the tires, they are the only part of the vehicle that touches the road and something most people don't think about until they are stranded on the side of the road or fail an inspection. Make sure that the tires have plenty of tread, are aired up properly,   and also that they are the right tires for the conditions you will be driving into. If your car is equipped with a spare tire, be sure to take the time to check it, the jack, and tools. For great deals on tires, I always check first.

Wipers: Inspect your wiper blades and make sure you top up the windshield washer fluid. Even though it is summer time, you can often find yourself in a torrential downpour. Plus you will be collecting bugs along the way and you will be using the windshield washer a lot. I have found that the Rain-X wiper blades and fluid provide the best performance and their wash fluid does cut through the bugs. 

Belts & Hoses: A good rule of thumb is to check anything made of rubber under the hood before you set off on your trip. Belts and Hoses are a lot cheaper to replace before you hit the road than in the middle of nowhere. If you aren't sure on your vehicle's maintenance records, you can reference the owner manual to see if your vehicle is due for belts and hoses based on the mileage. Look for cracks, bulges, and fraying, and if you see any replace the belt or hose before hitting the road. If you are a DIY guy like me the best price for replacement belts and hoses I have found is Rock Auto.

Fluids: Make sure that all of the fluids are fresh and topped up. If the car is still within the mileage requirements since its last oil change you should be fine, but if it's close you may as well get it done. In addition to engine oil, check the transmission fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. If you aren't the kind of person who does their own oil changes, taking it to the local Jiffy Lube, they will top up your fluids and check under the hood as part of their oil change service.

Emergency Kit: Something that you should have in your car at all times anyways, an emergency kit is even more important when you are on the road. Basic emergency kits with jumper cables, a flashlight, and some basic tools, tape, and zip ties can be purchased as a kit. Make sure you have any special tools specific to your vehicle, and I always like to have a first aid kit. While you might not use them on your own vehicle, you may just be able to help out a fellow motorist. There are several pre-packaged kits on Amazon or you can pick them up at your local auto parts store.