That sense of adventure out on the open road, the hum of the engine, listening to your favorite tunes, spending some alone time with that favorite person, or even riding solo to clear your mind and do some thinking. Whatever the scenario, there are so many memories to be created out on the open road. If a road trip is calling your name, hold up! Because a little extra preparation on your part could go a long way and help you avoid some dangerous mishaps. Whether you’re driving a short distance or across country, the following tips will ensure that your car and crew are properly prepared for your next adventure.
If you’re unable to take your vehicle in and have it serviced before you hit the road, be sure to run through the following steps yourself. Begin by inspecting your vehicle with the following checklist:
- 1. Check the engine oil. Always do this when the engine is cold. Pull out your oil dipstick and wipe it clean before re-inserting it. Pull it out once again to check the oil level and determine if it is low. Your vehicle’s manual will indicate the grade and type. You can also check the coolant level at the same time while your engine is still cold.
- 2. Check for fluid leaks. It’s time to do some detective work an inspect the ground where you park your car and check for fluid spills. Refrain from doing any taste tests at this point and stick with your other senses. Specifically, the feel, smell, and color of the fluid that is leaking. You may need to consult or take your car into a mechanic if the leak is excessive.
- 3. Check your windshield washer fluid and wipers. If the washer fluid is low, go ahead and top it off according to your car manufacturers recommendations found in your owners manual or online. Replace those wiper blades if they are starting to shred or tear. A quick trip to the auto store or big box store might be in order before you hit the road.
- 4. Check your lights. Do a 360 walk-around your entire vehicle and inspect all head and tail lights. Get a friend, family member, or bored neighbor to check the brake lights for you while you quickly test the brake pedal too.
- 5. Check the battery of your vehicle. Make sure your battery is strong and has clean terminals. Oftentimes a little baking soda and water will do the trick. If your battery has been repeatedly failing, you might want to have it tested at the nearest battery shop. If not, be sure to keep some jumper cables handy.
- 6. Last but not least, check your vehicle’s tires. Your tires affect your safety, handling and fuel economy. Inspect the treads, the sidewalls (for cracking and excessive wear), and the air pressure. The treads of your tires should always be higher than the wear bars. If you don’t happen to have a tread depth gauge, try using the “penny test.” Insert a penny into the tire tread grooves with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are at 2/32nds of an inch or less of remaining tread. If this is the case you need new tires immediately! A quarter works too. Washington’s head is just as effective! If your treads or sidewalls show excessive wear it might be an indication that you’re due for a tire rotation and alignment. Consult your mechanic. Refer to your vehicles manual, door placard, mechanic, or the Internet for your vehicles recommended air pressure. Head to the nearest gas station with a pressure gauge and adjust the pressure if necessary. If your vehicle has a spare tire be sure to check the air pressure too.
If your vehicle can successfully pass all inspection points than you’re well on your way to hitting the road safely and creating some good memories!
Be prepared. Stock your vehicle with supplies in the event of an accident or medical issue. Essentials such as GPS navigational systems, Cell phones, Chargers, emergency kits, flashlights, blankets, first-aid kits, basic tools, jumper cables, and of course water and plenty of snacks. If you have kids make sure you pack plenty of supplies to keep them comfortable, occupied, and happy. Always pack smart and pay attention to load capacity. The placard on the inside of your door usually has weight loads printed on them.
As always, follow the rules of the road, be patient in traffic, take plenty of pit stops and coffee breaks, and be safe.