Nothing will put the brakes on your road trip faster than a major car repair. Even a minor repair, or forgetting to pack something crucial, could slow down the fun. Use this check list and you’ll be in the clear for a worry-free vacation!
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1. Schedule a checkup for your vehicle and perform basic maintenance, even if it isn’t due for it quite yet. If any major repairs need to be done, have them completed a month before your planned vacation to allow time for any problems related to the repair to surface and to take care of them.
Make sure to examine, top off, or replace the following: windshield wipers, air filter, coolant mixture of antifreeze and water, oil, windshield wiper fluid, brake pads.
2. Check your battery to make sure it’s holding a full charge and has clean terminals. You can clean the terminals yourself, all your need is a wire brush, a mix of baking soda and water, and some good old elbow grease.
3. Tires are next on the checklist. Ensure they have sufficient tread left and examine them for any tears, punctures, or bulges in the side wall. Don’t forget to double check the spare is fully inflated and that the jack, wrench, and other tire-changing tools are in the trunk. If your car doesn’t have a spare tire, you should have a tire inflator kit.
Before you leave town, properly inflate your tires for the total vehicle load—passengers and cargo included! Many vehicles have two recommended inflation ratings or levels: one for light loads and one for heavy loads and/or high speeds. You can find this information in the owner’s manual or on a sticker in the door jamb. Always remember, set the pressures when the tires are cold.
4. Give your car a thorough cleaning. On any road trip, you’ll quickly acquire a collection of splattered bugs on the windshield and snack crumbs on the seats. You can at least start your trip grime free!
5. Bring supplies to help in case of an accident, medical issue, or break-down on the side of the road. Pack a first-aid kit, flashlight(s), visibility vest, blanket, any additional medications, and some basic tools. Have plenty of water in re-fillable bottles on-hand as well as snacks.
6. When deciding what to pack, check your vehicle’s load capacity so you don’t pack too much. The load rating includes passengers and cargo. If you’ve calculated the fuel cost into your vacation budget (and you should!), know that carrying a heavier load means reduced gas mileage than what you’re used to.
Only pack light, bulky items in roof-top cargo containers. If you’re not using the roof rack, remove it for better fuel economy. If you're carrying heavy objects, place them forward in the trunk space and distribute the weight evenly on both sides. Make sure things like purses, pillows, books, and blankets can easily be reached without unbuckling.
7. Pick up a road atlas and download travel apps. In addition to a reliable map app, consider downloading an app to show you lowest gas prices or one to show you charging stations if you drive an electric or hybrid vehicle.
8. Call your car insurance provider and make sure you’re covered for road-side assistance and any out-of-state services you might need. Many new cars have road-side assistance as part of the warranty.
9. Tuck crucial paperwork in the glovebox, like the owner's manual, registration, and proof of insurance. Double check your registration, insurance, plate tags, and driver’s license won't expire while on your trip.
10. Before you leave, fill your gas tank in-town as it’s usually cheaper than on the road.