Before you leave on that road trip: Making sure your car is ready

A big road trip is looming in the future. Can you be sure that your car is ready? Before you head out on the open road, there are some important safety checks you need to make. After all, nothing would ruin a vacation faster than serious car trouble on your way to your destination!

On Month Before Leaving

Preparing for a car trip starts long before you are ready to go. About a month before you are ready to leave, there are some steps you need to take. First, you need to complete any major repairs that are needed on the vehicle. Often repairs lead to the discovery of more problems, and you want to be sure that your car is in the best shape possible before you take a long trip.

If you are traveling in the summer or headed somewhere that is significantly warmer than your home, have your coolant checked. If you are traveling where it will be below freezing, make sure the coolant has the proper amount of antifreeze in it. Change the coolant if it needs to be changed.

This is also the time to check your tires. Do a tread check by placing a penny in the car’s tread, with President Lincoln’s head pointed down and facing you. If you can see the entire head, the tread is too worn and you need to replace your tires. While this might seem like a very big expense, worn tires can burst while driving, which can be a very dangerous situation. Also, make sure your spare is inflated and that you have the necessary tools to change a tire if needed, such as a jack and a wrench.

This is also a good time to spring for a brake inspection. Brakes that fail can cause serious accidents, and often something as simple as replacing the brake pads can keep your family much safer. It is better to know now that something is wrong with your brakes, rather than finding out as you are driving.

Finally, check the glove box for the car’s owner’s manual, insurance card, and registration. If any of these items are missing, request them. You can order a manual from the car’s manufacturer, or you may be able to download it online. If your insurance or registration is going to expire while you are on your trip, renew it before you leave.

The Week You Leave

When you are getting closer to the time of your departure, head to the mechanic to have an oil change done along with any other routine maintenance that is due on the vehicle. You may wish to schedule a full tune up. You want your car to be running as efficiently as possible before you head onto the open road. Check the pressure in the tires and double check the tread. Make sure the air filter is clean, because a dirty air filter will reduce your gas mileage. If the air filter has been in the car for 10,000 or more miles, go ahead and change it, even if you do not think it looks dirty.

Now you need to clean out the interior of your car. You need room for your luggage, and anything that you do not need simply adds weight to the vehicle, which cuts down on your gas mileage. Some things you should not remove, however, are your first aid kit and emergency supply stash. Make sure these are well stocked. However, if you are not going to be in cold weather, you can remove the winter emergency kit from the car, if you have one. Don’t get the car washed or vacuum the interior yet, however, because you still have a week to get it dirty again.

If you do not have an atlas, buy a good one. If you do have one and it is old, replace it. GPS systems and map printouts are great, but an atlas is one tool that you can rely on even if the electronics stop working. Also, you may be forced to take a detour, either due to construction or because you want to see some sights, and your printed maps or GPS may not help in this situation, as they are going to show you the shortest possible route to your destination.

The Day Before Departure

The day before you are scheduled to leave, you need to check the tire tread and the tire pressure again. Tires are not something to leave to chance, so make sure they are in good shape before you leave! Check the owner’s manual to see if your vehicle has separate tire pressure recommendations for heavy loads or high speeds, both of which probably apply to you as you prepare for your trip. If you need to make an adjustment, do so when you fill up, which is another thing you can do the night before you leave. Then you have one less thing to do on your way out of town the next day.

Packing up to Leave

On the day of departure, think carefully about where you pack your items in your vehicle. The heavier items should be placed as far forward as possible. Also, try to keep the load level. Make sure that you do not overload your vehicle. Remember, every vehicle has limits. These tips will help to increase your fuel economy as you drive. It will also keep your family safer if you should run into inclement weather along the way. A car that is packed unevenly is more prone to spinning off of the road and does not get good gas mileage.

With these tips, your family will be as safe as possible on your next road trip. Remember, you cannot plan for the unexpected, but you can be as prepared as possible for whatever comes your way. Preparing your car is not just a good idea, but it is also essential to enjoying your vacation free from worry and hassle.

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