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Authored by Alice Brown

Road trips can make for an amazing adventure, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. But have you ever wondered if your car is ok for a road trip? Or what you should check before driving off? Préparer road trip.

As easy as it is to just jump in the car and drive, road trips do require a little bit of prior planning, and there are some important checks you should run to ensure your safety. Is my car ok for a roadtrip?

The following are 5 tips on making sure your car is road trip ready; 5 most important vehicle checks before driving off. Can my car make a road trip?

Road Trip Ready: 5 Most Important Vehicle Checks Before Driving Off

Make Sure the Oil Has Been Changed

Your oil usually needs to be changed twice a year, so you should make sure that you’re not overdue for an oil change when preparing your car for a long road trip. This can be a good time to check your oil level.

If you’re driving between climates, it used to be said that you should use heavier-weight oil in cars during the summer and lighter-weight oil during the winter. But this is no longer necessary, and modern oils are very effective across all temperature ranges. What to check before road trip. 

An illustration showing the oil being changed in a car

Carry a Jump Starter

It’s happened to the best of us – forgetting to turn off our lights overnight, and waking up the next morning to a dead battery. Get oil change before road trip. 

So one of the things to do before a long road trip is to throw a jump starter in the back of the car. Usually there’ll be someone you can approach for help, from a near friend or a stranger who’s willing to park their car near yours and give your vehicle a jump.

Most of us are afraid of using cables, because we think we’ll hook them wrong and make our problem worse than it is. So you can of course call for a roadside assistance. But that takes time out of your itinerary, and you probably only need a quick jump with a portable jump starter.

Be Aware of Your Tyres

Tyres wear down over time and there is no getting away from the fact. You should check your tyres are road worthy before heading out on a road trip by looking at both your tread and pressure.

The best way to check your tyre wear is by using a coin to check if your tread depth is below 1.6mm. Place a coin into the main tread grooves of your tyre. If the outer band of the coin is obscured when it is inserted, then your tread is fine. What to check car before road trip. 

In checking your pressure, you should use a pressure gauge as tyres can lose pressure without it being easy to detect.  Not only do under pressure tyres wear quickly, but they also make it harder to steer and brake. They’re also less economical to run and you end up using more petrol per mile travelled if you don’t pump them up.  Should I get an oil change fore a road trip?

Know the right pressure for your tires, and keep them properly inflated. Tires lose pressure over time, so check them regularly and stay road ready.

Don’t Neglect the Other Car Fluids

Many people don’t think to check more than just the oil and the wiper fluid. But many other car fluids require regular checks. These include the brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and coolant.

You should make sure that these are topped up so your car runs at its best. If you’re not sure how and where to check these fluids, take your car into a workshop and the mechanics can check these for you, and top them up where needed. Can my car handle a road trip?

Check the Air-Conditioning

If you’re driving through a region with high temperatures, you might find that out of nowhere, your air-conditioning shuts down!

This is a common problem, but one which can be avoided by checking the system before you leave. Common reasons an air conditioner will break include insufficient refrigerant in system due to leak, compressor not working efficiently, or the radiator fans not spinning when the air conditioner compressor is working.

On the flip side, if you’re driving through a cold area, check to make sure your heater is working. Ensure the coolant, condenser and belt are checked by your mechanic or dealer.

Other Quick Tips

Before heading on a road trip, we also recommend washing your car, and making sure the tank is full before you leave. If you’re heading through remote areas where petrol is not accessible, plan out your gas stops, and don’t leave them to chance.

Don’t forget to take a road map, even if you have a smartphone with thousands of apps. If your phone or GPS goes dead, that map can save you. And make sure you don’t drive off without having organized travel insurance.

Now that you’ve checked the above 5 things, you can relax knowing that you’re prepared and have prevented the most common issues which arise on a road trip.

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A car expert and enthusiast, Alice is the the founder of automotivebros.com; a great source of knowledge for vehicle repair tips, advice on the right car products, emerging car brands and so on.

Her straightforward blog posts help readers squeeze the juicy nuggets of info with ease.

Photo credits: Oil change by Yonkers Honda via Flickr. Tire pressure by State Farm

    28 Comments

  1. Nice reminders. We drive from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Wisconsin in the states a couple of times a year. About 2500 miles each way. That’s a real road trip so we like to have the car completely checked out before we go.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post William – wow, that’s a big drive! Yes absolutely, I’m glad to hear that you have the car checked out before each trip – better taking preventative measures than running into issues when you’re on the road 🙂

      Have a great trip the next time you head out!

  2. I am one of those. Oil change ever 3k miles, tire rotation and check every 9k, ac check every March, tuneup every 30. And my trunk has jumper cables, emergency blanket, air pump, etc.

    • Excellent to hear Roy – sounds like you’re all set!

  3. It’s very important to take care of your vehicle before/after a long drive or just taking a quick stroll. You may never know what malfunctions would happen if you neglect your vehicle. Anyways, thanks for sharing this tip with us! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    • Absolutely Tristan – it’s always better being preventative than winding up stuck on the road.

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Happy travels! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the great check list. Road trips are so much fun but car problems can definitely ruin them. I am religious about checking out my car before heading out!

    • You’re welcome Lois – preventative checks are definitely well worth it for ensuring you don’t break down on the road. Nothing ruins a road trip more than car troubles!

  5. Great list! I have to admit I am a lot better at organising the itinerary of the road trip and the essentials to pack than making sure the car is technically ready. Luckily, my partner is quite the opposite! We’re planning a long road trip at the end of the year and we’ll definitely check the car before. Already trying to find a good deal to change the tyres! It’s so important to stay as safe as possible on the road…

    • Sounds like you make a pretty good team them – all bases covered :D! Absolutely agree that safety is one of the most important things – sounds like you’ve got a little bit of time to shop around, so hope you find a great deal on tyres 🙂

      Have an awesome road trip!

  6. Great tips. I also make sure I carry a first aid kit with me along with a few simple tools. Things like pliers, screwdriver, knife and some type of tape like duct tape can come in handy.

    • Thanks Bob – glad you enjoyed Alice’s post. A first aid kit and tools is a great thing to have in the back of the car – awesome tip on the duct tape – you’re right – it solves every situation!! 🙂

  7. All so true. As I read through each, I thought “yes this is the main one”, but you need them oil – to check oil, tyres, GPS and even that your mobile phone is charged before you go! Excellent motoring advice.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Sarah! Yep I have backup mobile phone chargers in each of our cars which plug into the cigarette lighter, just in case – my battery is shocking at the best of times!!

  8. I think most people forget a simple vehicle check before setting off on a journey. Most people assume all they need to do is have the regular service and it will all be good.A fluid check at the very least should be done before setting off on any journey

    • I agree – it’s one of those things which slips our minds at the best of times. But safety is so important, especially when you’re driving so far away from home.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  9. Okay I feel really silly after reading this post Meg. I never check these things before embarking on a road trip. All I would check is tyre pressure/air and gas! pretty much thats it. I think its also important to get your car fully serviced once before a major trip. Great tips.

    • Tyre pressure/air and gas is a pretty good start – but definitely recommend getting into a habit of doing full checks of the rest 🙂

      Glad the post was helpful!

  10. Thanks a lot and they are really good tips for drivers. I supposed the same situation would happen in the road yet it would be much more complicated when you are on a road trip to somewhere rural and somewhere new. Many drivers (who only drive when they travel) may get into trouble if they don’t have the experience, too @ knycx.journeying

    • Absolutely – car trouble can definitely hit when you’re at home, but it’s much easier to deal with something going wrong when you’re in your own city, know who to call etc. Yes, somewhere rural or new adds new challenges, so always better to check first and prevent trouble from happening first 🙂

  11. Great tips, living in Texas we check to make sure the Air conditioning is working before anything else. We love going on roadtrips when we travel, these are excellent tips to remember. Making a check list!

    • Great tip for Texas – I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be in that heat without aircon!

      Glad the post was helpful for you – happy travels! 🙂

  12. I’m terrible checking my car, I always forget to check my pressure tire most of the time,but its good these days that new cars give you warning if the tire pressure is getting low. Great tips

    • I love those cars – we had a car when living in Florida which allowed you to check the tyre pressure from the dashboard – was so much easier than plugging the pump in :D!

  13. Great tips for drivers. Keep on sharing such informative post! Thank you so much 🙂

    • Thanks Pooja, glad the post was helpful for you. Happy road tripping!

  14. That’s true that people often forget to check their vehicle before driving off. This post is an eye opener !!

    • Glad you found the post informative Ashwin. Happy road tripping! Drive safe out there 🙂

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