Going on a road trip requires some planning, but it’s not just the destinations and the budget you have to keep in mind. The most important aspect of a road trip is your ability to safely, efficiently travel, and your vehicle plays a big role in the comfort and quality of your trip. A simple pre-trip vehicle inspection checklist helps ensure a safe and stress-free holiday journey.
Here are the things you should be looking out for:
Check & Replenish Fluids
Fluids are the lifeblood of any car. Service intervals on your cars essential fluids usually depend on mileage, so consider how far you’ve driven since your last service and check the following
- Brake fluid for reliable braking: In the case of a spongy pedal, you’ll need to bleed those air bubbles out of the lines. Otherwise, be sure to top off the brake fluid if necessary, and flush the system with fresh fluid every 24,000 miles.
- Engine oil: If your car’s due for an oil change, do it before leaving home. While you are at it, examine the transmission fluid level as well.
- Windshield fluid: Refill it full to wipe out dirt, grime, dust, insect impact, or unexpected rains.
- Coolant: Check for any leaks or discoloration that indicate the need for replacement.
Brake pads provide the friction needed to slow and stop your car. They wear away with use, eventually becoming too thin to work effectively. Usually, it’s obvious when this happens due to the irritating screeching or squealing sound they make when there isn’t enough pad material left. Replacing the brake pads should fix the noise and more importantly, make your road trip safer.
Look for signs of tear, bulge, and wear. It might be a good time to replace your worn or old tires. More importantly, check each tire’s air pressure as the weather can inflate or deflate it. Check your tire pressures before you leave, and then roughly every 1000 miles as you travel.
How old is your car battery, and how long has it been running in your car without an inspection? If your battery has been keeping your car going for two or more years, it’s time to check on its status. Look at the terminals and cables to make sure they are attached. Check the fluid levels and for any signs of corrosion, cracks, or damage.
Belts and Hoses
Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose, or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering, and the cooling system.
Fully functioning auto lights are a safety must-have for nighttime driving. Test your headlights, turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, and tail lights in the garage. The light beam should reflect on the wall. To confirm if the lights are working properly, ask someone to stand in front and then behind the car as you operate the lights.
Clean the blades before your scheduled trip. Consider replacing if they are six months or older.
Hold the air filters up to a light source, if the light does not shine through, change your air filter. Also, Your engine air filter should be replaced about once a year or roughly every 10,000 to 15,000 miles
Especially during long drives, a full gas tank is important. Imagine how troublesome it would be if you run out of fuel while you’re stuck in traffic or driving along the road where a gas station is nowhere in sight. So don’t forget to check your fuel level through the fuel gauge before you take your car out for a drive.
Keep a flashlight with batteries. Place jumper cables in the trunk. Have a first aid kit (bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, etc.)
If you’re going to be stuck in one vehicle for a long time, make sure it’s pleasant to be in there in the first place. Cleaning the interior should be a priority before you set off and give the exterior a good wash before you leave.
The checklist can grow longer as you factor in the length of your road trip. Your car works hard on a road trip, so give it what it needs to keep running. With a little prep, you can leave the road-trip stress at home and enjoy your holiday with family and friends.