Before you go, cross these 7 items off your road trip maintenance checklist
Whether it’s a family beach trip or an off-the-beaten-path journey into the wilderness, this summer, more than ever, the open road is calling. With so many drivers hitting the roads again, understanding road trip essentials with a car travel preparation checklist is key to ensuring you enjoy the full experience.
Car care expert and Engineering Explained
YouTube channel creator Jason Fenske has gone on more road trips than he can count. While Fenske has his share of favorite destinations and instagrammable spots, more than anything else, he knows how to prep a vehicle for a drive, both long and short.
“Before you head out, you’ll want to make sure your car is ready for the journey,” said Fenske. “Car care is necessary year-round, but it's especially crucial before rolling out on vacation. You don't want to get stuck in an unfamiliar place with a vehicle in need of serious maintenance. Fortunately, you can minimize the chances of a car breakdown with adequate preparation.”
Vehicle maintenance can ensure a trouble-free trip
Before setting off to your summer destination, Fenske has seven car care recommendations:
1. Check tire pressure and tread depth
To maximize tire life and safety, check the tire condition and inflation pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires are more likely to blow out in high heat and can also reduce fuel economy. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended air pressure rating for your vehicle. While checking your tire pressure, check the tread on your tires too. This is easy to do by sticking a penny in the tread gaps with Lincoln’s head facing down. If his head is fully visible, you need new tires.
2. Check your fluids
Cars need a specific amount of clean fluids. Whether it’s the brakes, clutch, power steering, windshield washers, transmission, differentials, or coolant - you’ll want to make sure these fluids are at the right level. To ensure peak vehicle performance, Fenske suggests getting an annual tune-up to have these fluids checked and/or replaced, as well as having other safety systems on your vehicle checked.
3. Get an oil change
Regular oil changes help prevent engine wear and can save gas. It is best to change your oil and oil filter as specified in your owner's manual.
“Changing your oil regularly is crucial to keeping your vehicle running its best,” says Fenske. “But the type of oil you use can really help ensure your car is running at optimal performance, especially if you’re going to be driving long distances. That’s why it’s important to put the right, high-quality oil in your vehicle.”
If you’re using conventional oil, Fenske suggests switching to a synthetic motor oil
such as Mobil 1, which can keep your engine running like new. Mobil 1 motor oil not only helps combat harmful deposits in your engine, but it also helps stop engine sludge, reduces overheating, and offers advanced engine wear protection.
And if you’ve already completed a road trip and didn’t change your oil as part of the prep, that’s ok too – post-trip maintenance is a great idea to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
4. Plan ahead in case of an emergency
Keep an emergency kit in your trunk with some basic items in case your vehicle breaks down. Be sure to include a gallon of drinking water, jumper cables, windshield washer fluid, basic tools, gloves, a flashlight with some spare batteries and a first aid kit.
5. Have your directions saved
You never know when you will encounter loss of service on your devices, so make sure you save your directions somewhere. You can print off your trip as a backup or take screenshots on your cell phone so that if you do encounter a spotty service area, you know where you are heading no matter what.
6. Check the battery
Excessive heat and overcharging can shorten your car's battery life. Hot summer weather is tough on car batteries because it increases the evaporation of battery fluid and damages its internal structure. Batteries last around five years on average, so Fenske says if it's old, you may need to replace it. If the battery is relatively new you should:
- Inspect terminals and posts for corrosion
- Make sure terminals are tight and have proper lubrication
- Check battery fluid levels
7. Check your coolant system
Coolant systems work overtime in the summer so that your engine doesn't overheat. Try to flush and refill the coolant system every other year. An engine that runs too hot or too cold can cause other problems.