It's the best time of year for a road trip, but you'll have a lot less fun if you end up stranded on the side of a road somewhere. So before you pack the cooler and let the top down, you should always prepare your vehicle for the mileage. Because, trust us, there are few things more annoying than interrupting a vacation to find the closest mechanic.
To keep you and your passengers safe, here are the five things you should always do before you go on a road trip:
Inspect all four tires
One of the first things you should do before you hit the open road is check the pressure of all four tires. Driving with improper inflation pressure can cause tire damage and hurt your fuel economy. Check your vehicle owner's manual or online to see what the manufacturer recommended tire pressure for all your tires, And don’t forget to check the spare — make sure you have a jack and tire iron, as well. You can save time on this step by using a tire pressure monitoring system that tracks your tires in real time.
If necessary, you should also check the tread on the tires and make sure it's not too worn down. Regular rotation can help prevent this.
Check your fluids
Your car runs on a lot of fluids, all of which should be checked and topped off before you leave the garage. Start with the engine oil and automatic transmission fluid. With the engine running and the vehicle in park or neutral, remove the dipstick and check the color of the fluid. It should be pinkish or clear. Next, insert the dipstick back into the engine and remove it again. If it doesn't reach the “fill” line on the stick, top it off — but don't overfill. If your next oil change or transmission change is due soon, take care of it before you leave.
Next, after the engine has been turned off and the car has cooled down, check the antifreeze, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer reservoir to make sure you have enough for your trip.
Test the belts and battery
Now that you've checked all the engine fluids, you'll need to inspect its belts. If your car has less than 50,000 miles on it and you can't see any tears or cracks, you're probably fine. If your car has been through more miles, check for damage and screeches when you accelerate. Replace if necessary.
Now, check that outside of your car's battery not corroded and that the positive and negative leads are tight. If you do see corrosion – white chalky stuff – clean it off with a wire cable-brush.
Load your phone or iPod
Lastly, it could be a long trip and you never know when you're going to venture out of radio service. If you don't have a Bluetooth connection to your car, grab a phone charger and an auxiliary cord and load up your phone or mp3 player with plenty of music, podcasts and audiobooks to keep you entertained — and awake — at the wheel. With a car phone charger to keep your device powered up, you'll never run out of road trip entertainment.