Nothing says summer sun and lifelong memories quite like a road trip. As soon as the weather turns mild and school lets out, thousands of families hit the road for a long-distance vacation that’s equal parts relaxation and adventure. And it doesn’t matter if you’re headed directly to a special destination like a theme park or if you plan on seeing where the road takes you—the days ahead are going to be filled with lots of car time.
One of the best things you can do for yourself—and your family—is to take the time to prep your car before you leave. By making sure that your vehicle is in order and ready to travel long distances, you’ll reduce the chances of your trip getting cut short for emergencies.
- Get Your Car Serviced: This is something you should have done annually anyway, so just make sure you have this planned right before a big trip. Your mechanic will run a diagnostic check to make sure everything is in order, and also top up any fluids that are running low.
- DIY the Service: If you’d rather do your prep work at home, you should run through a checklist of all the things that need to be done to keep your engine running smoothly. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Changing the oil
- Changing the air filter
- Checking the fluid levels
- Ensuring the battery is fully charged
- Changing spark plugs
- Checking all lights, horns, and electrical systems
- Changing brake pads
- Changing worn belts
- Fill Your Tires: Using the guidelines in your owner’s manual and a pressure gauge, fill your tires with air so they are ready to roll. While you’re looking at your tires, also check to make sure the tread is solid.
- Check for Spare Parts: You should have a spare tire in good condition and all the tools needed to change it. A toolkit with other quick repair materials and a jump starter kit is also a good idea. Depending on where you’ll be traveling, you may want to bring additional fluids and/or water to prevent overheating.
- Pack an Emergency Kit: Anytime you travel long distances, it’s a good idea to pack an emergency car kit. This will contain everything you need in the event of an accident or medical emergency, including backup food and water supplies.
- Install a GPS System: If you’ve been considering putting in a GPS system, now is a good time to make the investment. Although many cell phones can function as a tracking system, they may not work when they get out of service range.
- Book Roadside Service: The same is true if you’ve been on the fence about a roadside assistance service like AAA. If you’re going to sign up for something like this anyway, now is a good time to do it.
- Clean and Detail Your Car: Chances are, you and your family are going to spend quite a few hours in your vehicle for the next few weeks. Start off right with a car that’s been deep cleaned and detailed, especially if there are any lingering smells or stains you’ve been avoiding. Nothing feels better than starting fresh.
Of course, you’ll also want to invest in things like road games, maps, kid-friendly activities, and snacks – but we’ll leave that part up to you. Once the car is prepped and ready to go, the rest is all just details!