How to Check Your Car Before a Road Trip

Contributed by Blake Slade

As a young man in my 20’s, I decided that I wanted to drive to a warmer climate. I headed south for Florida. I was impulsive and left by simply driving my car with only a road map for guidance. Eight hours later I discovered my mistake. I came out of the diner where I had stopped in for an afternoon meal to find that my engine would not start. I turned the ignition key and got only a bump noise. The starter had failed. Luckily I had tools in the trunk and I was young. I performed road service myself in the diner’s lot. I jacked the car up and removed the starter. I then hitched a ride to an auto parts store, traded my old starter in for a rebuilt one and hitched back to my ride. I then installed the starter and was on my way again.

This could have been prevented had I thoroughly checked my vehicle before leaving.

Before you go on long road trips, you should check out your auto in order to find things needing maintenance or repair. If you know something needs attention, find what the problem is before getting stuck in a foreign location with strangers. Have your vehicle inspected by your trusted mechanic before leaving. A complete vehicle inspection will include:


  • The fluid level in the battery should be topped off, but low levels in only a couple of cells indicate that a battery is becoming worn out. Your mechanic can then check your battery and replace it if necessary.
  • Antifreeze needs to be kept at the full line in the overflow tank.
  • Wiper fluid should be checked and filled.
  • Transmission fluid and oil are two of the most important things checked. Leaks indicate engine or transmission problems that should be repaired before long trips.
  • Brake fluid might need filling and could be an indicator of brake problems. To save your own life, make sure your brakes are working properly.

Air in tires and tread on tires

  • Properly inflated tires save fuel. Proper tire pressure will also protect your tires from wear and make the tread last Punctures are common in tires that are low on air.
  • The tread on your tires should measure .32 inch. Old tires will blow out at high speeds. They are more susceptible to puncture damage.

Lights, Belts, Hoses, Brakes, Leaks

  • Headlights, brake lights, and turn signal lights must all work properly to avoid accidents and tickets from law
  • Hoses and belts get warn, become stretched, frayed and generally stressed beyond the performance level they are designed for. If a hose bursts or a belt brakes, it can cause excessive engine damage or road accidents. Replace belts and hoses when advised.
  • A complete tire -off brake inspection is necessary to protect the lives of the people traveling with you and yourself
  • Leaks indicate bad hoses or damaged fuel or oil lines. Transmissions need to be completely inspected if transmission fluid is leaking anywhere.

Other essential things the vehicle owner should do:

  1. Treat the windshield with a rain protection product. This will keep the water flowing easily off the glass. The wipers will also glide better in a storm. Make sure the wipers are in good condition or replace them.
  1. Stock the car with a flashlight, battery cables, lug wrench, and well inflated spare tire. Also, an emergency first aid kit fully stocked comes in handy.
  1. Purchase emergency road rescue insurance.
  1. Put car polish on your vehicle and shine it up to keep road dirt from causing you to scratch your ride accidentally from sitting or rubbing.

Planning is an important part of any endeavor, but foreseeing problems before they happen to your automobile can save the lives of you and your family. It can also save big money on repairs while on the trip. It will certainly save time in the long run.

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