Get Your Car Ready for a Roadtrip

June 16, 2010

Summer road trips can be a lot of fun, driving across country with friends or family is an experience you won’t likely soon forget.  Getting your car ready for a road trip can help make it a more enjoyable experience by hopefully avoiding any car problems on the way.

One thing many people don’t think about when going on a roadtrip are the hidden costs of wear and tear on your vehicle.  Many times the immediate cost of driving is cheaper than buying plane tickets for your whole family but you are putting miles on your car.

Below are 10 things you can do to get your car ready for a roadtrip and help prevent those extra miles from turning an expensive roadside emergency.

1) Check your Tire Pressure.  The appropriate level should be listed in your manual and usually on a label inside yor driver’s door. Properly inflated tires won’t save you as much as driving a fuel efficient car but they can help.  One other way to save some money on gas is to use a gas credit card.

2) Align your Tires.  Having your tires aligned will reduce uneven wear and make your tires last longer.  If you’re about to put hundreds or thousands of miles on your tires, an alignment will give them a longer life.

3) Rotate your Tires.  Rotating your tires every 5000 miles also will distribute the wear on your tires and make them last longer.  Even inflated and aligned tires can still have uneven tread usage, rotating your tires will prolong their life. 

4) Brake Check. While the mechanic has your tires off, have them check your brakes.  If your rotors or brake pads need replacing, now’s a better time to do it than the middle of your road trip.

5) Check Coolant Levels. Driving for long periods in the hot summer weather will really heat up your car and can do some major damage to your engine.  Repairs for an overheating car can be expensive, when I was younger my car overheated and cracked the head gasket.

6) Change Engine Oil. Depending on the age of your car and the oil you use, oil changes are recommended every 3K – 5K miles.  Even if you had your oil changed recently, it’s smart to check your oil level before you leave on a road trip. New engines are very expensive, if you don’t have enough oil in your car you could end up spending thousands of dollar on an engine.

7) Check Windshield Wipers & Fluid.  Being able to see where you’re going is a pretty important detail when you’re driving.  Replace old wiper blades and fill up the windshield wiper fluid so you can keep you windshield clear in summer rain storms.

8 ) Fill Power Steering Fluid. Have you ever tried to steer without power steering, not very safe. Power steering fluid is necessary to make the steering system operate, make sure it’s full.

9) Add Brake Fluid. If your brake fluid is low, you can add more in the resivoir under the hood.  If you haven’t had your brake fluid flushed in the last 30,000 miles ask your mechanic about it.

10) Check Transmission Fluid. Keeping your automatic transmission fluid clean will help your transmission last longer.  Car makers used to recommend changing it every 60K miles but now they’re suggesting you do it more often, more along the lines of 30K miles. 

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid any unpleasant or costly emergency repairs in the middle of your travels. Have fun on your road trip!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Responses to Get Your Car Ready for a Roadtrip

  • Anonymous

    change oil every 3-5K is just dumb and waste of money.

    a little research will show that fully synthetic oil with extended performance such as Amsoil or Mobil1 or Castrol will push the line to 12-15K, and the filter from same brand is the same. change the filter more often if you want extra protection. Key point: do your math. If you can read this, you can research.

    please research before finding this comment offended.

  • James

    i feel the biggest item over looked has always been tire pressure. this is such an easy thing to check and can save you tons of money if you simply take 5 minutes and ensure all your tires are properly inflated and are equal in all four.

    enjoy the summer and safe travels.

  • Amber

    I’ll add that if you are getting an oil change before the road trip because you know you will hit that need-to mark while away, make sure to pop the hood and do these checks *after* you have that service done.

    I recently had my oil changed at Midas ::cough cough:: and was almost on the highway for a big road trip when my low oil light came on. Turns out they forgot to put the cap back on and oil had been sloshing out of my engine for weeks. Then I went back to have them fix this, and they assured me they had also “topped off all my fluids.” Three hours into the trip, my check engine light comes on. A quick stop at Auto Zone to check the code revealed that I needed coolant – because my engine had been running hot for so long, it burned up all the coolant. So much for topping off my fluids!

    In any case, the moral is to just pop the hood and have a good look around after any service. I may not be a mechanic, but I can tell if my oil cap is off or there is no coolant in the coolant tank.

  • Jerry

    I would also say to check your roadside assistance program. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without the insurance that you need that you will get some help. Road trips can lead to lots of fun and adventure for the whole family.


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