Summertime means vacation time! For many (3/4 of summer vacationers, in fact!), that means loading up the car with your bags and hitting the road. But without a properly-maintained vehicle, your dream road trip can quickly turn south – and we don’t mean south toward the beach! There’s no worse way to spend a vacation than dealing with the hassle of car trouble in an unfamiliar city.
And, it happens more often than you would think. A recent AAA survey revealed that four out of 10 American drivers are unprepared for emergency breakdown situations. They’re expecting to rescue seven million drivers this summer from issues such as dead batteries, tire problems and more.
But don’t cancel your travel plans just yet! There are some things you can do before you even pack your bags to ensure you arrive at your vacation destination safely. Check out our road trip checklist for tasks you should do before you leave.
1. Test Your Battery. The AAA survey found that two-thirds of American drivers have never had their car battery tested. There’s no better time to do so than just before a long drive, especially during the summer months, when your battery can drain faster than other times of the year! Your mechanic should be able to test your battery, but many other places test them for free, including AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts.
2. Schedule a Checkup. A few weeks before you leave, take your car to your mechanic for a quick checkup. If you’re not keeping up with regular oil changes and tire rotations, now is the perfect time to do it. You’ll also want to ask the mechanic to check for other issues that may cause trouble, including worn-out brake pads. Make sure to complete your check up at least a few weeks before leaving so you have time to address any further repairs needed.
There are also some important things you can check at home on your own, including:
• Tires: Take a close look at the tread to ensure tires don’t need to be rotated or replaced. Also look for bulges and bald spots. Make sure to measure tire pressure and fill (or deflate) tires as necessary!
• Fluids: Make sure to check all fluids in the car to make sure you don’t run out while on the road. This should include engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid. Not sure how to check those important fluids? This article from Popular Mechanics provides some great tips.
• HVAC System: While air conditioning and heating aren’t as critical to getting you to your final destination as engine oil is, they can make a long drive much more comfortable. Make sure to check the system to make sure it’s working properly, and replace those air filters if necessary!
• Lights: Check exterior lights such as turn signals, headlights and rear lights to ensure other vehicles on the road can see you. Plus, a non-working headlight or rear light can mean a ticket! Check interior lights to make sure they’re working as well, so you can use them during nighttime drives when needed.
3. Check (or Create) Roadside Emergency Kit. Every car should have an emergency kit, but if you don’t already have one, now is the perfect chance to create one. Some items you should include are:
• Snacks and water
• Water or coolant for an overheating engine
• First-aid kit
• Basic tools
• Flares or triangle reflectors
• Jumper cables
4. Charge it. No, we don’t mean your credit card! Make sure all your electronics are charged before you leave the driveway – your cell phone, GPS, your children’s tablet, etc. If you can, make sure to bring a car charger for any electronics you worry may die during the trip.
Once you’re sure your car is in tip-top shape and ready for your road trip, just add a few more items to your packing list:
• Proof of insurance
• A map AND a GPS – you never know when a GPS could break or malfunction, making a map handy to have
Now you’re ready to hit the road. Drive safely, and have a great vacation!