The Road Trip Season Essentials You Need to Know for Car Maintenance

Today, I have a very special guest, Rae Steinbach, who has offered to write a guest post about how to best prepare for a road trip. Given that summer is coming up quickly, it's important to keep these tips in mind to keep you and other drivers safe while you are on the road! Hope you enjoy!

Nothing says vacation in the U.S. quite like the iconic American road trip. Pack up the car, hit the road, and enjoy the highways and byways you’ve always dreamed of seeing. Before you go, take some time to plan and prepare to make for the best experience possible and minimize the chances of disappointment.

TuneUp Time

If you’re not thinking about getting your car checked before you go, change your mind. Road trips make for a lot of wear and tear on any vehicle. What might not be an issue for short jaunts to the store can be a major problem during a long-term trip. Even just a basic tune-up can eliminate unnecessary worry. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape, that fluid levels are up where they should be, and an oil change is not due anytime soon. Ask a mechanic to check out your battery, too. It’s a simple thing, but you can’t have a road trip if your car won’t start. Tires get tired, too. You can check the treads yourself with the classic penny test. Slip a penny head-down into the tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to get new tires! If they’re in good shape, ask a mechanic if they need rotating to ensure even wear. Brake pads also wear out, so put that on the checklist, too. The last thing you would want to deal with during your big road trip is an injury after a car accident because your tires couldn’t properly grip the road. Many late model cars have tire pressure indicators built into the navigation system. Alternatively, a simple pressure gauge can tell you in seconds. Your car care manual should list what the optimal pressure should be. The numbers also appear on a sticker on the inside jamb of the driver side door.

Plan For Emergencies

You’re on the road, far from home. Problems happen. Make things go a little more smoothly by packing some emergency supplies: the bare basics should include a flashlight with fresh batteries, an updated first aid kit, and an extra blanket or two.

These provisions can make a world of difference. Also, make sure that your spare tire is fully inflated and the tire jack is in the trunk. A few basic tools, like a hammer, crowbar, and screwdriver, can come in handy.

While the U.S. is accessible, the country is vast with long empty stretches across deserts, prairies, and mountains. Be sure you have plenty of water and snacks to tide you over until the next rest stop or in case you get stuck on the side of the road waiting for assistance. Candy’s great, of course, but also include something a little heartier.

Map It

You might have a great sense of direction, but that won’t help if you’re stuck on the highway to nowhere. Most newer cars have built-in navigation systems to help you along. If your car doesn’t have one, you can always purchase a portable one. Better yet, in today’s mobile-dependent world, download your travel route on your phone using Google Maps for easy access. Speaking of mobile devices, bring your charger, but also have a back-up. A charger with an adapter for your car should be a must. Travel eats up battery time, so keep an eye on its charge.

Think Ahead

When you jump in the car for your great adventure, you leave the work world behind. Remember, though, that not everyone on the road does. If you’re using highways, you will in all likelihood pass through major cities. Try to time your travel around morning and evening rush hours when you can. Leaving late at night or the early morning are tried and true methods to avoid traffic jams. Whether you are booking rooms or campgrounds in advance or simply winging it, you probably have an idea of where you would like to spend the night. Don’t forget to locate rest stops, restaurants, and stores along the way, especially when traveling through rural areas. If you can, check local areas for opening and closing times of gas stations and restaurants. Even when visiting popular tourist spots, the local businesses might close earlier than you expect. With a few simple precautions and some common-sense planning, you can make your road trip a vacation to remember for the good times and not for the easily-avoidable problems that popped up.

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

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