What should you inspect on your vehicle before going on a road trip?

Man driving during golden hour

There are a number of movies that romanticize road trips. The common thread you will observe in these movies is characters taking their road trip on an impulse.

Pack the essentials, jump into their cars or RVs, and drive off.

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is a myth.

Road trips on impulse without proper planning will have all the equilibrium of a house built on jelly.

A lot of planning and groundwork has to be done before you take off on a road trip.

The most important one is the health of your vehicle.

Car care is vital, particularly before a road trip, so our partners at Way.com have compiled this list of fundamental checks to complete before your upcoming road trip turns into your worst nightmare.

What To Inspect on Your Vehicle Before Going on a Road Trip:

1. Tires

Tires are vital for your safety as well as driving comfort. A well-maintained tire will help reduce your fuel consumption. So, it is essential to check their condition before your trip.  

  • Replace: Do the penny test on your tires. Stick a penny into the groove with Abraham Lincoln's head facing into it. If you see the top of the head or close to it, replace your tires. If there are damages like punctures, exposed cords, or sidewall bulges, replace them immediately.
  • Rotation: Ensure your tire pressure is correct. Your driving habits can make tires wear at different rates. Swap your tires from right to left or front to rear, which will help them last longer because each spot wears down a tire in different areas. As soon as you notice that one side of your tire tread has worn down significantly faster than the other side replaces them.
  • Air pressure: The ominous "Next Gas 130 Miles" sign can spell disaster for you if you are running low on gas. An underinflated tire is guaranteed to waste gas while an overinflated tire will make the ride quality worse because they're less compliant. Wrong air pressure causes tires to wear unevenly. You can find the right amount of air your tire will need from the owner's manual. You must check your tire pressure before your road trip.

Man driving during golden hour
(Darwin Vegher/Unsplash)

2. Fluids

For the uninitiated, there are six essential fluids in your car. Regular service of these fluids will ensure that your mileage will not be affected. If you're going to hit a service milestone mid-trip, you may want to take care of that job early.

  • Engine: Oil is critical for an engine. Many automakers recommend changing your oil every 7,500 to 10,000. If you've got an oil change within your recommended timeframe, use the dipstick to check the oil condition and fill level. If it's black, gritty, or below the minimum fill line, get it checked out right away.
  • Radiator: Radiator fluid works to extract heat from the engine and dissipates it through the radiator. A low coolant level will likely result in overheating. Check your coolant and top it off if need be.  
  • Brake: If the brake oil is contaminated, or if there is a formation of bubbles in the lines, the pedals will feel spongy. You will need to remove those air bubbles out of the lines.
  • Power–steering: Power steering is used to make turning the wheel easy at any speed, but if the fluid is contaminated, then the steering will be less responsive. Check the level and condition of your fluid every time you change your car's oil.
  • Transmission: Transmission fluid helps gears mesh smoothly, and if the fluid is past the change date, shifting of the gear will be uncomfortable. Check your owner's manual for the recommended service interval for your specific car.
  • Windshield: Adding windshield washer fluid is basic: get a jug of fluid at any gas station, then use a funnel to fill up your reservoir if it gets low.

3. Brake Pads

They wear away with use, eventually becoming too thin to work effectively. When this happens, there is an irritating screeching or squealing noise. If you notice these, replace the brake pads to make your road trip safer.

4. Air Filters

The air filters in your cars prevent dust, debris, and bugs from entering the engine and interior. Once they reach their capacity, they can become clogged, impacting engine performance, fuel economy, and interior air quality. Take your vehicle to the nearest service center and check the quality.

5. Belts and Hoses

There are a few obvious signs of trouble that anyone can spot under the hood. Press the belts down to make sure they're tight. The belts should fit in perfectly into the clasp. If the belt has teeth, none of the teeth should be loose. If the belt does skip any teeth, don't force it. Check the hoses at both ends to see if there are any fluid leaks.

Car care can be expansive, expensive, and exasperating. But to enjoy a magical, marvelous, and magnificent road trip, make sure to do these basic checks.

This story was originally published by Stacker and republished with permission pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Article Details

May 5, 2024 10:19 AM
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