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  • Writer's pictureRussell Westbrook

Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip

Updated: Feb 27

Planning a road trip is an exciting adventure, but before you hit the open road, it's crucial to ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Neglecting car maintenance can lead to unexpected breakdowns and potentially ruin your trip. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the essential checks and maintenance tasks to perform before embarking on your road trip. From the engine to the tires and everything in between, we've got you covered.

Before embarking on a road trip, it's essential to ensure your car is ready for the journey ahead. Nothing spoils a road trip faster than unexpected car trouble. By following this guide and performing these essential checks and maintenance tasks, you can hit the road with confidence, knowing that your vehicle is in excellent condition.

Engine Inspection

Check Oil Levels

One of the most critical tasks before a road trip is checking your engine oil. Low oil levels can cause significant damage to your engine. Make sure the oil is at the recommended level and change it if necessary.

Examine the Cooling System

Your vehicle's cooling system keeps the engine from overheating. Check the coolant levels and top up if needed. Additionally, inspect hoses and belts for signs of wear and tear.

Inspect the Battery

A dead battery can leave you stranded, so check its condition. Look for any corrosion on the terminals and ensure they are securely connected. Consider replacing an old battery if it shows signs of weakness.

Tire Maintenance

Check Tire Pressure

Proper tire pressure is crucial for safety and fuel efficiency. Consult your car's manual for the recommended tire pressure and ensure all tires, including the spare, are properly inflated.

Examine Tire Tread

Inspect the tire tread for wear. If the tread is too low, it's time to replace your tires. Bald tires can be dangerous, especially in wet or slippery conditions.

Don't Forget the Spare

Many people overlook the spare tire until they need it. Ensure it's in good condition, properly inflated, and that you have the necessary tools to change a tire if required.

Brake System

Brake Pads and Rotors

Check the condition of your brake pads and rotors. If they are worn down or damaged, replace them immediately. Your brakes are essential for your safety on the road.

Brake Fluid

Inspect the brake fluid level. Low brake fluid can affect your braking performance. If it's low, top it up with the recommended type of brake fluid.

Fluid Levels

Transmission Fluid

Check the transmission fluid level and condition. If it's dark or smells burnt, consider having it changed. Proper transmission fluid is vital for smooth gear shifts.

Power Steering Fluid

Ensure the power steering fluid is at the recommended level. Low levels can make steering difficult and affect your control of the vehicle.

Windshield Washer Fluid

A clean windshield is essential for visibility. Make sure the washer fluid reservoir is full, and the nozzles are working correctly.

Lights and Signals

Headlights and Taillights

Inspect your headlights and taillights. Replace any burnt-out bulbs to ensure you are visible to other drivers, especially at night.

Turn Signals

Check that your turn signals are functioning correctly. Proper signaling is crucial for safe lane changes and turns.

Brake Lights

Ensure your brake lights are working correctly. This is essential for alerting drivers behind you when you're slowing down or stopping.

Belts and Hoses

Serpentine Belt

Inspect the serpentine belt for cracks or fraying. A damaged belt can lead to engine problems, so replace it if necessary.

Radiator Hoses

Check the radiator hoses for signs of leaks or wear. A damaged hose can cause your engine to overheat.

Air Conditioning and Heating

Air Conditioning Check

If you're traveling in hot weather, make sure your air conditioning is working correctly. It can make a significant difference in your comfort during the trip.

Heating System

Similarly, ensure your heating system is functioning correctly if you'll be traveling in cold weather. You don't want to be stuck in a cold car during your journey.

Wipers and Wiper Fluid

Wiper Blades

Inspect the wiper blades for wear and tear. If they leave streaks or make noise, it's time for a replacement.

Wiper Fluid Reservoir

Ensure the wiper fluid reservoir is full. Clean windows are crucial for visibility, especially in adverse weather conditions.

Inspect the Suspension

A well-maintained suspension system provides a smoother and more comfortable ride. If you notice any unusual noises or excessive bouncing, have your suspension checked by a mechanic.

Exhaust System

A damaged exhaust system can lead to decreased fuel efficiency and increased emissions. Make sure it's in good condition before your trip.

Check Your Spare Tire

Before you hit the road, ensure your spare tire is properly inflated and that you have the necessary tools to change a tire if needed. Don't wait until you're stranded on the side of the road to check it.

Emergency Kit

Prepare an emergency kit that includes items like a flashlight, first aid supplies, jumper cables, and basic tools. You never know when you might need them.

Interior Clean-Up

Before you embark on your road trip, take some time to clean the interior of your car. A clean and organized vehicle can make your journey more enjoyable.


With proper preparation and maintenance, you can ensure that your car is road-trip-ready. By following these essential checks and maintenance tasks, you'll reduce the risk of unexpected breakdowns and enjoy a safe and memorable road trip.

ANCEL Car Scanner is a great companion for your road trips to keep track of your car's running condition!


What should I do if I discover a problem during my pre-road trip checks? If you find any issues with your vehicle during your checks, it's best to have them addressed by a qualified mechanic before your trip. Don't risk driving with unresolved problems.

How often should I check my car's oil levels? It's a good practice to check your oil levels every time you fill up your gas tank, or at least once a month.

Is it necessary to check the spare tire even if it hasn't been used for a long time? Yes, it's essential to check the spare tire regularly as it can lose pressure over time. Ensure it's properly inflated and in good condition.

What items should I include in my emergency kit? A basic emergency kit should include a flashlight, first aid supplies, jumper cables, a multi-tool, and a reflective vest, among other items.

Can I perform these maintenance checks myself, or should I take my car to a mechanic? While some checks can be performed by car owners, it's advisable to have a professional mechanic inspect your vehicle, especially if you're not confident in your automotive skills.

Remember, a well-maintained car enhances your road trip experience and ensures a safer journey. Get your vehicle ready, hit the road, and create unforgettable memories on your adventure.

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