Features

10 Essentials: The Pre-Road-Trip Car Maintenance Checklist

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Memorial Day weekend’s coming up, and we hope you’re just as thrilled as us for the opportunity to go on a road trip. (LA to Cayucos for this writer! Where are you headed?)

First things first—you’ll want to make sure your ride is good to go before you hit the road. Check out our pre-road-trip car maintenance guide so you’re fully prepped for the long haul:

1. Jobs in the Queue
Rule of thumb for anything you need to fix—take care of it right away. But if there are any vehicle maintenance and repair jobs you’ve been holding off until the very last minute (like that oil change or TPMS light you’ve left on a little too long, or those rear brakes the Honda service guy told you could wait another month max when all the other repairs you had done maxed out your budget last month), you’ll want to handle those before you drive off on your weekend getaway.

2. Oil, Fluids and Filters
Motor oil, fluids and filters are vital for keeping your engine and the rest of your vehicle’s most critical components lubricated and running clean and cool. If you need to change your oil, do it. And, as with every oil change, make sure you change your oil filter, too. Check all your other fluids and filters (including your coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, air filter, cabin air filter, etc.) and take care of those as needed.

If you’ve had your car battery for 3-5 years or longer, its terminals may already be corroded.

3. Battery
Experiencing slow starts due to a weak battery or corroded battery terminals? This can happen if you don’t use your car for extended periods of time, or if you’ve had your battery for 3-5 years or more. In any case, you’ll want to test your battery and change it as needed before taking any long trips.

4. Tires
Don’t let a flat tire ruin your vacation mood. Check your tire pressure and tire tread depth, and add air or change your tires if you need to. What’s a good tire pressure, anyway? For most makes and models, it’s somewhere between 30-35 psi, but it really depends on your application. You can find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure on the sticker inside your driver’s side door or your owner’s manual.

Make sure your lights are ready for a road trip, especially if you’re going to be driving through the night.

5. Brakes
Make sure your brake discs and pads are in good, road-trip-ready shape. If your brakes have been squealing or they’ve been less responsive, you definitely want to get them checked right away.

6. Lights
If you’ll be driving through the night, it’s especially important to make sure all your lights are working properly. Have a friend check the front and rear of your vehicle as you test your headlights, fog lights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, hazards, etc.

7. Emergency Equipment
Double-check that you have everything you’d need in the event of an emergency, including your spare tire and jack, jump starter and cables, gas can, flashlight, tool kit, recovery kit, etc.

Don’t forget to fill up your car especially if you’re going to drive long distances with no nearby gas stations.

8. Car Wash and Cabin Clean-Up
When you’re cruising down the scenic route, the last thing you want to do is spoil the view with dirty windows. Wash your car and keep your windshield and windows clear so you can drive in style and drink in the views. You’ll also want to clean out your interior so you and your passengers can enjoy a comfy ride.

9. Final Check
Before you head out, do one last bumper-to-bumper check and make sure everything’s functioning properly.

10. Gas
Last but definitely not least—don’t forget to fill ‘er up, especially if you’ll be driving through a long stretch with no gas stations in sight.

Follow these steps and make this trip one of your most memorable Memorial Day vacations for only the right reasons—you know, not as the time your car breaks down and you get stuck on the side of the road for three hours.

Safe and happy travels!

Click a star to rate this article
[Total: 8   Average: 4.1/5]
Author

Jacqui Fauni

Marketing & Communications Specialist at CarParts.com

Jacqui Fauni is a contributing writer and editor for In the Garage, specializing in features, guides, and both product and lifestyle content. With over 10 years of experience in copywriting—five of which have been in the automotive industry—and a BA in English and Psychology from UC Berkeley, Jacqui is passionate about community-building and helping to make parts knowledge and the automotive space as a whole more accessible to everyday drivers. As an old soul, she’d pick cruising down the coast in a classic car over a day at the track anytime.

Carparts Email Subscribe