How to prepare your car for a road trip

How to prepare your car for a road trip

How to prepare your car for a road trip

Every millions of people use their car to go on vacation.  Every summer you see at least one person on the side of the road with car problems.  So how do you prepare your car for  a road trip?  What is going to keep you from being of those many people with their luggage on the side of the road trying to get you spare tire out to change a flat?  There is not 100% guarantee that you won’t have car problems on your road trip.  However, if you prepare your car for a road trip the chances of having a break down that ruins your trip are slim.

Keep your maintenance up

Owners ManualThe best way to prepare your car for a road trip is to keep up on your scheduled maintenance.  Your owners manual will have a list of your scheduled maintenance.  Follow this list.  If like millions of car owners you don’t have an owners manual you can find a copy at As a general rule of thumb your oil should be changed every 3000 miles for conventional oil, and 5000 miles for full synthetic oil.  If your owner manual says different you have the choice of going by it or the old standards.  It will never hurt your car to change the oil more often, but it may hurt your car to not change it often enough.


Tires need rotated every 6000 miles.  You do this to prolong the life of the tires.  If you have bought tires in pairs and not all four at the same time, it’s best to have your best tires up front.  Having a tire blow out on front can lead to some very dangerous situations.  Even if you have a RWD vehicle always make sure you have good tires on the front of your vehicle.


Coolant Everyone knows that cars need their oil changed.  How many people think about the other fluids their car has?  Coolant needs flushed.  With the newer cars it’s suggested coolant be flushed ever 5 years or 150,000 miles.  This is definitely which comes first situation.  If your car is 7 years old with 40,000 miles you are over due for a coolant flush.  It’s also suggested that after your first coolant flush that ever flush after that be every 2 years.

This is done because coolant becomes acidic.  It can and will eat away at parts of your engine.  The cost of replacing a water pump, timing cover or even engine block is high.  Compared to the cost of a coolant flush.  The last thing you want is to take your car to a strange shop and waste your vacation.

Other fluids

Brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, all break down over time.  Brake fluid is hydroscopic.  Meaning it absorbs water.  This allows it to rust your brake lines from the inside out.  Have it changed out completely.  Your mechanic should be able to check it and determine if it’s bad.

Some cars have what is called lifetime transmission fluid.  Meaning the fluid is good for the life of the transmission.  If you don’t have that fluid.  It’s so suggested to flush the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles or what’s recommended by your owners manual,


Car batteries have a life span of 5-7 years.  It depends on how much you spend on them.  Have your battery checked at least twice a year.  Most people think that their battery is good for summer because it’s cold that kills a battery.  The truth is more batteries go bad in the summer than in the winter.  High heat will ruin a battery faster than cold.  Most people notice it more in the winter because a weak battery has a hard time starting a car.


Wiper blades is just one of many car repairs you can do yourself.  If you can’t remember when the last time you changed your wiper blades, change them.  Change your blades at least twice a year.  Wiper blade technology has gotten better in the last few years.  However rubber only lasts so long.  Since there is nothing worse than getting caught in a down pour with bad wipers.  Change them out to prepare your car for a road trip.

Have your car inspected a month in advance

Keeping up with maintenance on a car is great.  Things break, and go bad without us knowing it.  Many times your mechanic can catch these things during your normal scheduled oil changes.  However there are plenty of things that do not get checked during an oil change.

A month before you go on your road trip, get a complete vehicle inspection done.  This will include having all your brakes and suspension looked at.  If you’ve keep up on maintenance there shouldn’t too much that needs fixed.

Do repairs at least 2 weeks before you leave

A lot of people put off repairs to their cars.  If you have repairs you’ve been putting off, get them done.  Even the repairs you’ve told you have time on.  If a mechanic has taken the time to suggest you fix something, it needs fixed.

Always give your mechanic time to fix your car.  At least two weeks before you leave should be enough time.  Unless you have a mechanic that is booked 3-4 weeks out.

New parts no matter what the quality do fail early.  It would be terrible if the parts you had replaced failed 100 miles into your road trip.  This is another reason to get your car fixed a couple weeks before you leave.

Check fluids and tires the week of leaving

Keep an eye on your fluid levels and tires pressures the week leading up to leaving on your road trip.  By checking you fluid levels you can be sure that you don’t have any unseen leaks.  No one want to have flat on their road trip.  Especially one that they could have prevented.

Consider renting a car

For those people who forget to do maintenance on their cars.  Renting a car for your road trip is a good option.  When you start considering the cost of new tires, multiple fluid flushes, and possible repairs.  The cost to prepare your car for a road trip can go well over $1000.   This makes the cost of renting a car for $500 or less seem worth while.  Of course most people drive for vacation to save money on flights.

The bonus to renting is that you can rent a van with more space than your car.  The last time my family went on a week long vacation we rented a van.  It was nice to have room for the kids to stretch out.  Not having to worry about where we’d put stuff when we came back.  The best part was if something happened to the van, all we had to do was call for a different van.  All the repairs would be taken care of by the rental company.  The piece of mind that we  didn’t have to worry about the van was in itself worth the rental fees.


If you want a truly worry free road trip, you must prepare your car.  Since you should be doing the maintenance and upkeep on your car there really isn’t much that needs to be done.  However it’s always good to have your car checked out at least a month before you leave.  This way you can get it fixed and make sure everything is good to go.  Although some people don’t keep their car up like suggested.  If you are one of those people.  Consider  renting a car.  The time and p0ntential money you’ll save is worth every penny.

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