Cross country road trips can be a blast, but it can become a nightmare scenario if something happens to your car far from home. You never know what type of terrain or weather you’ll encounter on your trip, so it’s best to be prepared of all sorts. Below, we’ve outlined some of the proper precautions you should take to ensure your car is in top driving shape before you take it on a road trip.
Since you’ll be putting hundreds or thousands of miles on these puppies, you’ll want to make sure they still have a safe amount of tread on them. The simplest way to test your tire tread wear is to use the penny trick. Have the heads side of the penny facing you, and position Lincoln so his head goes in first (just like the image to the right). If you can see any space between the edge of the penny and Lincoln’s head, you should have your tires replaced. Also, make sure your tires are properly inflated by referencing the owner’s manual or by using a pressure gauge. Properly inflated tires will help keep you safe and save money on gas.
Whether you’re driving south for the warmth or north for the snow, be sure your car’s fluid levels are in order. Most people can check their windshield wiper and coolant level by referencing the owner’s manual, but if you’re taking your car in for a diagnostics test, ask them to check the other fluids, like transmission, power steering and brake fluid. Some service centers top off these fluids at no extra charge depending on the work you’re having done.
If you’re overdue for an oil change, or if you’ve been ignoring that rattling sound that happens when you hit the brakes, now is a time to get those issues fixed. Many mechanics say regular oil changes are one of the best ways to extend the life of your vehicle, so don’t ignore the sticker in the upper-left hand corner of your windshield. Also, if your car is making any funny sounds, or if any dashboard lights indicate that service is needed, bring your vehicle into the shop before you hit the highway. If you have any major issues with your vehicle, you should consider a different form of transportation.
Most people have some equipment in their vehicle to help them in the event of an emergency, but now is an important time to double-check your supplies. Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated, and grab any other tools that may be necessary to help you change it (jack, wrench, AAA card). Consider storing a disposable camera, flash light, pen, and paper in your glove compartment in case you need document an accident or to assist you in the dark. Storing a first aid kit under your passenger seat can also help in the event of a minor emergency.
Not only will your passengers be happy that they’re not sitting on stale cracker crumbs, but cleaning your car can also save you money. If you have sandbags or snow chains in your trunk to help during the winter months, now is the time to remove the extra weight (unless, or course, you’re heading on a winter retreat). This will also make added room for any luggage you might be bringing along. Vacuum the inside of your car in the days before your trip to make sure your passengers can ride clean and comfortably.
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