By Jeff Youngs | JD Powers

Before setting off on a road trip, it is important to make sure that your vehicle is ready for a long journey, especially if your route passes through lightly populated areas off of the Interstate. Checking your vehicle’s basic functions and systems before departure can help to ensure a safe and smooth road trip.

  • Check the brakes. Your vehicle’s brakes are a critical component for any drive, whether heading across town or across the country. Make sure your car’s brakes are in good condition before your trip.
  • Check the tires. In addition to making sure you have a spare tire with you (unless your car has run-flat tires), be sure to inflate all tires, including the spare, to the recommended tire pressure before departure. Also, check for uneven tread wear, which indicates that an alignment or replacement tires might be necessary.
  • Check the lights and signals. Make sure your headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals work properly.
  • Check the wiper blades and washer fluid. A new set of wiper blades is a good investment before any road trip. Also, be sure to top off your washer fluid before hitting the highway.
  • Check the engine coolant. If your engine coolant is old, it’s a good idea to replace it with new coolant. Be sure that your car is ready for extreme heat or extreme cold, depending on where you’re going and the time of year.
  • Check the fans, belts and hoses. Your car’s engine fan, belts and hoses are critical for engine cooling, so be sure they’re in good condition before your trip.
  • Check the battery. It’s easy to have your battery tested to make sure it’s ready for a road trip. If your battery is more than 3 years old, get it checked before departure.
  • Check the fluids. Make sure your car’s fluids are in good condition and are topped off. This includes the oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and the power steering fluid.
  • Bring basic tools. Make sure all of your vehicle’s tire-change tools are present and accounted for. Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to bring a basic set of tools that could help fix a minor problem during the trip.
  • Bring emergency provisions. Even if you perform every task on this road trip checklist, you could become stranded with a disabled vehicle. You will want to have emergency provisions aboard just in case this happens. Food and water are critical, but depending on the weather, you will also want appropriate clothing and accessories, like sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat for hot sunny areas or a blanket for cold regions.
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