Preparing a Car for Long Summer Road Trips

Summer Road trips. Photo courtesy of blog.carchex.comDon’t Forget the Road Trip Car Checklist

Summer = car road trip season. Families across the country hit the road for vacations, family visits and new adventures! According to a survey by Citi and mentioned by, summer travel is on the rise after many years of decline, with 72% of those surveyed stating that they would be traveling by car to their summer vacation destination, however, the travelers that were surveyed prefer not to travel on holiday weekends. There is good reason for that, because it was predicted that over 3.5 million people were going to travel via cars over the long Fourth of July weekend alone!

Now that the trip is planned, the bags are packed and the journey is mapped via GPS, it seems like everything thing is completed before the road trip. However, there is one major thing that needs to be checked before the trip --- a road trip car check. Since many miles will be added to the car during the trip, it is important to make sure that the car is in good shape before you “hit the road”.  Properly preparing a car for a long road trip is important for your family’s safety while on the road.

How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

There should be a road trip car maintenance plan created to make sure that any needed repairs are made before the trip even starts.  Always consult with the owner’s manual for specific pre-road trip car maintenance checks that are required above regular maintenance items.

  • Check the tires for any tears, bulges and make sure that the tires have the proper tire pressure. Inflate the tires to the amount of tire pressure indicated by the manufacturer. (This is usually shown on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door. Use a penny or quarter to test the tire’s treads. If the treads are too low, then it is time to replace the tires. Don’t forget to inspect the spare when you are checking the tires on the car.
  • Check the radiator hoses and engine belts for wear and tear. Replace any that are torn or ripped.
  • Examine and replace all fluids (as needed) including the power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and antifreeze/coolant. Check the engine oil and change if needed.
  • Inspect the windshield wipers to see if they need to be replaced. Top off the windshield fluid before you start the trip.
  • Car batteries tend to run hotter during the summer months. Make sure to clean the battery terminals with a little baking soda and water before a long trip.
  • Prepare an emergency road trip kit including a gallon of water, basic tools, tarp, gloves, tire pump, first aid kit, and a smartphone charging cord to put in the trunk of the car.
  • Check the interior and exterior lights. Replace any burnt out headlights, taillights, front or rear turn signals, back-up lights, and brake lights.
  • As the car is being loaded with suitcases, review the weight limit of the car. Overloading the car will add drag to the engine and reduce fuel mileage.

Preparing your car for long road trips will help eliminate costly car repairs when you least expect them (such as traveling in the middle of nowhere with no car repair places within 50 miles or more).

Also keep in mind that there are many great places to visit during the summer that are within a 1 Day Trip from Baltimore such as going to the beach, spending the day in Washington D.C. or driving along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.  No matter the duration, enjoy your summer road trips!