Road trips are some of the most precious moments you can share with your family. Despite the planning, the hassle, and the long drive, road trips create lasting memories your children will be sharing for years to come! But, behind every successful road trip is a lot of essential preparation.
There is packing to do, reservations to make, and a route to plan—but don’t forget about your car! Your vehicle needs to be inspected for problems and prepared for all possible road trip speed bumps. So, today we’re discussing road trip vehicle preparation. Here’s what you need to do before hitting the road:
How To Prepare Your Car For A Road Trip
1. Check all the fluids and pack some just in case.
One of the first things to do when inspecting your vehicle is checking all the fluids. This is one of the easiest maintenance tips tasks that can save you a lot of headaches! Don’t just check your engine oil, but also check transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. If anything is low, get it filled, and try to identify any leaks you may have so you can get those repaired before departure as well.
2. Look for corrosion on the battery.
Corrosion on the battery could cause electrical issues in your car. Check the battery and if you see corrosion, you can try cleaning it on your own or take it to a shop for repairs. New batteries aren’t very expensive either, so replacing them (or having a backup!), if needed, before leaving might be a worthwhile investment!
3. Check your belts and hoses.
Belts and hoses are what connect all your car’s systems. They need to be in good condition! Double-check under the hood and look at all your belts for fraying, cracking, or excess slack. And, double check your hoses for leaks and drops. These inexpensive fixes prior to your trip could save you a lot of hassle and repair costs!
4. Inspect your tires.
Tire inflation affects your fuel economy, but tires are important for safety too. Make sure you have good tire pressure and tire tread. To check your tread, put a penny between the treads on every tire. If you can see Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s probably time for a tire replacement. Additionally, if the tires aren’t evenly worn, you may be due for a tire rotation.
Even if you confirm the functionality and lifespan of all of your tires, still bring a spare tire. On your long trip, you could hit something and end up with a flat. A spare will make sure you can get to a repair shop.
5. Test all lights and clean the lens.
Another step for proper vehicle preparation is checking all the lights and signals. Don’t only check that the lights turn on and off, but also ensure they’re visible through the lens. You may need to clean them off to let the bright light shine through properly!
6. Check windshield wipers and motor tension.
It probably won’t be sunny, clear skies the whole way to your destination. Your windshield wipers need to work well, so test them out and replace them if needed. If you find that even after replacement, the wipers still aren’t working well, get your wiper motor serviced as it may be a tension issue. Of course, always top off your windshield washer fluid!
7. Test your heating and air conditioning.
Having the kids in a car for hours and hours will be uncomfortable in itself, especially if they’re not big fans of their car seats. The last thing you want is for the temperature to add to the discomfort! Make sure your heating and air conditioning functions before you leave.
If you’re lucky enough to have ceiling vents, point one at your child; if you’re not, consider grabbing a Noggle so your little one can enjoy better ventilation in the backseat. Stick to lightweight clothing in the car and consider these other tips to help your backseat passengers stay cool. And keep a blanket on hand in case your toddlers have the opposite problem!
8. Listen to your brakes.
Do you hear squealing when you press on your brakes? That could tell you that your brake pads need to be replaced. If you hear anything when you slow to a stop, have a professional check the brakes and replace the pads.
9. Consider weather conditions.
What’s the weather going to be like on your trip? Different seasons require different levels of preparation! In winter, you should prepare for getting stuck in the snow or trapped in the cold. In summer, you need to prepare for breaking down in the heat. Don’t forget to consider the weather! (Learn more about winter road trip safety here and how to stay cool in the summer here.)
10. Get a car seat confidence boost.
Car seats are another essential safety feature of your vehicle! Though you may be pretty confident everything is installed correctly and your buckling skills are top-notch, get a car seat confidence boost consultation. The car seat safety consultants will check everything over and give you peace of mind for your road trip!
11. Make a plan for known road trip challenges.
Do your kids get car sick? Does your toddler always unbuckle their chest clip? Are you in the middle of potty training? All of these things require another level of planning and preparation! Here are some helpful posts to get you through:
- Why Kids Hate the Car Seat?
- How to Keep a Toddler From Unbuckling the Chest Clip
- How to Get Rid of Car Sickness
- Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping in a Car Seat
- Can You Feed a Baby in a Car?
12. Clean and organize the inside of the car.
No one wants to go on a road trip in a car with crackers ground into the carpet and sticky juice dried to the seats. Give your car a deep clean! Then, take some time to get it organized using our vehicle organization guide. These hacks will help you stay sane and organized on the long trip!
13. Check for projectile risks.
Hard objects in the car can be thrown around the vehicle in a crash. When this happens at high speeds, these objects become dangerous and sometimes deadly projectiles. Do a quick assessment of your car and get rid of anything risky.
14. Pack a car maintenance emergency kit.
Even with all the preparation in the world, car maintenance issues could still happen! Make a car maintenance emergency kit equipped with things like jumper cables, flares, a tire iron, a jack, and extra fluids.
15. Pack a first-aid kit.
Always pack a first aid kit on long trips! Whether your child gets a splinter from a historic building or a rash while exploring outside, injuries are inevitable! (Though, hopefully, they’re minor.) Ensure a first aid kit is packed in the car!
16. Stock your car with road trip essentials.
Finally, it’s time to stock your car with road trip essentials. You can find a full list of road trip essentials here, but here are some of our top picks:
Car Road Trip Essentials
Even if your battery is in great shape, a light could get left on or some other issue could occur that causes your battery to die. Keep a car battery charger in your car at all times.
Hopefully, your spare tire will be enough to get you through, but on the off-chance, you have a second flat tire incident, Fix-a-Flat can be a lifesaver.
Your cell phone provider probably doesn’t have service everywhere. A road atlas will make sure you stay on course even if Maps goes down.
There will be plenty of messes along the way. This cordless vacuum will help make every clean-up quick and easy.
This is really for all the kids in the car. If you get caught along a desolate road with a child who really has to relieve themselves, this potty will come in handy.
As mentioned, first aid kits are road trip must-haves!
Between snack wrappers, tissues, and dirty diapers, you’ll need a trash can to keep the car tidy.
You’ll have a lot to pack for your road trip, so multi-use tools are really handy! This emergency radio is also a flashlight and charger.
Warning triangles prove useful when you experience a breakdown on the side of a busy road. They alert other drivers even in the dark to steer clear.
Car sickness is no joke. Hopefully with one or more of these tools, everyone can enjoy the trip without the sick.
Before you feed your children anything in the car, make sure you read our post on snacking in the car. So, if you do choose to include snacks in your road trip plan, we highly recommend the snack spinner to keep snack time fun and mess-free.
Hard-sided water bottles are one of the main vehicle projectile risks. These silicone tumblers are perfect for road trips and they also come in a kid-friendly size.
Wet bags are great for soiled clothes, dirty dishes, and even an extra stinky diaper.
Rely on wipes and paper towels to manage the inevitable messes that come with kids.
Make sure your family and your vehicle are prepared for your next adventure!
To have a great road trip, it is essential to prep your vehicle beforehand! No one wants unexpected repairs to interrupt their journey, so take the time to do a full vehicle inspection. And, if you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, take it to a mechanic who will likely do a free or low-cost inspection. For more road trip advice and car seat information, browse the Safe in the Seat blog. We’ll help you get everyone to their destination safely!
Affiliate links are included above. Safe in the Seat earns a small commission when you purchase through these links with no cost to you. We so appreciate your support.