Hitting the road with your family will create some of the most precious memories you and your kids will have together. Yes, it’s a big undertaking, but with the right planning and preparation, your road trips can be full of joy and free of stress. (Well, mostly. We are talking about kids!) 

Checking your car for common maintenance issues is one of the best ways you can ensure a safe and enjoyable road trip! So, today, we’re sharing how to prepare your car for the long haul. Here’s what to check on your car before a road trip:

What to Check Before a Road Trip

All Fluids

Getting all your fluid levels checked is a great idea before a road trip! This is a really simple maintenance item, but it could mean the end of your road trip (and a functioning car) if something like coolant or oil levels get too low. Check everything before you leave, or take your vehicle in for an oil change service that tops off all your fluids too! Just to be safe, bring extra oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, and coolant with you in case you have a leak. 

Belts and Hoses

Having full fluids is an important maintenance piece, however, it doesn’t really matter if you have frayed, kinked, or broken hoses. So, check all of your hoses! While you’re in there, check your belts for similar damage. Hoses and belts connect all aspects of your engine and keep everything running optimally!

Battery

A battery is another cheap fix that could leave you stranded. Many car parts stores and mechanic shops do free car battery checks. Get yours checked to ensure it’s charged and holding its battery life well. This is an especially smart choice if you’re going from a warm climate to a frigid climate on your road trip. (Battery issues really show when things are cold!) 

Tires (and the Spare!) 

Definitely check and fill your tire pressure and tire tread depth before leaving as well! It’s best to do this a few weeks before the trip, and then check them a few days after you fill. If the pressure drops significantly in just a few days, you could have a hole in your tire that needs to be patched before you leave. If all your tires are solid and holding pressure, great! But, don’t forget to check your spare too! No matter how new or good your tires are, they could still pop if they hit debris. You want your spare to be ready for the task of getting you the rest of the way to your destination. 

Lights

If you’re used to a lot of city driving, you may not think twice about your lights. However, foggy lenses or burned-out bulbs can pose a big problem on a road trip. You’ll probably have hundreds of miles on an open highway with no traffic lights you’re going to need your headlights, brake lights, and everything else! Clean your lenses with a specialty cleaner and make sure every light on your car is in working order. 

Wipers 

No one wants to realize they need new wiper blades in the middle of a rainstorm. Check your windshield wipers, and if they’re not working well, you should not only replace the wipers but also check the motor tension. It’s possible that simply replacing may not fix the issue, so make sure to test and retest until you get a clean finish. 

Heating and Air Conditioning 

Check your heating and AC before you head out on your road trip. Ensure the blowers are working all throughout the car and your defrost is functional. Nothing will turn a long road trip into a long nightmare like everyone being too hot or too cold! Try a noggle if the heat or AC doesn’t reach the backseat of your car.

Air Filter

Your air filter helps your car engine breathe properly. Without a clean filter, your engine could lack airflow, which hinders its performance and efficiency. Plus, you get better gas mileage when it’s clean! So, clean or replace your filter before your road trip. 

Brakes 

It’s obvious why it’s important to check the brakes before a road trip! To check your breaks, start by listening to them. Squeaks or grinding sounds are signs your brakes need some work. You can also look at the brake pads through the wheel spoke and determine if there are signs of excessive wear. The safest option, of course, is to get them inspected by a professional!

Ports

Check your USB, AUX, and HDMI ports before leaving. You don’t want to be using your phone for navigation, and then it goes dead a few hours in and you have no way to charge it back up. Fixing ports is usually as easy as replacing some fuses, so just ensure you check they’re in working order before you go. 

Radio and Entertainment Systems 

This one isn’t essential, but we can all agree family road trips go a lot better with entertainment! Double check your car’s entertainment system and radio are in working order, and if they’re not, either get them repaired or start coming up with car activities for kids! (In fact, it’s probably a good idea to plan lots of entertainment options if traveling with children!) 

Car Seat Safe Toys & Accessories
Car Seat Safe Toys & Accessories

Interior Organization and Cleanliness

The key to a stress-free family road trip? Organization! Keeping your car organized will help you respond quickly to any need whether it be a tissue, toy, or a snack. Use our vehicle organization hacks and make sure your vehicle is really ready for the long haul! Deep clean your car’s interior for a pleasant environment during extended travel with your family.

Emergency Kit

Your emergency kit is super important for a road trip! Prepare for emergencies when traveling far from home, especially if pushing your vehicle harder than usual. Go through your vehicle emergency kit and replace any expired or broken items and replenish anything that’s running low.

Car Seat

There’s no safety equipment in your vehicle as important as your car seat! Check for common car seat mistakes and consult your car seat manual to see if your child is ready for any adjustments (change in recline, orientation, or strap placement.) If you plan to clean your car seat too, here’s our car seat cleaning guide

Check everything in your car before your road trip, so you can have peace of mind along the way. 

Headed on a long road trip? Get out to your vehicle and start checking all the common issues (and start making your road trip packing list). Something as simple as checking a tire or filling some fluids can be the difference between a peaceful cross-country drive and a legendary family vacation nightmare. With a little planning, you can have confidence your car will be functional and efficient throughout the whole trip. 
For more vehicle safety tips and car seat information, head to the Safe in the Seat blog. We have lots more hacks to keep your drives (whether from home to work or from coast to coast) easy and safe.

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