Getting your car ready for a holiday road trip doesn’t have to be hard. Here are four steps to make it work.

If you want to create special memories this holiday season by driving to visit family instead of flying, do some simple things ahead of time to ensure a smooth ride. First, make sure the car is mechanically ready for a long trip, and then pack a few things in the car so everyone stays comfortable and safe. Prepping your car before you begin a road trip makes the journey safer, special, and memorable.

1. Check and Top Off Your Car’s Fluids

The fluids in your car keep it running properly, and without the right amount of each fluid, your car would squeak, overheat, and eventually break down completely. According to Consumer Reports, the main fluids to check before a long trip are brake fluid, engine coolant, power steering, windshield wiper fluid, and motor oil. In some cars, you can check the transmission fluid, though, in many newer cars, the transmission is a sealed unit. That means you can’t check it without the aid of a certified mechanic.

2. Check the Tires, Including the Spare

A flat tire can take the fun out of a road trip by putting your safety at risk. Make sure tires are properly inflated and check the tread depth. Measure your tire tread depth to ensure it’s deeper than 1/16-inch to make sure your tires are safe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving on tires worn thinner than 1/16-inch is especially dangerous. If you don’t have a ruler handy, you can use a penny to check your tire’s tread depth. Hold the penny so you can see Abraham Lincoln’s face and slip it top-down into one of the tire tread grooves. The tread should cover the top of Lincoln’s head. If it doesn’t, you should replace your tires before you begin your road trip.

3. Check Windshield Wipers and Belts for Dry Rot

If the car is running, turn it off, and then visually inspect the wiper blades and belts in your engine for signs of cracking or crumbling. Crumbling and cracking automotive rubber is a sign that it’s time to replace blades and belts. Replacing wiper blades before your trip helps you keep your windshield clean for better visibility, and the NHTSA clearly lays out the importance of properly working windshield wipers for safe winter driving. Good belts also make sure you don’t end up stranded along the road.

4. Pack an Emergency Kit in the Car

An emergency kit doesn’t affect the way your car runs, but it does add to your safety while traveling. It also helps you stay more comfortable while waiting in your car if you get stranded or in an accident. The Red Cross suggests having an emergency kit that includes basic first aid items such as bandages, antiseptic, latex gloves, aspirin, and a space blanket. It’s also good to pack a shovel and a thicker blanket or sleeping bag if you’re traveling into colder, potentially snowy weather.

Car travel creates extra bonding time and gives the chance to see more sights than you get to see when traveling by air. Going through the steps to make sure used vehicles are ready for a road trip keeps your car rolling so you can safely reach your holiday destination.

About the AuthorLaure Justice

Laure Justice Is an automotive and personal finance writer who also frequently writes about business, pets, crafts, sewing, home care, remodeling, the power of positive thinking, fashion and beauty care, as well as environmental and health issues. With several e-books, including her book Personal Finance for Women: How to Stop Struggling and Make the Best of Starting Over which was positively reviewed by US News and World Reports, plus well over a thousand articles to her credit across numerous websites, Laure brings a great deal of proven writing experience along with enthusiasm for a wide range of topics.Justice writes using the same friendly approach she would use speaking to a friend. This makes her writing easy to read and easy to understand, even when complex topics are involved.Some of the Site's Featuring Laure's Work Include:* GMC* Buick* Lynda* Consumer Affairs* Angie's List* Kudzu* Internet Auto Guides*eBay Buyer's Guides* eHow Auto* Chron* Iron Mountain* Buyer Zone* Purina Petcentric* Bankrate** eHow Pets* The Nest* Pawnation* Daily Puppy* Bounty Paper Towels* Stitching it Right* Upholstery-Girl* Lowe's* Dremel* Angie's List* Kudzu* The Get Organized Club* Everyday Health* Colgate* Daily Glow* Type F* Buy Costumes* TravelocityTo read some of Laure's work, browse through the links provided as part of this profile, contact her via Skyword, email her at, or look for her work on the some of the sites listed above.