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.