Prep Your Car For A Road Trip
A DAY BEFORE YOU GO
Wash and vacuum your car: Your car is going to acquire lots of dirt and debris on your trip. Why not start out with a clean car?
Check the fluids and tire pressures again: It’s a good idea to keep your tire pressure gauge and a few paper towels in the glovebox so you can check everything as needed.
Fill the gas tank: Gas is more expensive on the road. You’ll be busy packing tomorrow, so you may as well get this out of the way now.
Review your route: Use your road atlas for a little bed-time reading.
Get a good night’s sleep: Driving when you are drowsy is no fun, and it’s also unsafe. Make sure you are well rested before your trip.
THE DAY OF YOUR TRIP
Pack your car evenly and carefully. Cars do not have unlimited carrying capacity. Load heavier objects toward the front of the trunk, and try to load evenly from side to side.
Drive a reasonable speed. A heavily-loaded car driving at high speeds puts extra strain on the tires, especially if they are underinflated. (This is why tire pressure is so important — heavy loads, high speeds, and underinflated tires can lead to a blow-out.) Driving the speed limit keeps the tires cool — and also keeps the cops away.
Keep one eye on the gauges. If your car is heavily loaded, or if you are driving up steep hills, keep one eye on the temperature gauge. (If your car doesn’t have one, it’ll have a red light with a picture that looks vaguely like a thermometer.) A little climb is okay, but if the needle goes into the red, or if the red light comes on, it’s important to pull over right away and let the engine cool. Driving with an overheating engine can cause expensive damage. If you see steam from under the hood, or if the car continues to overheat, have it towed to a mechanic. Slowing down and turning off the air conditioner will help your car stay cool.
Fill up when you can. Nothing ruins a trip like running out of gas! If you fill up every time you get down to half a tank, you’ll never have to worry (and you’ll take a bit of the sting out of high-priced freeway gas stations).
Check your fluids when you fill up and your tire pressure every morning. Let the car sit for a few minutes before checking the oil, otherwise you won’t get a proper reading. Do NOT check the tires when you stop for gas; driving the car warms up the tires, which raises the pressure. Check the tires in the morning when they are cold.
Relax! You’ve checked your car thoroughly, packed carefully, and prepared your route. You’re keeping a careful eye on your car’s fluids, tires, and temperature. You and your car are as ready as you’re going to get! Relax and enjoy the ride.