Before you set off on a long road trip, remember Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong, and at the worst possible time.
It’s bad enough when your car breaks down while your tooling around your own neighborhood, but it can wreak havoc with your vacation plans when your car breaks down hundreds of miles from home.
In order to maximize your chances of a successful road trip, and to minimize the risks associated with predatory towing and roadside services that are looking to fleece out-of-towners, we present some expert tips on preparing yourself and your vehicle for a long road trip.
Before you leave on your trip, be sure to give your trip plan and travel itinerary to someone you trust, along with TWO contact phone numbers, yours and someone you are traveling with. Now, let’s try and repeal Murphy’s law by thoroughly inspecting and prepping your car.
Don’t Skip Any of These Steps
- Change your oil and oil filter
- Clean your vehicle thoroughly inside and out
- Keep a garbage bag inside the car
- Use a car “bra” to protect the grill
- Change the cabin air filter
- Install new spark plugs
- Check to see you have a good jack and tire iron and the tool needed to release the spare tire from the car if required
- Double check your spare tire to see if it’s in good condition and fully inflated
- Bring along a fire extinguisher in good working order
- Keep rags around to clean up spills and clean your windshield
- Make sure you have a spare key and keep it in your wallet or pocket in case you lock your keys in the car
- Buy sun protectors for the windshield and side windows if you don’t already own them
- Bring enough cassette tapes, CDs or MP3 files to keep yourself entertained, and DVDs if you’re traveling with kids
- Always bring plenty of bottled water and a funnel in case you have to use it as engine coolant
- Keep your gas tank topped up as much as possible Fill ‘er up whenever you get down to half a tank
Pack the Car Carefully
Have you ever heard the term “Bug Out Bag?” It’s a little grab bag used by “Preppers,” the subset of survivalists who want to be well prepared for anything. Their bug out bag contains about 36 hours of emergency supplies and you can put together your own emergency bag for the road trip. Of course, it should include important medications for everyone on the road trip as well as a cellphone power bank and plenty of cold, hard emergency cash. Include as many of the following survival tools as you can:
- A thick towing rope or chain
- Jumper cables and/or a jumpstart powerpack box
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- Assorted length bungee cords
- A hammer and pliers
- screwdrivers and wrenches
Check the Car Carefully
Check out your vehicle like your life depends on it because it does! Look closely at all four tires AND your spare to spot signs of strain, bulges, and uneven or extreme tread wear. Check your tire pressure before you leave. Never overinflate!
Your windshield wipers should be in perfect condition; fill up your windshield washer fluid reservoir completely. If you haven’t flushed your radiator in a while, now is the time. Test your horn and both your low beam and high beam headlights.Top up your transmission oil, power steering fluid and brake fluid.
Above all, drive safely. It’s not a race! You will enjoy the road trip more if you slow down to smell the scenery. Avoid Red Bull and coffee – if you get sleepy, listen to your body and pull off the road to rest.