Taking a road trip? Make sure you are prepared

It should go without saying. You use you car every day, yet chances are you spend more time thinking about which radio station to enjoy than what is going on under the hood. Preventative maintenance is a very important aspect of car ownership and should never be taken lightly.

Pre-roadtrip checklist
As you prepare for a road trip, whether you are going up the coast, up the state or across the country it is important that you add preventative vehicle maintenance to the top of your to do list. Your car will endure long hours of constant movement, making it susceptible to issues from problems that may have been slowly building.

Mechanics and service stations located on highway off ramps are expensive, may employ questionable technicians, and could have to special order any number of parts. Don’t get stuck in wounded vehicle far from home.

What to tell check
Before you drive off into the sunset, make an appointment with your mechanic, or dealership for an oil change and a basic tune up. Quick lube services are great, but before you get on the road it is advisable to take it to a full service shop.

Be sure to tell them you plan to take the vehicle on a road trip and give an estimate of the mileage you plan to put on it. This allows the technicians to project and give you the best evaluation.

A few fairly inexpensive things you should do before a long distance drive:
Have your tires rotated, and if you can afford it have your front end aligned as well. Ask the technician to look at the condition of the tires and give you an estimated life span
Replace your windshield wiper blades (this is easy to do yourself)
Have your coolant system checked for leaks and wear, long hours of perpetual motion makes things hot inside the engine compartment. It is important that your coolant system is able to do its job properly
Have your brakes inspected, make sure your brake pads are at a safe thickness. If there is a question, replace them. Handy tip, replace messy graphite with ceramic brake pads. They are a little pricier, but they last longer, don’t make as much noise and they are dramatically cleaner.
Check a spark plug or two. Work spark plugs cause inefficient combustion and affect gas mileage. Although they are in inexpensive part, their location makes them invariably difficult to replace. Depending on the distance you are traveling, the cost of labor may pay for itself in saved gas.
Check hoses and belts for any wear or frays and erosion of clamps. Check all fluids to ensure that the reservoirs are full.

Other things to remember
Beyond mechanics there are other important aspects of your vehicular travel that should not be overlooked.
Music – No road trip is complete without it, no matter what you listen to make sure that you have serviced any cassette or CD players to prep them for constant use and to circumvent problems while on the road.
Comfort – Make sure to brainstorm in an attempt to predict what you will need during long hours of travel. Blankets, trash bags, a cooler for snacks, maps and directions, sunglasses, hair ties, water, and any other necessity needs to have a home within arms reach for easy access.
First Aid – We should all carry a first aid kit in our vehicles, but the reality of that is, most of us don’t. Be sure you have one for long road trips, especially when rural driving is involved. Consider throwing in a hot/cold pack for sore driving muscles.
Jumper cables – Don’t depend on the guy nice enough to stop and give you a jump to provide the cables too. Carry jumper cables at all times.

Be sure to take precautions before you load up the car and take off anywhere outside of your town. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that lack of proper maintenance costs more than two billion dollars in lost wages, medical costs and property damage a year.

Pay a few bucks now for peace of mind later.

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