So, you’ve got an exciting road trip ahead of you. The dates are set, the route is planned out, and all that’s left to do is pack and go, right? Whether you’re driving across your state or the entire country, it’s crucial to make sure your car is up to the task.
Maintenance is critical, but there are plenty of additional ways you can get your car ready to ensure you have the best time possible.
Fortunately, our team at Spiffy is filled with experienced travelers eager to share their knowledge and experience before you hit the road.
Getting Your Car Ready for a Road Trip
As you look ahead to the open road, it’s essential to put together a to-do list for your car’s needs. Depending on the vehicle you’re traveling in, you may have a shorter or longer checklist as you prepare for the coming trip. While we can’t cover them all, here’s an easy-to-digest list of various car maintenance and general road trip car care tips for your vehicle:
Get an oil change (and swap out that filter).
It can be exciting to hit the road as soon as possible, but be sure to check your vehicle’s oil and have it changed before you start racking up the mileage. Highway driving can be easier on a car, but it’s better for the health of your engine to get an oil change if your total trip mileage brings you close to 7,500 miles with your current oil.
Check your tire pressure and tread depth; don’t forget the spare!
When it comes to where the rubber meets the road, correct tire pressure and plenty of tire tread depth will be crucial. Ensure your tires are in good shape and ready to handle any weather conditions you may encounter on your trip.
While we’re on the topic of tires, now’s also a good time to check the pressure and tread of your spare tire. You may think it’s not needed, and ideally, it won’t be, but it never hurts to be ready for anything.
Make sure your wipers are in good condition.
If you’ve been using the same set of windshield wipers for a long time, it’s important to make sure they don’t streak and impair your vision while driving. There’s no worse time to realize that your wipers are subpar than when it’s torrentially downpouring, and the traffic around you is slowing down. Do your future self a favor and replace them now if they’re too streaky.
Double-check your headlights.
Did you know the average American vehicle generates only 22% of available light due to yellowing headlight casings? If you plan on driving into the night, it’s essential to consider the quality of your headlights. Restoring them can remove any cloudy or yellowing appearance, resulting in a significant increase in the total percentage of light generated.
Oh, and don't forget to refill your windshield washer fluid. You'll definitely thank yourself later.
Don’t forget the fun stuff!
If you’re going for a long road trip, your car should be stocked with everything you’ll need to get by. That means snacks, devices, and the right music for cruising down the highway. If you can manage to take some unplanned stops (especially if you have kids), then make a plan of roadside attractions to visit. Better yet, make a game out of the trip by having your kids keep an eye out for something that piques their interest. You’d be surprised by the kinds of silly fun that happen with a child as your navigator.
One of my favorite items to keep in my car during a trip is a hammock. Since I love to explore nature with spontaneous hikes, it’s great to have in case I want to take a bit to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Essential Items to Keep in Your Car
Beyond your belongings, snacks, and drinks, there’s enough to consider keeping stocked in your car that it deserves its category. If you’ve ever bought a pre-packaged emergency kit, then you may have the necessities covered. But if not, or if you’re looking to cover all your bases, then make sure you have the following items on your road trip:
- Tire jack and tire iron
- Jumper cables
- Multitool/Swiss Army knife
- Owner's manual
- First aid kit
- A physical map
- Cash and change
- Water bottles
- Paper towels/tissues
- Spare set of clothes
Of course, your needs will vary depending on the length and distance of your trip. You may have some or most of these items ready to go. It never hurts to make sure you have all the bases covered and everything in its proper place before traveling.
What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down
Pretend that you’re in the middle of a day’s drive and your car starts having issues. What do you do, and how can you keep it from derailing your trip?
The most immediate thing you should do is pull over if you notice anything wrong with your car. It doesn’t matter if it’s your drive quality or something evident like smoke coming from under the hood; pull aside and turn on your hazard lights to signal to other drivers. Depending on the road or highway you’re on, it may be unsafe to exit your vehicle. Try to get as much distance between your car and the road as possible while remaining on flat, stable ground, then get out.
Before calling for assistance, take note of where you are. If you have cell service, you can find your GPS location for more precise directions to your location. Once you’ve called a mechanic or a service like AAA, be sure to remain with your vehicle. If you have to abandon your car, make sure to leave a white cloth or plastic bag tied to your driver’s side door handle or hanging out of your window. This practice helps notify emergency services that you and your passengers have received help, and you will return for the vehicle when possible.
Keep Your Car Clean Before and After the Trip
Once your road trip is complete, your vehicle will likely need a quality wash and detail to bring it back up to your standard. These can range from a thorough interior clean, complete with a wipe-down of surfaces and vacuuming from front to back. If you plan on bringing your pet with you, then you might need to have their hair removed from your seats. And, of course, the exterior of your car will most likely require an overhaul, from the cleanliness of its body to finer details like tire shine and trim or running board restoration.
If you’re interested in getting your car cleaned before and after your next road trip, then you can’t beat the convenience of a Spiffy service. Our professional technicians bring the equipment right to your home or office so that you can focus on packing during a car wash, detail, or oil change.
Get $20 off your first appointment before you hit the road!