Road trips can be adventurous and enjoyable, however, there are certain necessary steps that you should be prepared to take in order to get yourself and your vehicle road trip ready. Here are important tips for you to prepare your vehicle for a long trip, as well as other road trip essentials that you should not leave home without.
Do-it-Yourself Auto Check & Preparation Tips:
- Fluid Check – Checking fluids in your car is an important thing to remember on a regular basis, but is especially necessary before embarking on a long trip. An unexpected breakdown or accident could be prevented if you remember to check the oil, brake fluid, coolant and windshield wiper fluid. Additionally, don’t forget to check the power steering and clutch fluid levels if this applies to your vehicle. Keep in mind, some fluids cannot be checked on your own and must be done by a VW or Audi specialist, like Hillside Imports.
- Tire Check – Use a pressure gauge to check for optimal tire pressure. You will find the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires in your owner’s manual. To check tire wear, you can use a penny. If you insert a penny with Lincoln’s head upside down and you can see all of his head, then your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and the tire should be replaced. Long journeys will wear down tires at a faster rate and the extra heat generated from a long trip could cause worn tires to blow out much easier. Also, the spare tire should be checked to ensure it’s ready to be safely used, if necessary. Also remember to check to be sure you have your jack and tire iron and that they are in proper working order. For tires with a wheel lock key, like Audis and Volkswagens, be sure you have this as well.
- Light Check – Check to ensure all signals and lights are functioning properly. Turn each light and signal on and off while the another person watches from outside the vehicle. If necessary, replace any non-working bulbs. Depending on the vehicle, this could be fairly easy to do on your own, but when in doubt see a professional. In some cases, lights could malfunction because of a bad fuse; replace the fuse if that is the case. In addition, you should check the alignment of the headlights. This can be done inside the garage or by shining your lights on the outside of the garage door or a wall. If the headlight alignment is off, it should be adjusted because poor alignment can affect visibility, particularly while on poorly lit roads.
- Belts and Hoses Check – Heat and age can deteriorate belts and hoses, therefore, they should all be thoroughly checked for signs of leaking or cracks. Belt tension should be checked as well. If cracks or damage is detected, replace any belts and/or hoses you are able to before venturing on your road trip. Some of these should certainly be done by professionals if you’re not sure how to do these on your own.
- Battery and Cables Check – Ensure your battery is in great condition before embarking on your road trip because a dead battery is one of the most common reasons for a breakdown. You can ask most auto parts stores to test your battery for free. It is also important to ensure that the cables and battery terminals are free of corrosion and securely attached. Bear in mind that the typical lifespan of a car battery is between 3 and 5 years.
- Windows and Windshield Check – Be sure that the windows are clean and free of cracks or chips to optimize visibility. Additionally, you should check your wiper blade condition and replace them if they show signs of wear, like cracks.
Professional Auto Check & Preparation Tips:
- Oil and Filter Check – If it is almost time to change your oil, have your technician change it before going on your road trip. Additional stress can be placed on the engine when you go on long trips. Simply adding extra oil is not as effective as getting a professional oil change. Furthermore, the oil filter will be replaced with any oil change as well.
- Alignment – Be sure that your car has had an alignment within the recommended time frame. A misaligned car can cause undue wear to your tires tread, as well as affect the steering and suspension.
- Brake Inspection – Be sure that your brakes are in proper working order and not worn beyond acceptable limits for safety.
- Check the Air Conditioning System – This is especially important if your trip takes you to a hot climate.
- Scheduled Maintenance – If the manufacturer of your vehicle’s recommended scheduled maintenance is due, be sure to take care of it before you leave to be sure that your vehicle is as road trip ready as possible.
Road Trip Necessities
- Emergency Kit – Extra fluids, tools, flares, reflective warning cones/triangle, water, jumper cables, tire gauge, flashlight, extra batteries and blanket
- First aid kit
- Audio books and/or music to make the journey more enjoyable and to help keep you more alert
- Car charger for your cell phone
- GPS navigation that is separate from your cell phone. Your phone’s data is likely to be limited in remote areas and the GPS satellite connection is more dependable
- A paper map in case there is a failure in technology
- Snacks and other foods that support a natural boost in energy and alertness. Avoid tiring junk food
- If applicable, take along your roadside assistance ID card or contact information
- Last, but not least, don’t forget to fill the tank and be sure to pay attention to distances between gas stations in remote areas to be sure you have enough gas to get to the next stop
While road trips are usually fun and adventurous, being ill prepared can put a damper on things quickly and turn a fun trip into a nightmare. Using these tips, you are sure to be prepared for just about anything that can happen on your road trip and ensure that you and your passengers get to your destination safe and happy.
Owner, Hillside Imports
Rene Rodriguez has over 25 years of experience working exclusively on VW and late model Audis. As Hillside Imports owner, and service writer, he’s dedicated the past 20 years to educating consumers about safety, reliability and performance.