Getting Ready for a Road Trip

Car maintenance before travel

Do your holiday plans include a road trip?  If so, you want to make sure your car is road-trip-ready. Taking a little extra time to prepare before your trip can help you avoid breakdowns and traffic accidents.  Many folks can tackle this checklist on their own. Not a DIY person?  You can also bring it into our garage.  We will check all of your essential systems.  If you need it, we can top off fluids and suggest any repairs or maintenance that you need before hitting the road.  If you do need repairs, we handle them quickly and affordably.  


In addition to checking any suspected problem, you want to look at the following things before a road trip: 

  • Battery
  • Belts
  • Hoses
  • Fluids
  • Filters
  • Tires
  • Lights
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Brakes



Drained batteries are one of the most common reasons for people to get stranded. You may have a battery that is struggling but not realize it because of the warmer weather in the Houston area.  Colder temps mean that batteries work harder to get a car started.  To check your battery, you want to start by looking at the connections.  Your connections should be tight and corrosion-free.  If you notice any corrosion on your battery terminals, disconnect the battery and clean the connectors.  Use a wire brush for a chemical-free solution. 

You also want to check the charge left in your battery.  You can use a voltmeter to check the charge on your battery.  Most fully charged auto batteries will be between 12.6V and 12.8V and between 13.7V and 14.7V if the vehicle is running.



Your belts are responsible for moving things in your engine.  If you notice any fraying, cracking, or breaking on any of your car’s belts, you want to replace them.  You also need to check for tightness; loose belts can slip and cause problems. 

Not sure where to find the belts?  Today’s engines are space-saving.  That can make it challenging to find and inspect your vehicle’s belts.  Check your owner’s manual for information about where to find the belts.  No owner’s manual?  You can look up your vehicle’s information online using your VIN and then find your manual online. 



Hoses carry the various liquids your vehicle needs to operate.  You want to make sure that your connections are tight and that your hoses are not leaking, broken, or frail.  Not sure if your hoses need replacement?  Check your owner’s manual.  Many manufacturers recommend replacing hoses between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.



While your engine is mechanical, it uses fluids to stay lubricated and cool.  You want to make sure that all of your car’s fluids are at the right level.  Even in systems that seem closed, like your engine, the liquids are consumable.  That means that they require filling, or at least topping off, on a semi-regular basis. 

Your car will have a recommended schedule for oil changes.  If you are approaching the mileage or time before a recommended oil change, have it changed before you leave.  If your oil levels are low, you may have an oil leak.  You want to have a mechanic find the source of any oil leaks before you leave on a road trip because a severe oil leak can lead to engine failure.

You also want to check your vehicle’s coolant levels.  Coolant keeps your engine cool.  If your engine overheats, it can lead to serious problems, including a cracked engine head, which can be extremely expensive to replace. 

Other vital fluids to check to include power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and even windshield wiper fluid. 



Filters are essential to keep your vehicle functioning at its optimum levels.  You can check your owner’s manual for recommended replacement times for your filters.  However, you should keep in mind that driving conditions and air quality can both have a significant impact on how frequently you need to replace your filters.  Replacing your engine air filter can enhance your car’s performance.



Checking your tires may be an essential part of a pre-trip inspection. Depending on where you are going, you face rough roads and struggle to find safe places to change a tire if you get a falt.  You want to start by checking your tires’ general condition.  Visually inspect the tires for any noticeable cracks, tears, or gashes.  If the surface looks fine, then check the tread.  Not sure how to do that?  Use the penny trick.  Insert a penny upside down between the tires’ treads.  You should not be able to see the top of Lincoln’s head.  If you can, your tires may be too worn to drive safely.

You should also observe whether the tires are evenly worn.  If not, you may have a problem with your vehicle’s alignment or need your tires rotated.

Once you have checked your tires’ condition, you want to check your tire pressure.  You should check tire pressure when your tires are cold.  Outdoor temperature conditions can impact your tire pressure, so you may need to add air when temperatures get cooler. 



As part of your car inspection, you want to turn on the lights and ensure they are all functioning correctly.  Enlist a friend and watch to make sure that your turn signal and brake lights are working. While you are checking out your lights, go ahead and test your car’s horn. 


Windshield Wipers

Inspect your windshield wipers.  They should not be fraying, torn, or broken.  The best way to check them out is to use them.  They should not leave streaks, and they should remove water from your windshield.  You should replace them every six months.  They are inexpensive to replace, but having new windshield wipers can make a huge difference in your car’s safety.



Holiday travel means stressed-out drivers in unfamiliar places.  That means you want your brakes in tip-top condition.  If your brakes have been making any unusual sounds, you could have a problem.  However, your brakes do not have to squeal to have problems.  Take your car for a drive specifically to check out your brakes.  Do they feel spongy?  How is your stopping distance? 

While everyone should inspect before every long car trip, you may have some special needs.  Have you noticed any mechanical problems with your vehicle?  Does your car have any warning lights activated?  If so, get those checked out and resolve those issues before you get on the road.  Ignoring a problem with your vehicle never turns out well.  A minor problem can become an expensive and dangerous issue if left unattended. 

Many people can do a pre-road-trip inspection themselves.  However, if you want a pro to handle it, schedule a visit.  We can make sure your car is in tip-top shape for your holiday trips!