Five things to check on your car before a road trip

Summer road tripping season is almost here! A road trip is one of our favorite ways to see the world with kids, and it’s also one of the most affordable. However, we’re all so used to driving in our cars that I think we sometimes neglect a few safety measures before taking our cars long distances. Read on for five things you should check on your car before a road trip.

road-trip

Check your headlights:

Yep, did you know headlamps sometimes need replacement? In fact, nine out of ten cars on the road today have yellowed lights that need replacement. If you’ve noticed your lights looking dim in the past weeks, but pushed the worry out of your head, now is the time to take action. The National Institute for Traffic and Highway Safety reports that the main reason for severe night time accidents and reduced driving safety is dim or cloudy, improperly lit headlights.

We recently replaced our factory-installed headlights with SYLVANIA’s SilverStar ULTRA headlights, and the difference is visible (no pun intended!). We had no trouble installing the headlights ourselves: it’s much easier than you’d think. If you’re worried you won’t be able to install them, or don’t want to hassle it, don’t think that way…it’s not hard at all.

Check your windshield wiper fluid:

We once ended up on a long road trip to Death Valley, CA, and realized we were out of windshield wiper fluid in the middle of the Nevada desert. It doesn’t sound like it would be a big deal, but after a significant amount of bug-spatter, we really missed it. And in the event of a muddy or wet road after a rain storm, it can be essential to have wiper fluid ready to clear your windshield. When in a pinch, it’s possible to use water, but it’s easy to fill ‘er up before a trip.

Check your windshield wiper blades:

Speaking of windshields, have you ever had your wiper blades fail on you? It’s not a pretty picture. We once had to make a detour in Tahoe, CA, locating an automotive story midway through our trip…for windshield wiper blades. Without them, it’s very dangerous to drive, of course. When you head to a store to buy some, just let the store attendant know what type of vehicle you drive, and it should be easy to pair you with the right blades. Not sure how to install them? Most store employees are happy to help. YouTube is your friend in this case as well.

road-trip

Check your tire pressure:

Sometimes, when that ‘low tire pressure’ light illuminates on my dashboard, I ignore it for a while. Bad move. We once had to stop and look for a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Oregon because of low tire pressure. Seeing a theme here? We have often stopped mid-road trip for car maintenance issues. Learn from our mistakes! So what’s the correct tire pressure for your vehicle? There should be a sticker on your door with your car’s specs. If not, check the owner’s manual. As a rule of thumb, most passenger cars will recommend 32 to 35 psi in the tires when they’re cold (as in, stopped, not recently on the road). You can check the pressure on your tires, and fill them up, at almost any gas station.

Check your GPS unit:

If you use your phone for directions, make sure you’ve updated any map apps, and have taken care of any routine updates for your phone. If you use a windshield-mounted GPS unit, check to see if there have been any map updates since you purchased it. Usually, you’ll have gotten an email reminding you to update. Hopefully your unit offers free updates, but if not, expect a pretty hefty fee. Is it worth it? I think so. It’s a big bummer to plug a dining option or museum into your car’s GPS unit just to find out that business no longer exists when you arrive at the location. Ditto for road closures or new on or off-ramps.

Pin for later!

road trip tips

What routine maintenance do you do on your car before a road trip?

 

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids

AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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