You’ve been dreaming and planning about hitting the open road and going on a full-fledged road trip. Maybe you want to do a cross-country expedition and see the sights, or you want to head up and down the coast and find a new beach to soak your feet in every day. Whatever your dream is, you want to make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.
Check out our road trip car checklist before you hit the road. The last thing you want to do is be unprepared or deal with issues when trying to have an adventure of a lifetime.
Fill up your tank and check your fluids.
Before hitting the road, of course, you need to fill up your gas tank. Your vehicle needs gas to keep going for long hours on the road.
Aside from filling up your gas tank, check your engine oil as well. It may be time to change your oil. A good rule of thumb is to replace the oil in your car before you rack up several thousands of miles on your vehicle.
It’s also a good idea to check your other fluids, such as your windshield washer, engine coolant, and power steering and transmission fluids. You’ll want every part of your vehicle to be at its best while on the road.
Check your filters.
You don’t want to forget to check your filters before a long drive. Your engine air filter helps keep out any extra materials or debris from your engine. If your engine air filter is dirty, it might be time for a change. Be sure to check your engine air filter and replace it if needed before your road trip.
Another filter to check is your car’s cabin filter. You want to breathe fresh while in your car for long periods. You may be able to use a vacuum to remove dust or use a cleaning solution that helps you rinse it out.
Changing your filters can help with overall efficiency and performance.
Make sure your tires are full.
If the air in your tires is a bit dull and flat, it can have a negative impact on the car’s fuel efficiency. When on a road trip, you’ll want to maximize efficiency while on the road, so be sure to check your tire pressure ahead of time.
Many new vehicles will let you know if the tire pressure is getting into the danger zone, but if you have an older car without alerts, you’ll want to check yourself.
You can get a pneumatic gauge to check where your tires are at. Review your car owner’s manual to understand the recommended tire pressure for your types of tires, and if needed, find the nearest air pump at a gas station and fill up your tires with air.
Don’t fill up your tires any more than necessary, and make sure you have a spare tire ready to go.
Look at your car’s battery.
You’ll want to check your car’s battery before a road trip. Your battery is a crucial part of keeping everything running in your car, so you want to check it before your road trip.
Make sure your battery is clean, and there is no battery corrosion. Additionally, ensure your car battery is secure and in place. If you start to hear out-of-the-ordinary sounds, such as cranking, it might be time for a battery replacement.
If you expect to park your car for a while at one of your pit stops, make sure to start your car and run the battery every so often.
Take a look at the belts and hoses.
Before going on a road trip, take a look at the belts and hoses under the hood of your car. You want to make sure that the belts are tightly secured. You also want to see if there is any damage, such as cracks or frays, that can affect the belt.
Also, while you’re under your car’s hood, check the hoses for any leaks or holes, as they could cause issues later if not addressed or fixed now.
Test the brakes.
Having your brakes work properly is key to having a safe road trip. Your brakes can prevent accidents and help keep you and others safe.
Ask yourself: Can you fully engage the brake? Are there any weird sounds when you use the brake?
If you hear a high-pitched sound when you brake, you should get your brakes checked out by a professional before heading out on your trip. The professional can advise you if your brakes need maintenance, replacement, or just some brake fluid.
Check out the electrical equipment.
As part of your regular car maintenance, you should remember to check out the electrical equipment in your vehicle. You should ensure everything is in good shape before your road trip, too.
Double-check: Are your lights still working? Is your dashboard still working? Do your turn signals work?
Make sure all the electronics on your vehicle are good to go so you can safely drive. You don’t want to be caught for a surprise when you’re on a remote road or far away from the nearest repair shop.
Consider getting roadside assistance coverage.
Before going on a road trip, you want to think of any issues that may arise. You want to hope for the “best” but plan for the “worst” too, because you just never know.
One way to protect yourself is to get roadside assistance coverage.
Roadside assistance can help you if you get stranded or have any issues while on the road. Metromile offers roadside assistance assurance for a few dollars a month and includes car battery jump-starts, locksmith services, tows, and more.
The bottom line
Before hitting the road for a grand adventure and finalizing your epic playlist, do your due diligence to make sure your car is safe and in good shape for long trips. Using this road trip car checklist can give you everything you might need to have a safe and fun road trip.
Having the right auto insurance is also essential before you drive.
Metromile’s pay-per-mile auto insurance provides the same great coverage you’re used to with some potential added savings.
Drivers can save 47% a year on average when they switch to Metromile, according to a 2018 survey of drivers who saved with Metromile. Get a free insurance quote, and see if pay-per-mile insurance is right for you with Ride Along™, a free trial available on the Metromile app. You can earn up to an extra 15% off your Metromile quote after showing you’re a safe driver (you’ll need to keep your current insurance provider for the 17-day trial to maintain coverage) in select states.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.