It’s only early May, but some unseasonably warm weather, the realization that May is the month that some schools start letting out for the summer, and the fact that Memorial Day weekend is only a month away got us thinking longingly about road trips. Be they day trips to the beach or weeklong trips for family reunions or car camping extravaganzas, Americans love to travel by car to places of leisure and millions do so every summer. Soon enough, we’ll be hitting the road in droves…if we aren’t already.
And what needs to happen before you or a loved one gets behind the wheel to take off for desired destinations? A quick safety and maintenance check on the car. And the time to do such a check is now, not the Friday morning before Memorial Day weekend. To get your car or truck road trip worthy, do these six things…
- Get an oil change
First and foremost, get thee an oil change. Even if you’re not quite due for one yet, you might want to get one now because then you won’t have to worry about it once the summer busy-ness starts. (Honestly, I don’t know where the saying “the lazy days of summer” comes from because it always seems like summer gets busier around here as we try to have some fun while the weather is good and the days are long!)
- Check on your tires—all of your tires
Check the tire pressure, including that of your spare and that of tires on your trailers or anything else you might be towing or using. Whether you’re pulling a trailer to sleep in or one that holds boats or horses, you don’t want a flat tire disaster with your vehicle or your trailer.
- Get the windshield clean and be ready to keep it that way
Get your windshield clean, replace old wipers and check your washer fluid. As winter rolls into spring rolls into summer, the windshields around here are filthy messes with the rain and mud and grime built up. They need a good scrubbing. You’re likely using your wipers less as weather gets warmer, and (if you’re like me) that makes it easy to forget you need new wiper blades—until the first summer rainstorm that is. Be proactive and get the new blades. Check the washer fluid to make sure it’s full. Also get the inside of that windshield clean, because that film hinders visibility when the sun comes shining through. Be ready for that sun, even before it’s an issue.
- Check all the lights
Do a thorough light check. This means check brake lights, blinkers, reverse lights, and headlights along with the lights inside the vehicle. And do this for your trailer too. Replace any burnt out bulbs now before you forget and hit the road. Consider cleaning those headlights too. On some cars, the brightness of the headlights can be impaired by film. Finally, make sure your bright lights are working and that they are at the proper angle.
- Is the check engine light on? Are you hearing strange noises?
Address any issues. If the check engine light is on, or any other warning light, get the car checked out now and not just before you’re scheduled to leave. Ditto for any kind of poor performance, unusual noises or even if the car or truck wants to pull one direction or the other. If anything is a small problem ready to turn into a big one, you do not want the big problem to show up while you’re on a road trip!
- Be prepared
Finally, make sure you have an emergency safety kit in your car. We highly recommend a thorough one that includes all of the items listed here, but at the bare minimum, make sure your car is stocked with:
- A portable radio with spare batteries (in case your car battery dies)
- Extra food and water
- A change of clothes
- A stash of cash
- Phone numbers in writing (in case you can’t charge your phone)
For more advice on being ready for road trips that don’t turn into disasters, see It’s the Little Things: Be Safer on the Road by Keeping an Eye on all Those Car Parts We Usually Take for Granted.
And enjoy yourself! We live in a beautiful country! Let’s enjoy it, safely!