General Car Tips

How to Prepare Your Car for a Long Road Trip: Maintenance Checklist

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Planning a long road trip can be exciting, but it’s crucial to ensure your car is in top condition before you hit the road. Preparing your vehicle for a long journey not only enhances safety but also improves efficiency and performance, helping you avoid unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

This comprehensive maintenance checklist will guide you through the essential steps to prepare your vehicle for a long road trip, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience.

1. Check and change your car’s oil

Engine oil is vital for lubricating and cooling the moving parts of your engine. Before embarking on a long trip, check your oil level and the date you last changed it.

If you’re close to the recommended oil change interval, it’s wise to change it before you leave. To check the oil, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert it, and then pull it out again to see the level. If it’s low, top it up, and if it’s dirty or gritty, consider getting an oil change.

2. Inspect your tires

Tires are your only contact with the road, so their condition is crucial.

Check all tires, including the spare, for any signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, bulges, or bald spots.

Use a tire pressure gauge to ensure each tire is inflated to the pressure recommended in your car’s manual.

Don’t forget to check the tire tread depth; the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but anything under 3mm can significantly impair performance, especially in wet conditions.

3. Test your battery

Car batteries typically last three to five years, but it’s good practice to check yours before a long trip. Look for signs of corrosion on the terminals and clean them if necessary.

You can test the battery charge with a multimeter – a reading of around 12.6 volts indicates a full charge. If your battery is old or shows signs of weakness, consider replacing it to avoid the inconvenience of a car that won’t start.

4. Check vital fluids

Ensure all vehicle fluids are at appropriate levels. This includes:

  • Coolant: Keeps the engine from overheating.
  • Transmission Fluid: Ensures smooth gear shifts.
  • Brake Fluid: Essential for effective braking.
  • Power Steering Fluid: Facilitates easier steering.
  • Windshield Washer Fluid: To ensure a clear view in all weather conditions, check for any leaks, as these could indicate a problem that needs addressing before your trip. Basically, test that your wipers and washer nozzles work.

5. Check your brakes

Listen for any unusual noises when braking, such as grinding or squeaking, and feel for a spongy brake pedal. Both can indicate that your brake pads or discs need attention.

If in doubt, have a professional mechanic check your brake system to ensure it’s in good working order before you depart.

6. Inspect belts and hoses

Check belts and hoses for any signs of wear, like cracks, leaks, or loose connections. These components are crucial for the functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering, and the engine’s cooling system.

Replace any worn parts to prevent mid-trip failures.

7. Prepare an emergency kit

Always carry an emergency kit, especially for long trips.

This should include:

  • First aid supplies
  • Flashlight
  • $100 in cash for emergency
  • Basic tools (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Extra coolant and motor oil
  • Jumper cables
  • Water and non-perishable snacks

8. Clean your car

A clean and organized car makes for a more pleasant and less stressful trip. Vacuum the interior, clean the windows, and organize essential items so that they are easily accessible. This includes documents like your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information.

9. Plan your route for efficiency

Plan your route in advance, considering factors such as weather, traffic conditions, and construction sites. Identify suitable places for fuel stops, meals, and rest breaks.

Use Google Maps, a GPS, or a reliable map app to help navigate, ensuring you have offline maps downloaded in case of poor signal areas.


While some of these things might just seem that you are ‘just looking around the car’, especially if you don’t usually work or do maintenance on your car and you rely entirely on your mechanic, this is absolutely not true. A weird-looking hose identified by a guy just looking around under the hood can prevent a nasty breakdown in the middle of your road trip. So yes, look around! Inspect stuff!

Taking the time to thoroughly prepare your car for a long road trip can lead to a safer, more efficient, and enjoyable journey.

This checklist will help ensure that your vehicle is ready to handle the demands of extended travel, giving you peace of mind as you explore new destinations.

Ready to hit the road? If you found this guide helpful, consider sharing it with fellow travelers.

Car enthusiast. I am dedicated to maintaining my cars as best as I can. I love things that work, and I love keeping them in a good state.

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