Summer road trips with your family and friends are supposed to be EPIC—not held up when you’re stranded by a breakdown. Take a few minutes to check these parts of your car over before you hit the road so the only EPIC you experience is fun and not an epic breakdown.
___Oil level & color
This is one of the quickest and easiest checks to make before you head out on vacation. Turn off your engine, open the hood, and pull out your dipstick. Wipe it off and do the same again; when you’re done, make sure your oil level is between the two lines and that the oil looks red (clean). If it doesn’t, make an appointment immediately and get your car in for an oil change. A road trip with dirty oil or with a low oil level can lead to long-term engine and part damage that can put a damper on your future trips.
Tires are one of the most important safety features of your car; after all, properly inflated tires don’t go flat (unless you run over something) and help you maintain proper traction when you need it. As an added bonus, a tire with proper air pressure can save you money with optimal gas mileage. Check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge and your tire tread using this penny trick.
As far as safety goes, brakes are one step ahead of tires. Test your brakes before you go, and pay attention to signs that your brakes are wearing down: grinding noises, squeaking, soft brake pedal, and when your car pulls to one side. Be aware, too, that brakes wear at different rates so your front brakes may go out before your rears. If you are concerned about any of your brakes, ask your mechanic to check them at your next oil change.
When you’re heading into unknown territory on a road trip, properly working headlights and taillights can be the key to a safe trip (and can keep you on the right roads!). Before you leave, turn on your headlights and make sure they are working. Do the same with your blinkers and taillights. Ask a friend or family member to press your brake lights so people behind you know you are stopping.
Windshield wipers are invaluable during one of our summer thunderstorms—especially when you’re on a road trip. Check your windshield wipers and washer fluid before you start your vacation. Check your windshield washer reservoir and fill as needed.
___Emergency car kit
All these checks should equate to an uneventful road trip (at least as far as your car is concerned), however it never hurts to have emergency supplies on hand for those just-in-case situations. Make sure you have a flashlight (and a spare set of batteries), blanket, jack and lug wrench, jumper cables, first aid kit, and a spare cell phone charger in an emergency car kit for anything that might come up when you’re on your vacation.