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Summer is just around the corner, so it’s time to get your vacation plans set. You’ll need to pick a destination, the hotel, figure out what clothes you’re going to bring, and if you plan to drive or fly. In case you do plan on driving to your destination, check out these five parts on your car before setting out on a long road trip.

1. Check the belts and hoses

A mechanic inspects the coolant hoses on a car.
A mechanic inspects a car’s cooling system. | Getty Images

A broken belt or leaky radiator hose can easily derail your road trip in a heartbeat. If it’s been a while since your car was inspected, check all the radiator and engine hoses. Also, check the drive belts on the engine itself. Here are signs of wear and damage to check for, according to Life Hacker:

  • Shiny spots: Worn belts can develop shiny spots over time, which can cause them to slip out of place. (Also known as “glazing”)
  • Cracks or fraying: Check the back of the belt (the ribbed part) for any cracks or fraying
  • Loss of tension: A loose belt can slip off of the pulleys

If the belts check out, then check on the hoses as well. Here are some of the trouble signs to look out for:

  • Cracks and bulges: Cracked or bulging hoses are likely to leak. Look for cracks around the bends of the hoses and check for bulges when the engine is hot.
  • Glassy or scuffed spots: Heat damage can melt hoses, which causes them to look shiny when the hoses begin to harden. Additionally, rubbing can occur and leave scuff marks behind.
  • Soft spots: Squeeze the hoses near the clamps when the engine is cold to check for soft spots.

If you don’t feel comfortable checking the life of your car’s belts and hoses yourself, be sure to take it to a mechanic to have them checked.

2. Checking the tires is extremely important

A car's tires getting filled with air.
A car’s tires getting filled with air. | Getty Images

Since your car’s tires are the only parts connecting it to the ground, checking them before going on a trip is important. Ensure they are set to the correct pressure – the recommended pressure can be found in the owner’s manual or door jamb. You can also use the penny test to check the tire tread and see if they need replacing.

3. Inspect the brake pads

Although changing your car’s brake pads is quite the ordeal, you can at least check them before going on a trip. Life Hacker says that you can “grab a flashlight, get down to brake pad-level, and see how thick (or thin) the pads are.” If they are less than a quarter-inch thick, they may need replacing.

4. Check the fluids and top them off

A mechanic changes the oil on a car.
A mechanic changes the oil on a car. | Getty Images

Your car typically needs around five to six different fluids filled or topped off before a road trip. Here are the fluids you should check:

  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid (if it’s automatic)
  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Windshield wiper fluid

Checking these fluids is relatively simple as most of them can be checked using a dipstick or by looking at the level. Ensure the engine is cold so you don’t get a face full of coolant when checking the radiator. Also, if you notice any leaks, make sure to have the addressed by a mechanic as soon as possible

5. Inspect the wipers and headlights

A close up of windshield wipers
A close-up of windshield wipers | Getty Images

Before heading out on your trip, check the headlights to make sure they work properly, as well as the windshield wipers. Even if it doesn’t rain, having good windshield wipers to clean the windshield while driving is a good idea.

Inspect your car before going on a road trip

If you plan to go on a long road trip this summer, check these main parts beforehand. There’s nothing worse than getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Otherwise, you might as well look into flying instead.


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