Summer is almost here, and many of us are thinking about heading out on the road at last. A road trip can be a fun way to travel, providing a chance to see the country while getting you to your destination. But can your car handle it? Here’s how to check on your car safety before hitting the road.
How to tell if your car can handle a road trip safely
Most cars that have passed their state inspection and run fine every day should be good to go on a road trip, Complete Car Comfort points out. However, cars that need constant repairs and new parts when they’re at home probably shouldn’t go on long drives. The question is less “How old is your car?” and more “How reliable is your car?”
Your older car should be well-maintained with oil changes and service visits. The owner’s manual recommends which services you should get at a specific mileage. Having high mileage on your vehicle could also mean some parts are nearing the end of their lifespans. However, regular maintenance can replace parts before they cause a breakdown.
If you want to take a road trip in your old car anyway
Though a problem-free newer car should be less likely to give you trouble than an older car, you can still take your old car on a road trip. A Jalopnik writer drove a 1970 BMW 2500 from Seattle to the Washington, D.C., area in 2018. He recommended thinking of a long trip as a series of small trips to help make it seem more possible.
He also recommended preparing the car with any necessary repairs and bringing supplies to handle some of the on-the-road fixes you might need to take care of. It’s also a good idea to check the oil and coolant levels each time you stop and keep an eye on any part that might be a concern. And it helps to drive in good weather.
How to prepare your car for a safe and smooth road trip
No one wants to deal with car trouble on a road trip. To try to avoid that, here are a few tips from Allstate to follow before you leave:
Check the car’s fluids and top off anything low. That includes checking power steering fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, and antifreeze (engine coolant). The antifreeze might need to be replaced if it’s clear or has specks floating in it. And if the car is nearing its next oil change, take care of that before your road trip. Older often burn more oil or develop a coolant leak, so fluids are something to keep an eye on.
Check the battery to make sure there’s no corrosion and that all connections are tight. If the battery is over 2 years old, you should have a mechanic check it once a year.
Belts and hoses
Inspect the belts and hoses to make sure everything is tight and not frayed or cracked. Refer to the owner’s manual to see how frequently you should replace the car’s belts and hoses.
You may also want to replace the engine air filter if it’s dirty or has debris in it. The car will accelerate better with a clean filter.
Also, make sure the windshield wipers are still good. Consumer Reports recommends replacing them every six months.
Check the lights, inside and outside the car, to make sure everything is working.
Heat and A/C
For your comfort on a long road trip, make sure the heat and air conditioning are working too.
Horn and seatbelts
For your safety, ensure the horn and seatbelts function properly.
Have the car’s brakes inspected, especially if they feel soft or squeak.
Check your tire pressure because it can affect fuel efficiency. Perform this task when the tires are cold. Don’t forget to check the spare tire too. Insert a penny into the tread to make sure the tires don’t need to be replaced. If the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible, the tread is worn, and you should replace the tires. Some uneven wear could mean you should rotate the tires or perform an alignment.
Be prepared for emergencies with a fire extinguisher, first aid supplies, jumper cables, and flashlights.
Also, because you’re planning to spend a lot of time in your car, give it a good cleaning before you leave. Make sure it’s organized and comfortable. You can even add aftermarket tech upgrades.
Before setting off on your next road trip, consider your car to make sure it will provide reliable transportation. An older vehicle can complete a long trip, but you should give it a full checkup and make any necessary fixes. With car worries out of the way, you’ll be able to enjoy your travel.