Road trips are as American as apple pie. From an actual potato museum to the largest baseball bat in the world, from Standin’-On-A-Corner-In-Winslow to the Jungle Room at Graceland, there are endless sites to see on a cross-country road trip. But none of these historic, tourist, or unusual sights matter if your car can’t get you there safely. So before heading off on your next trip, make sure you check and pack the following items so that your big adventure doesn’t turn into a big nightmare.
Whether you’re off to grandma’s country house or to see the world’s largest ball of twine, the DMV suggests that you visit your mechanic before a road trip to ensure that everything is in good working order. Neglect this preventative measure and you may find yourself weeping at a greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere instead of snapping selfies with the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Here are some of the most important things to check on your vehicle:
- Check the oil, transmission, coolant/antifreeze, brake, and windshield wiper fluid levels and replenish if necessary.
- The average lifespan for most batteries is 2-5 years, so ask your mechanic to test it and replace it if required.
- Are they properly inflated, are the treads good, and have they been rotated and balanced recently? Also, make sure you have a properly inflated spare as well as a jack in the trunk.
- Have a chipped or cracked windshield repaired or replaced before you leave. Not only can you get ticketed in some states, but a small crack could easily grow into something much larger when you’re spending all that time on the road.
- Windshield wipers. Unless you’ve recently done so, replace the wiper blades to ensure good visibility should it suddenly rain.
- Heat and air conditioner. Double check that these are in good working order; there’s nothing like driving through the desert with no A/C.
- Verify that all the signals blink, the brake lights work, and your high and low beams go on.
- Tune up. While you may be able to do the above points on your own, you’ll want to take your car to a service shop to get a full tune up and make sure you didn’t overlook anything.
In Case of Emergency
Of course, it’s not really a road trip unless the unexpected occurs, but hopefully the unexpected will involve bumping into your favorite actor at a roadside diner, not a ravenous bear in Yellowstone Park. Allstate provides an extremely comprehensive car emergency kit list, but if the size of your vehicle is closer to a Mini Cooper than a Chevy Tahoe, you’ll want to at least include a kit with the following emergency items:
- Car charger for your mobile phone
- Reflective triangle and flares
- LED flashlight with extra batteries
- A fully-stocked first aid kit and any necessary medications (have prescriptions updated and filled before you leave)
- High-calorie and/or high-protein, nutrient-dense food items like energy bars, nuts, and crackers
- Water for all passengers
- Sand or kitty litter for traction in slippery situations
- A foldable army or camp shovel
- Ice scraper and/or sunshield
- Extra warm, dry clothing for winter excursions and sun hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and bug repellent for summer trips
- Space and heat-saving reflective blankets or sleeping bags
If you’re traveling with children, include plenty of sanity-savers like coloring books, crayons, extra batteries for mobile game devices, low-tech games, and snacks to keep them happy and out of your hair while you’re driving.
Know Where You’re Going and How to Get There
These days most people completely rely on their vehicle or smartphone GPS system to get them to their destination, and it’s pretty amazing how accurate they usually are. But we all have a story about a GPS unit insisting that the raging river ahead is actually the highway onramp we are looking for. So yes, do program your GPS app with all the places you plan to visit, but to be on the safe side, bring a paper map or Thomas Guide.
Taking care of these important points before your next road trip can keep your focus on the fun rather than the emergencies.