Preparing Your Car for a Stress-Free Vacation

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Follow these straightforward tips to prep your car for a hassle-free vacation

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The Importance of Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip

Taking the entire family away for an extended vacation and road trip can be an ideal way to enjoy the long summer holidays, but there's a lot to consider before taking your car on vacation. There's a lot of planning that needs to be done before embarking on a vacation that requires a road trip, from finding interesting destinations to making bookings and planning what to take with. Knowing what to do with your car when going on such a vacation is perhaps the most important prerequisite, though - to get to your destinations safely, and be able to sightsee, find fun things to do, and experience as much as possible, you need your ride to be reliable.


Checking Your Car Before a Long Trip

Before embarking on a long drive, you should make sure your car is able to cover extended distances. It's always ideal to make sure your car has recently undergone routine servicing and no mechanical problems have been detected, or, at the very least, been left unresolved. If your vehicle is otherwise mechanically sound, the following checks are a good guideline for both new, and older vehicles:

Whether Old or New, Prep your Car Like this

Whether your vehicle is brand new or a little dated, there are important checks to complete to ensure the dependability of your car and the safety of its occupants during your planned drive. Here's how to prepare your car for a long road trip:

  • Pop the Hood: Inspect the engine bay and various parts of the motor itself. Have a look at the serpentine belt and the battery, in particular, ensuring that there are no tears, fraying, cracks, corrosion, and leaks. This will give you the opportunity to fix or replace any near-broken or critically damaged parts before going on an extended drive that could lead to major mishaps. Regularly cleaning up the parts will also have them run better and last longer.
  • Fluids: While under the hood, you will also want to check the motor oil and coolant levels to make sure there's enough of both for a long drive. These are vital for your car's performance and if absent could lead to more severe damage to the car's powertrain through mechanical failure or overheating. Depending on the type of car, you may also want to see if the power steering, transmission, and brake fluids are clean as they can get dirty and contaminated over long periods of time. Finally, you will want to top up the windshield washer fluid or water, as there will likely be a lot of bugs and dust to drive through on your journey, and visibility is key.
  • Lighting and Wipers: When preparing your car for a road trip you should also evaluate the condition of its head and tail lights making sure that they are all in working order and that their housings are clean. Test the brights, indicators, hazard lights, and fog lights if applicable. Test the interior lights as well so that any that have blown or burned out can be replaced - you wouldn't want the inconvenience of losing something in the cabin at night and having to fumble around. Confirm that your windscreen wipers and rear window wipers are all working properly, too. These should not be doing any of the four S's: skipping, slipping, streaking, or squeaking. Replace these before heading out, if needs be.
  • Tires: Your tires are perhaps the most important constituents to check on your car before a road trip. Firstly, cars are driven by either the front, rear, or all four wheels, depending on the drivetrain they utilize. The driven wheels undergo the most wear and rotating the position of the tires, for cars with an FWD or RWD setup, can be an efficient way to even out tire wear. With that said, the tread needs to be at a legal depth on all four tires, regardless. You will also need to look for damage such as uneven tread levels, bulges, or gouges, all of which could lead to a burst tire whilst driving. Make sure tire pressure is at the correct level, too, and make sure you have a reliable spare wheel on hand, too, in case the worst happens.
  • Miscellaneous: Before going on vacation in your car, take it in for a thorough wash. Dirty windows and mirrors can worsen glare from the lights of other vehicles. It'll also just make the journey more pleasant, and if your car is filled with random toys, clothing, or other items, clear it out to make more room for luggage and reduce weight for better fuel economy. Speaking of weight, also be sure to know the maximum load capacity of your vehicle as overloading can lead to sluggish acceleration, slow braking, and instability in handling - all major safety risks. When packing, ensure that the heaviest items are stored down low to balance out the weight of the car and lower the risk of luggage moving around.
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Vehicle Health
Check Oil Level
Compliance with State Numbers
Check tires
Keep the Car Clean

The Necessary Accessories to Have in Your Car

There is a long list of useful things to have in your vehicle before embarking on an extended drive. Some of these items come already included with every new vehicle, but some will have to be bought separately.

  • Always have your owner's manual in your car as it contains a lot of important information on understanding, maintaining, and fixing your car.
  • Avoid being left stranded by ensuring there's a spare tire, tire jack, and lug wrench in your car to change a potential flat.
  • If you don't have a mobile battery charger, jumper cables will come in handy if your car's battery were to unexpectedly die en route.
  • A first aid kit is essential as there may be no hospitals or emergency services nearby, if you are traveling long distances.
  • A multi-tool and flashlight are must-haves for traveling, not only for possible fixes to the car that could occur during the day or night, but also for general use.
First Aid Kit


Should I evaluate my car after returning from vacation?

Yes, you should run through the same checklist as you initially did to prepare your car for the road trip - especially if you have traveled extensive distances or into rougher terrain.

Should I have a map when going on vacation by car?

It isn't really necessary with how accessible and effective our GPS systems are at present, so having a map will only really prove helpful if you don't have access to these systems. There is, however, some charm to having to navigate the old-fashioned way, if you're on a realy adventure.

What’s the best vehicle to use for road trips?

SUVs are usually the most accomodating vehicles for going on long journeys in, because of their high ride heights, large cabins, and well-rounded practicality. But, as long as the vehicle you are driving is reliable and doesn't guzzle an inordinate amount of gas, you have most of the boxes ticked.

What’s the most fuel-efficient SUV?

With gas mileage figures of 39/35/37 mpg city/highway/combined, the Kia Sorento Hybrid is a frugal and comfortable SUV to consider for family trips such as these.

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