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How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

June 22, 2022

Summer is coming, and it’s the season of road trips. Everyone loves to hit the great open roads and visit places they’ve never seen, as well as revisit those that they’ve got great memories with. However, it’s always good to ensure that your car is ready for that road trip, to avoid nightmares; you don’t want to be stuck on the side of a desolate highway late at night. In this article, we will present some of the most prudent preparations to make your car road-trip-ready.

Why should you prepare your car for a road trip? There are plenty of things that can go wrong when you least expect it. These include fuel issues, battery issues, drivetrain issues, tire problems, brake problems, getting lost in the middle of nowhere, sudden illness or injury, and more. Here’s our list of things to check out before you leave, as well as a top tip on how to ensure your car is in peak condition via your smartphone.


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Perform an Exterior Visual Check and Light Check to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

When you prepare your car for a road trip, it should ideally begin the day or two before your planned date of departure. Begin by taking a walk around your car, checking that all is well, your license plates have not fallen off, or worse, been stolen, and that all lights are functional. Check your headlamps in the dipped and full beam modes, switch on your front and rear fog lamps to verify their functionality, and activate the hazard light switch to ensure that all indicators work, including side marker lamps if your vehicle is equipped with them. Have someone check that all brake lights illuminate when you step on the brake pedal, and that the reversing or back-up lights illuminate when reverse is engaged. Remember that it’s illegal to drive with some of your lights dysfunctional, so replace any burnt bulbs and fix any underlying issues before going on your trip.

Check Your Tires

Check Your Tires

Tires are the sole contact patch between the road and your car, and if they fail, all the electronics and skill in the world won’t be enough to save you and your family from an accident. The first step if you want to prepare your car for a road trip is to visually inspect your tires for wear, cuts, bulges, and other damage. Do not neglect your tires, and if they are not in peak condition, it’s best to replace them. If you’re unsure, a professional tire retailer can help.

You should also check your tires’ expiry dates, which can be found via a four-digit code on the sidewall. The first two digits denote the week, and the last two digits denote the year of manufacture, so 2417 means a tire manufactured in the 24th week of 2017. The average lifespan for a tire is widely accepted as five to seven years, as tires break down and degrade over time. If your tires are over ten years old, they are dangerous to drive on and should be replaced with new ones, even if they aren’t badly worn.

If all is well with your tires, the final step when you prepare your car for a road trip is to check their pressure. You can find the recommended summer and winter pressures on a sticker pasted inside the driver’s door sill or within your vehicle’s owners’ manual. It’s worth investing in a tire inflator, as these can be purchased for under $50 and ensure you can always top up your tires, or even fill up a flat to limp to a tire shop.

Check Your Fluid Levels

You should check your vehicle’s fluid levels, not just when you prepare your car for a road trip, but regularly regardless. This includes engine oil, transmission oil, differential oil, brake fluid, clutch fluid, and coolant. Your vehicle’s owners’ manual will provide instructions on how to do this, as well as the recommended fluids, as well as maximum top-up levels. While you’re doing this, pay attention to any leaks if observed, either on the pipes connecting the fluid containers or underneath the vehicle when parked.

Check Your Fuel Level and Top Up to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

Fuel stations are so widespread that you wouldn’t think that you might not find fuel. However, in remote areas, they are spaced far apart, and some might not even be open. So, it’s always best to start your road trip with a full tank, and top it up when the needle is around the 3/4th mark.

Plan Your Journey with an EV

Plan Your Journey with an EV

If you’ve got an EV, you will need to plan your journey around your average range, and the availability of charging points. You should bear in mind that your EV will use more electricity when driving in cold weather, as your heating and seat heaters will be functioning as well. Ditto in hot weather when you crank up the AC.

Even if you identify a charging point in your route plan, it’s always best to call them up and confirm if the charging point is functional, and whether it’s necessary to make a pre-booking. Taking a road trip in an EV is entirely possible, and fun too, if you pre-plan your charging stops.

Phone Chargers and First Aid Kits

Most modern vehicles have ample charging ports, and even older vehicles can be retrofitted with chargers that plug into the 12v power port, or cigarette lighter port. However, one area that many people forget is to take a cable. If you’ve got a family with Apple devices, new Android devices that use USB-C, and older Android devices that are still on microUSB, ensure that you’ve got enough cables to satisfy everyone’s power needs. Don’t forget to take a paper map if you’re going into the wilderness, as all the power in the world is useless without cell signal.

Another critical piece of kit is a well-stocked first aid kit. Organizations such as the Red Cross provide lists of what a first aid kit should contain, and if you’ve already got a kit, you should check the expiry date on any medications in it.

Finally, carry a large container of water enough for everyone, as well as some food. However, you should ensure that your food is well-sealed, since wildlife such as bears have been known to literally break into cars because of poorly sealed and secured food within.

Diagnostics from Your Smartphone

Diagnostics from Your Smartphone

What if it was possible to perform at least some of the above tasks pertaining directly to your car from the comfort of your smartphone, as well as obtain a comprehensive health report on all your car’s systems? That’s possible with Carly, a two-part diagnostic solution that includes the Carly Universal OBD Scanner to plug into your car’s OBD2 port. Connect the scanner, fire up the Carly app which you can download from the official Android and Apple app stores, and you’re good to go. Carly allows you to unlock a world of diagnostics, customization and information avenues pertaining to your car, and the best thing is, it costs under $100. It’s always best to perform a diagnostic test on your vehicle before hitting the road to ensure any hidden issues don’t manifest at the worst possible time. Since Carly is portable, it can accompany you on your trip, as well as be your trusted car diagnostics and maintenance partner for years to come.