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How to Prepare Your Car for a Long Trip

Published by monica on Monday, November 19, 2012

Photo credit by Merlijn Hoek

With the rising cost of airfare and the increasing prices for daily rental cars, many people are making the decision to take their own vehicle when traveling to another location. Highway mileage that most people put on their cars during long trips is actually easier on the vehicle than the stop and go of shorter trips, but it is still important to prepare your vehicle. Taking these steps can help you stay safe on a long trip.

As soon as decide to take your car on a long trip, you should take care of any necessary maintenance. This could be as simple as having the oil changed, or more complicated if you need major engine and transmission work. Most people recommend taking care of major vehicle problems at least a month before the trip. This will give you time for the vehicle to be in the shop, and then you will have the opportunity to discover if any problems still need to be fixed once you get the vehicle out of maintenance.

If everything is fine with the internal components of your vehicle, you should check the outside. If you have any cracks or chips in your windows that impede vision, you need to replace the windows, or have the cracks repaired. Some places will repair chips for free, so it is more than worthwhile to repair a chip that might easily turn into a long crack on a long drive.

Checking your tires is next. You need to check the treads for excessive wear and tear, and if the treads are too worn down you will need to have the tires replaced. You should also check the tire pressure and put air in tires that are too low. A tire with air pressure that's too low may blow out if you are driving fast. Any steps that you can take to avoid tire problems during the trip are essential to being safe. In the event that you do have a blowout, you need to have a good spare tire in your car, and also have the tools that you will need to put the tire on your car.

Next, you should check all the fluids in the vehicle to ensure that they are full. Top off the oil and windshield wiper fluid. If your oil needs to be changed, change it and also clean or replace the air filter. You should also check the coolant in your car. If you are going to a location that has higher or lower temperatures than where you live, you should try to get a professional to adjust the levels of antifreeze and water to protect your vehicle against these extremes.

After checking the tires, windows, and fluids, check the lights and blinkers to ensure they work, as vehicle safety depends on all the lights being operational. Replacing these lights can also help you avoid getting a traffic ticket.

Many people neglect vehicle cleanliness when taking their vehicle on a long trip. You should wash and vacuum out your vehicle. It isn't just a marketing claim for carwashes that a clean vehicle runs better; it's true! Plus, you will have better visibility out of clean windows, and will feel better on the drive having the inside of your vehicle free of dirt and clutter.

Finally, before you go on a long trip, make sure to carry your insurance, license and registration with you. By taking these steps to prepare your car, you will be more likely to have a safe and enjoyable trip.

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