by Christie Stock, president, Discount Tire & Automotive

You know your car should be checked out before hitting the road for a summer road trip, but with so many other things left to do, some folks put it off.  road trip sign

If your summer vacation plans include a road trip, the last thing you want is to have unexpected car trouble that could leave you stranded at the side of the road. Use this pre-trip vehicle checklist to ensure your car is ready to hit the road:

  1. Fluids: Take care of any fluids that may have been neglected over the winter or spring. If you can’t remember the last time you checked, changed or topped off your oil, coolant, brake or transmission fluid, go ahead and swap them out for brand new.
  2. Tires: Have your tires rotated, inspected and aligned every 5,000 miles to distribute the wear and make them last longer. Have them inspected to check for bald or dry, rotted tires. Also, don’t forget to check the spare tire.
  3. Brakes: When the wheels are off, it’s a good time to take a look at the brakes too. Check to see if the rotors are warped or cracked or if the brake pads need replacing. Now is a better time to do it this in the middle of your road trip.
  4. Wipers: Being able to see where you are going is a pretty important detail when driving. If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it’s time to swap them out for new.
  5. Battery: Summer’s excessive heat can be especially hard on a car battery. Make sure your car’s battery and cables are securely attached and free of corrosion.
  6. Buy a road atlas: If you don’t have a current road atlas, get one. Hours and hours of expressway can get boring. Getting off the beaten path can add new dimension to your trip.
  7. Emergency kit: Having a roadside kit will make unexpected breakdowns much less stressful. Make sure your kit includes, at minimum: a blanket, a flashlight with fresh batteries and extra food and water.
  8. Roadside assistance: If you don’t have some sort of roadside assistance program, consider joining AAA. They will tow your car if it breaks down, change the tire if it goes flat, jump start the car if the battery dies and give you gas if you run out.
  9. Pack your patience: Plan your route in advanced and be sure and give yourself plenty of time, taking a break at least every three hours to help keep the driver alert and well rested.
  10. Family fun: When traveling with children, it can be especially helpful to have games and activities on hand. Try playing the license plate game, the counting game, the “I spy” game or the “would you rather” game.

Have fun! Simple preventative maintenance and planning ahead can go a long way toward keeping everyone smiling.