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Car Maintenance Checklist for Road Trips

Updated on March 22, 2013
On the road again...
On the road again... | Source

Don't Begin Your Trip Without Going Through This Checklist First

Before you hit the road, there are some things you need to make sure you do to make sure you are safe in your travels. Not only do you need to make sure you vehicle is functioning at it's best, you need to have certain things in case your trip takes a turn for the worst.

Engine Oil

Your oil needs to be changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever one comes first. If your taking a long enough trip, you are probably going to surpass the 3,000 miles since your last oil change. The best thing you can do is to change your oil and filter just before you hit the road. This will keep your vehicle running at its best which will also help you out with your gas mileage and save you money.


Check and top off all of your engine fluids. This includes windshield washer fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and brake fluid. Do not check these fluids right after turning the vehicle off. Your car needs to be cooled off to check the fluids accurately.

Get your vehicle road trip ready
Get your vehicle road trip ready | Source

Hoses & Belts

Look for any cracks, frays, tears or leaks in your engine hoses and belts. If any of them have issues, replace them before you begin your long trip. Also, be sure that belts are properly fitted. They should not be excessively loose or "floppy".


Take your vehicle for a drive and listen for any strange noises when you apply your brakes. If you do hear anything, you need to take your vehicle to a mechanic before your trip to ensure your brakes are functioning properly and safely. Worn out brake pads can be disastrous on the highway.


Inspect your battery for any signs of corrosion and have your battery tested before any long trips. You can usually bring it to Auto Zone, OReily's, Walmart or any mechanic shop to have it tested for free. It is as simply as hooking the battery up to a machine and running the test. This will let you know how good your battery is and how much life it has left. This will give you an idea of whether you will need to replace it or not before your road trip.


Check the pressure in your tires to be sure there is enough air in them and that there isn't too much. You will also want to check the tread on your tires to make sure they are not too bald or unevenly wearing. Tires with too little tread can be very dangerous. Tires need to be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles so that the tread is getting worn evenly on all tires. If you haven't had them rotated in the last 6 months or so, I suggest doing it before your trip. If all else is good with your tired, your final check is to make sure they have no leaks or small holes.

Jumper Cables
Jumper Cables | Source

Spare Tire

Make sure you have the correct spare tire and car jack for your vehicle available. You shouldn't need it if you have checked your tires and replaced them if needed before your trip. However, sometimes you are going to hit a piece of metal, glass etc. and get a flat tire. You need to have the proper equipment and knowledge to change your own tire in case you ever need to. Learn how and practice changing a tire before you ever venture out on a long drive.

Know Your Vehicle

There are so many areas you will pass through on the road that have extremely long stretches with nothing around. One of the worst things that could happen in these deserted areas is to run out of gas. You need to know how many miles per gallon your vehicle needs and more importantly how many miles you have left once your gas light comes on. Knowing these things will help you better decide when you need to get gas if you are entering an area where there will not be gas stations for a certain number of miles.

Gas Can

If you do run out of gas, regardless of how prepared you were, you don't want to be walking down the road looking for the nearest gas station. If you are traveling with a truck or SUV, strap a gas can full of gas to your vehicle. You should have a gallon at the least and optimally about 5 gallons of gas. If you are driving a car, I would not suggest putting a gas can inside the vehicle with you since the fumes can be dangerous.

Bridgestone and Travel Road Safety Kit with Carry Case
Bridgestone and Travel Road Safety Kit with Carry Case

This kit has everything you could possibly need to keep you safe in your travels


First Aid / Emergency Kit

You need to have a first aid and emergency kit in your car at all times and especially during road trips.

Your kit should contain:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares
  • Warning Triangle
  • Flashlight
  • A Blanket
  • Change of clothes
  • Air Compressor
  • Tire Gage
  • Batteries
  • A Poncho
  • Extra Fuses
  • Medical Tape
  • Bandages
  • Cell Phone
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Gloves
  • Ibuprofen
  • Water
  • Any Medication for Conditions
  • Thermometer

Vehicle Insurance

Make sure your insurance is up to date, current and adequate to cover all of your needs. If you don't have roadside assistance, you might want to add it, at least for the duration of your trip. You should have your drivers license, current registration and current insurance card with you during your trip.

Road Map

You may have an iPhone, Android, Garmin, etc. with all kinds of gadgets including a GPS. But, what happens when the battery dies, you don't have service or your gadgets just stop working? You need a back up plan so that you don't end up lost. Make sure you have a road map in your car. Also, it is a good idea to have the directions to your destination written down or printed out from a site like MapQuest.

Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law is that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. So, make sure that you are prepared for anything that comes at you on your road trip with this car maintenance checklist.


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    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

      It's definately not fun to be stranded. I'm glad my tips could help.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Learninginlife. This is quite a comprehensive list of "get ready" items. You have hit all the troubling possibilities that have come along as I learned the hard way. One of our family cars had a cracked engine block from running the oil too low. Yipes. I can tell you some doozies about running out of gas, many times. Once, we were camping way out in the boons and we got a flat tire. We had to walk several miles to get it repaired. There was no spare tire. And on and on. You are absolutely right about making sure the car is road ready first.