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Things to Do Before You Go on a Road Trip

Updated on June 19, 2013

A Little Prep Work Goes A Long Way

Road trips are part of the history of America, from traveling down Route 66 to driving cross country to get to college (see, for example, When Harry Met Sally, The Sure Thing, etc.).

When I was growing up, my parents would pack the kids in the station wagon. One year, we went up the coast to Canada. Another year, we did a tour of the Southwestern United States. And while gas prices have curbed the trend somewhat, it is still a favorite way for many to get from one place to another.

Whatever your car looks like, though, taking a few simple precautions before you go can save a lot of grief during the trip itself.

Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated - All Four of Them

The owner's manual will tell you what the recommended tire pressure is or it might be on a sticker in your car. Make sure your tire is at the correct pressure. This is NOT a case of more is better. You should definitely replace your tire if:

1) there are any bulges

2) you see visible cracks in the tire

3) the tread is worn down

Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge

Highly rated by hundreds of users at, this handy gadget will give you the information you need on an easy to read LCD screen. And if you find that the tires need to be inflated, you can head on over to get free air at your local gas station.

Campbell Hausfeld RP4100 120-Volt Inflator
Campbell Hausfeld RP4100 120-Volt Inflator

If you do not want to go to your local gas station, you can always chuck one of these in the trunk to make sure you have the ability to pump up the volume on your tires any where, any time.


Have the Equipment to Change a Spare

All of these should be in your trunk.

  • a spare tire
  • a working jack (make sure you have all the parts)
  • flares - several
  • work gloves
  • good quality flash light with new batteries
  • a ratty apron or shirt that you don't mind getting oil all over
  • tarp or old blanket

Create an Emergency Kit

You should already have one in you car in case of an earthquake, tornado, flood, or whatever. However, if you have not already done so, make an emergency kit and be sure to include screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, duct tape, and rope.

Get Routine Maintenance Performed

Change oil, filter, check air filter, battery, breaks, cooling system. Look at the belts to check for wear and cracks. The rubber hoses (change every four years) Is it time for fresh wiper blades? Top off wiper fluid. lights: brake, head, signals.

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