Learn These Basic Car Maintenance Skills Before a Road Trip

hand holding air hose to inflate tire for pressure
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  • Beginner
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What You'll Need
Car Kit
First Aid Kit
Air Pressure Gauge
What You'll Need
Car Kit
First Aid Kit
Air Pressure Gauge

Before you head out on your next big adventure, make sure your car is in great condition and ready for the drive. Take it from someone who's spent thousands of hours on the road (and a good chunk sitting on the side of a highway)—it's important to make sure your car is road trip ready before you head out.

While it's important to have your car regularly serviced, there are a few things that you can do on your own to make sure that your car can handle the drive. First, it's really important that you keep track of your car's service schedule and all of the maintenance that has been done and needs to be done.

We use the Notes App on our phone to record everything from tire rotations and oil changes to big things, like replacing our mass air flow sensor.

Keeping track of your car's health history keeps you on top of maintenance before a problem arises, and is good to have in case you find yourself sitting in a mechanic's shop halfway through your road trip.

Tire Maintenance

hand with pressure gauge checking tire

You should always check the air pressure in your tires before a road trip. Fluctuating weather temperatures mean fluctuating air pressure in your tires. Newer cars will have automatic air pressure readings available to you from the dash, but older cars will have to be checked using a good old-fashioned tire pressure gauge.

Know where your tires need to be sitting pressure-wise (we keep this info handy in our phone's Notes App) so you can fill up at a gas station if you need to.

When you get your tires rotated, ask your mechanic to check for wear and tear and to the best of your ability, check for wear and tear on your own before you leave. Always keep a spare tire handy because you never know when you're going to need it on a trip.

Wipers

hands holding new wiper blades for replacement

It's an easy fix that can make a huge difference: replacing your windshield wipers and wiper fluid. Before you get on the road, make sure your front and back wipers are in working order and that the fluid is completely full.

It's really easy to add fluid yourself and it's super inexpensive. But a trip without working wipers and fluid is a nightmare, so make sure you check before you leave.

Brakes

Brakes are essential for car safety, so make sure you're having them checked by a mechanic regularly. Before you go on your trip, test your breaks and pay attention to how they are working.

If something feels off, get them checked. Any new noises are also important to get checked out. Sometimes breaks start squealing because of rocks or debris, but sometimes the problem is more serious.

Replacing Lights

hand holding replacement bulb to change headlight

If any lights come on in your car at any point, it's good to get to the bottom of the problem but this is especially important before a road trip. Check your owner's manual to see what each light means or look it up online (most car manuals can be found online these days).

Some warning lights can be taken care of in your garage, some need the help of a mechanic to be fixed. Regardless, it's important that any warning light be taken seriously. We recommend keeping items like jumper cables and a portable tire pump in your car to help you manage these warning lights while on the road.

You can purchase a compact and affordable car maintenance kit that will include many of the essentials you need when a warning light comes on.

Along with all of these tips and tricks, we recommend that you keep a car first aid kit with you at all times, and include blankets, water, some food, and a road flair if you are driving in snowy winter weather. It's important to be prepared especially during times of the year when unpredictable weather can make the drive dangerous.