If you are planning a long distance road trip, it is imperative to look over all of the major systems in your vehicle to ensure that your ride goes as smoothly as possible. You will need to do more than just a visual inspection before you fill up your gas tank and hit the road. Start inspecting your vehicle at least a week before you plan on leaving, and check off each item on this 12-point inspection checklist for peace of mind:
Your Straightforward 12-point Car Inspection Checklist
#1: Make Sure You Have Your Car Manual
Your owner’s manual can become a beacon of information when you are on a road trip. It will tell you how to locate your jack, how to change a flat and even how to jump start your battery. If any of your interior dash lights turn on during the trip, using the manual to diagnose the severity of the problem can save you thousands of dollars.
#2: Inspecting Under Your Hood
You do not have to be a mechanic to do a visual inspection under the hood of your car. Look at the hoses, check for leaks, look for worn belts, see if anything looks cracked or damaged, and replace any components that show signs of wear and tear before you leave.
#3: Check Your Transmission Fluid
Dirty transmission fluid may be a minor fix, but it can become a major problem on a long road trip. If your transmission fluid is dirty, it can lead to the breakdown of your transmission. Locate the fluid indicator, pull out the dipstick, clean it, and reinsert it. Look at the dipstick and make sure the fluid level is adequate. You should also see if the fluid appears to be dark or burnt. If it looks or smells burnt, it should be changed.
#4: Check Your Engine Oil
Most people choose to have their oil changed right before a trip to ensure that the engine is performing. If there are hidden problems with your engine, the oil can be consumed quickly. Right before your trip, check your engine oil by pulling out the dipstick and see if it is clean. Also check the levels. Bring spare engine oil with you on your trip just in case the levels unexpectedly drop.
#5: Check Your Air Filter
Gas will become a major expense on a long road trip. One way to ensure your car is running as efficiently as possible is to check your air filter. A dirty air filter will make your engine work harder than it needs to. Change the filter if it is dirty to prevent a lack of power.
#6: Check Your Coolant
Did you know that overheating is a major problem on long road trips? Luckily, modern vehicles have engine coolant to cool down the engine as it starts to overheat. Check your coolant tank to see if it is full or low. If it is low, refill the coolant or schedule a coolant flush when the engine is cool.
#7: Power Steering Fluid
You do not want to lose your power steering when you are driving thousands of miles. If your power steering fluid is low, turning your wheel will become difficult. Check the tank for leaks and refill the tank when necessary.
#8: Check Your Tire Pressure and Tread
Your tires are the only component of your vehicle that actually makes contact with the road. You must inspect your tires before any type of road trip. Check the tread depth, look for cracks and bubbling, and check your tire pressure with a tool. Refer to your manual to see where the tire pressure should be before adding or removing air from your tires.
#9: Headlights and Brake Lights
Check all of your lights before leaving. The last thing you want to do is drive at night and find out that your headlight bulb is not working. Be sure to bring a spare for your brakes and a spare for your headlight just in case.
#10: Your Windshield Wipers and Fluid
Bugs and dirt will surely affect visibility during your trip. Make sure to check your windshield wipers and the level of your fluid to ensure that you can clean off your dirty windshield whenever necessary.
#11: The Audio System
Imagine spending days in a car without a stereo. Your audio system will help you pass time on the road. Make sure to check the radio, CD player and speakers. If you need the system repaired, take it to a car audio repair shop or schedule repairs before you depart.
#12: Emergency Kit
You should always have an emergency kit handy. The kit should include jumper cables, a tire sealer, and inflation tool, a tire gauge, a flashlight, water, a toolkit and flares. Bring some snacks for the entire party as well.
Long car journeys can be fun if you are prepared. Make sure that you plan out your itinerary, budget for gas and only leave once your car passes your inspections.