Savvy Library

How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

If you and your family are planning a road trip for your next vacation, then you need to make sure you’re ready for such a long trip. You’ll need to make sure you have all the accessories you need in the car, especially if you have kids to keep entertained! We really like the car accessories from Lusso Gear so they might be worth checking them out to see if they have anything you would find useful. But that’s not all you need to do to get ready. You are going to be relying heavily on your car. Taking such a long trip is a serious test of your vehicle, so you need to be sure it can stand up to the task. As well as making the usual checks, there are other things you will need to do to make sure your car can handle a journey of this length. You need to take care of not only battery but battery tender as well. If you don’t do these tests then your car is likely to breakdown. If this happens then you must have a plan for what you need to do. If you’re in a dangerous location then it would be best to look for a towing service in Stockton (or wherever you are located) so your car can be looked at in a safer place. This way, no one is at risk. Here are a few tips that will help you get your car prepared.

Find Your Owner’s Manual

The first thing you need to do is to locate your cars owner’s manual. This book contains a lot of useful information that you may need while on the road. As well as telling you the correct amount of oil you need for the engine, it also tells you how to jump start the car and how to place a jack to change a tire. Not all cars are the same, so having a manual specific to your car model is essential. If you cannot locate your manual, then you may be able to obtain a copy from your car’s manufacturer by hard copy or to download online. It can also be a good idea to practice changing the tire, especially if you have never changed one on this vehicle before. With the manual at hand, check all the systems on your car including the engine oil and the tire pressures to see if they are within the manufacturer’s limits. Remember to pack this manual in the car when you leave so you can refer to it if needed.

Check Under the Hood

One of the first things you should do is to raise the hood and check the engine compartment. You should be looking for any signs of damage or wear that should be repaired as soon as possible. Check the pipes for the windscreen fluid to make sure they are intact and not damaged; you also need to check the washer nozzles to ensure they are not clogged or broken. Next, check the wiring in the engine bay to see that all the electrical connections are together and that none are damaged. If they are damaged, they should be replaced before you go in case they get damaged by water and fail. Have a look around and see if you can find any leaks or broken components, make sure the air filter is correctly secured and that there are no cracks in the filter pipe.

Spark Plugs and Leads

The spark plugs leads run from the spark plugs to the distributor, modern cars don’t have a mechanical distributor anymore, but the leads work in much the same way. After a lot of use, they can become inefficient and even start to break inside the insulation. It can lead to your car not running properly or misfiring. If you know that the leads have been in the car for some time, it may be a good precaution to get them replaced before you go. The spark plugs themselves are also vulnerable to overuse, they can become burnt or cracked, and this can cause similar problems to a failed lead. You can remove the plugs and visually inspect them to see if there is any obvious damage. However, as with the leads, if they have been in the car a while, it is best to change them.

Engine Oil and Other Fluids

Once you have checked the engine, you need to check the oil level. For this to be an accurate reading, the car needs to be on the level ground for at least an hour, so the oil drains back into the sump. Remove the dipstick and clean with a dry cloth, then replace it and pull it out again. You then need to check the oil level on the marking on the dipstick. It should be close to the ‘full’ mark to be correct, but you also need to check the oil itself. When you look at it, the oil should be clear, if it’s dark or has a while consistency, then this needs to be checked by a mechanic. Apart from the oil, you should also check the coolant bottle to see that the liquid is up to the full mark. If it is low, refill to the full mark, but keep an eye on it in case there are any leaks in the system. It is also a good time to check the brake fluid and the washer fluid. These should also be up to the ‘full’ lines.


Your tires are going to get a lot of heavy use during your road trip, so you need to make sure they are in top condition. Jack up each wheel and visually inspect each tire, both the outside and the side nearest the car. There can sometimes be wear on the inside that you won’t see from the outside. Inspect the tread and make sure there is plenty of rubber still on the tire. If there is only a small amount, then it should be changed as this will wear down during the trip. You should also check for any nails or other damage to the tire and get it repaired or replaced if you find any. After checking the tires on the car, look at the spare, it should be in good condition and pumped up to the correct pressure.


Brake pads and discs are probably one of the components of the car that you will have to change the most. Because of their constant use, they wear down and become damaged over time. You need to check the thickness of your brake pads and the condition of the discs to ensure that they are in good condition. If you wanted to be especially careful, you could get them replaced regardless before you go, just to be sure they are fine.


The battery can sometimes be a difficult thing to check, but you should ensure that the connections on the outside are clean and not corroded. To check the health of the battery, you will need to attach a battery reader. It will be able to tell you if it is charged, and with the engine running, if it is charging. Some readers can also tell you if the alternator is charging the battery correctly which can be a useful piece of information. If any of the readings are not right, then you should seek the help of a mechanic who can replace the battery and check the alternator.

Lights and Electricals

You will most likely spot if any of your lights are not working on your car, but it is best to check the day before your trip that they are all working correctly. In particular, you should check your fog lights as these are not used all the time. If you have any broken light fittings, then you might want to get them replaced as water could get in and cause them to fail. It is also a good time to check the other electrical systems in the car and to fix any that have been broken for a while. You need to check the air conditioning, the fans, windows and interior lights for effectiveness, and have any problems repaired before you travel. It is worth doing this, as the one component that isn’t working may be the one you need on the road.

Additional Equipment

If you have decided to fit a 4×4 roof rack or another luggage accessory, then you need to ensure that they are correctly fitted and free from damage. The racks will come with instructions on the best way to fit them, so you need to make sure they are tight and don’t move. Along with the roof rack, there is other additional equipment that you should take on your trip with you. If you indeed have a 4×4 car, along with the roof rack you can take a look a 4×4 canopy for extra storage. There’s plenty of available options to choose from. You should have some rope in the car in case you need to be towed or you need to tie something. Protect your insurance premiums by having a dash cam in your car, allowing you to prove you weren’t at fault should you get into an accident. If you don’t have a dash cam then Wired Smart did a good comparison on the best ones available so it’s worth a look. It is also a good idea to have a foot pump, and some snow chains, especially if you know that you will be traveling to a cold area. Essentials you should be taking are spare bulbs, spare wipers, engine oil and coolant, and some tools to use on the car if necessary. Many people get stuck on the side of the road because they forgot one simple thing, so make a checklist of all the things you need to take for the car. Check the day before that you have them all and that they are safely packed.

You can never guarantee that nothing will go wrong with your car while on the trip, but by trying to prepare your car properly, you can at least try to eliminate many of the obvious issues. Before you go, it is a good idea to make sure you have breakdown cover on your car and that it will cover you for the whole of the trip. Then if something does go wrong, at least you won’t be far from help.


  • Debbie P

    These are basic yet super important things that you need to check. Thanks for the reminder,these should be checked every couple of months.

  • Barbara

    Great tips to keep in mind. It’s been awhile since I made a long distance road trip. I never thought about the spark plugs.

  • DB

    These are very useful tips. I will definitely need these the next time I take a trip! Safety should always be the top priority. Thanks!

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