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Ready for the road? Your pre-trip vehicle checklist

Even with the best preparation, sometimes things go wrong while you’re traveling. You can be prepared for that, as well.

Road trips can be a ton of fun, but if you run into vehicle problems, you could endure considerable stress. Our pre-trip checklist will help you avoid problems and enjoy your trip.

We’ll cover everything from preventative maintenance and things to pack to a list of roadside assistance companies, so you’re prepared if, despite your best efforts, your vehicle still needs some help along the way.

Getting your vehicle road trip-worthy
Without a car, you won’t have much of a road trip. That’s why the time you put into getting your vehicle ready will be well worth it. If you’re wondering what to do, read on because we’ll list exactly what you need to check and why.

A battery is a simple repair when you’re home. Most people just wait for it to go dead, jump their car, head over to the auto parts store, get a new battery, and install it. That process is a bit more complicated on the road. 

First, you probably don’t have a local friend you can call for a jump, so you must rely on strangers. From there, you might be far away from an auto parts store, and finding one could throw off your itinerary. 

To prevent dealing with a dead battery during your trip, all you need to do is check your battery before you leave. You can head to an auto parts store or have your mechanic check your battery. If it’s nearing the end of its life, you should preemptively change the battery before it goes totally dead. 

If you’ve noticed squeaking or squealing brakes or any vibration when you brake, get your brakes checked by a professional before putting on a lot of miles. 

Brakes that don’t work correctly are far worse than an inconvenience; they’re a safety hazard. 

From transmission fluid to windshield washer fluid, you should check them all. The number of miles you put on your vehicle during an extended road trip can cause permanent damage if your fluids are low or need to be flushed. 

You can quickly check your lights and signals with the help of a friend or family member. Have the other person stand in front of and then in the back of your vehicle as you try the headlights, turn signals, brakes, and reverse lights. 

You can check when your vehicle will need its next oil change by checking the sticker in your window from your last oil change or by checking your vehicle’s oil life dash indicator. If your car needs an oil change before you get back, you can decide whether to do it before your trip or schedule an oil change while you’re on the road. 

Either option is acceptable, but if you’re due within 500 miles, it will probably be easier just to get your oil changed before you leave.

Properly inflated tires are more responsive and safer for driving. They also improve your gas mileage. And did you realize that if you keep your tires at the recommended pressure, they’ll last longer and wear more evenly? 

In addition to checking your tire pressure and filling as needed, you should check your tire tread. The penny test is a simple way to check your tire’s tread depth. All you need to do is put the penny between the treads with Lincoln’s head toward the tire.

If the tread covers the top of his head, you’re good to go. But if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you’ll need new tires before your trip.

Once you get your vehicle ready, you can focus on preparing what you need to make the traveling fun. 

Packing for hours in the car
Packing and planning are part of the fun of travel. Next, we’ll go over some essentials you should pack.

You should prepare a well-rounded selection of music, podcasts, and audiobooks. You never know what you’ll be in the mood for, so go with some old standbys, some friends’ recommendations, and some new material.

You know how to pack your clothes, but how often have you gotten to your destination and realized you forgot something important, like socks? If you pack a few days ahead, you’ll have time to think through and add things as they come to mind in the following days. 

Don’t forget a waterproof jacket, sunglasses, and underwear.

Snacks can help break up the monotony of the road. Pack snacks that fit these descriptions, salty, sweet, tart, crunchy, and smooth. Crunchy foods like apples, carrots, and pretzels are great for keeping yourself alert.

Not only do you need your wallet, but you need to make sure it’s packed with the things you’ll need. You should double-check to ensure your driver’s license is included, and then be sure you have a credit card and an adequate amount of cash.

Even with the best preparation, sometimes things go wrong while you’re traveling. You can be prepared for that, as well. 

Preparing for Problems on the Road
Before you leave, make sure you have roadside assistance on your insurance. If you don’t, you can add it to your existing policy, or compare options with other insurers or roadside assistance providers. You could also potentially get temporary coverage for a short-term trip.

Here’s a list of some of the best companies to compare and consider for roadside assistance:

  • AAA
  • AARP
  • Allstate
  • OnStar
  • Progressive
  • State Farm
  • USAA

If you run into car trouble and have roadside assistance, your coverage will pay for the help you need, like towing, changing a tire, jumping your car, and unlocking your doors.

Travel insurance
Travel insurance is a way to protect the investment you made in your trip. For example, if you have reservations for lodging and events and you’re unable to make it, the right insurance plan will help you recoup your losses so you can afford your next trip.

Credit card protection
When you use a credit card to book specific travel-related services, your card provider may offer protection for your reservation. Review the benefits of the cards you have, and if you’re in the market for a new credit card suited to your needs, look for perks that align with your lifestyle. 

With the proper preparations, you shouldn’t have to worry about trouble along the way, but if you still end up with problems, rest assured that you can get help and still have the trip of a lifetime.

Content writer - | + Posts

Melanie Musson writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, She strives to help others understand how insurance can help them achieve financial freedom and stability so they can enjoy the things they love.