Five Things You Must Check Before a Road Trip

check on your car


“Did you remember the keys.”

Blank stare.

It was a cold, windy night when we pulled into a parking lot of a gas station in the middle of nowhere. We had taken the wrong road on our way back to Utah and had veered about two hours off course.

Jack had a blow out diaper that ruined his entire outfit. We were trying to figure out where we were.

And we were locked out of our car.

My eyes felt like they were about to burst with tears. The phrase, “If something can go wrong, it will” came to mind.

After an hour of trying to find a place that was open and could come unlock our car, we were back on the road.

And guess what? We realized later that we had a spare key under the car the whole time.

*Face Palm*

I’ve been on enough road trips to know this – not everything goes as planned! There’s been plenty of times where a tire blew, the battery started to die, or something just happened out of nowhere that we couldn’t have anticipated!

Since it’s the summer time, many people are leaving on road trips. While you can never be 100% prepared, before you leave is a good time to check a few basic aspects of your car. You can go in to a mechanic to have a car checkup, but if you want to avoid the possibility of a mechanic trying to convince you to fix things that may or may not be urgent…these are some things you can check at home!

1) Head lights

After awhile head lights can get foggy. There are headlight cleaners out there to help clean them so they perform better, or you can look into replacing them all together. Making sure your lights aren’t burnt out is important as well!

2) Engine Temperature

Forrest is very good about watching the temperature gauge on our car whenever we are driving – especially in the mountains. You want to make sure it is not overheating before you leave on a trip. If you don’t pay attention to the temperature, go drive up a few large bills and make sure everything stays cool. We’ve had our car start to overheat a few times on trips, and it’s never fun!

3) Tires (for holes/leaks, tire pressure, wear on the tread, etc.)

A flat tire is always annoying, but it can also pose some serious safety threats – especially when you are driving on highways during road trips! It’s so important to make sure you have enough tread, and that there aren’t any sneaky holes that could cause issues on the trip. Having good quality tires can make the excess driving people do during the summer a little less stressful. Not only does it make driving safer, but it helps with the performance of your vehicle, it gets you better gas mileage, and it just makes driving easier.

You should always have a spare tire and a can of fix-a-flat ready to go!

4) Oil and Power Steering Fluid

Just do a quick oil and power steering fluid check to make sure everything is at the proper levels. We often will get our oil changed right before a big road trip. If you got one like one month before, you shouldn’t worry about that, but if it’s been several months, definitely consider doing it. Either way, make sure your fluids are ready to go!

5) Wind shield wipers/fluid

I don’t know about you, but we always seem to have bad luck with weather when we go on road trips. Last February, we drove through some pretty bad snow on our way to and from Utah. Last summer we went on a cross-country road trip to North Carolina, and we encountered the most intense thunderstorm I’ve ever been in. We’ve discovered the importance of making sure we have quality wind shield wipers, as well as plenty of wind shield wiper fluid. If you find yourself lacking windshield wiper fluid, most gas stations sell it, but it’s better to get it before you go – when we were driving through the mountains, they were selling it for probably twice the amount they should have, just because they knew people were desperate! It’s also worth it to invest in high-quality wind shield wipers. The cheap ones don’t work great!

6) Battery

Just drop by a local automative store and check your battery. You’ll usually start having signs for a few weeks when your battery is starting to die or go out, but sometimes it can die at unexpected times. Do yourself a favor and make sure it checks out (but always have some jumper cables in your car, just in case!)


I highly recommend having a car emergency kit in all your vehicles. You never know when you are going to hit bad weather, break down in the middle of nowhere, or have something happen. You may never use it, but I always think it’s better to be a little overprepared!


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  • Thanks for this! My fiance and I are going on a road trip to Colorado here in a few months, so this will really come in handy (especially checking tire pressure and power steering fluid for the mountain roads)!
  • I drive 3 hours to my parents at least once a month and I am always checking my oil before I go. About everything 3 months I take it into the shop to check my battery and everything else, especially if I am driving alone, because I don't want to get stuck somewhere! As the above poster said, I would never think of power steering fluid but thankfully they check that with every oil change.
  • Thank you for the tips about car trips. The one I would never think of is the Power steering fluid. Shall mention this to my Hubby when next we go on holiday. Deirdre
    • You are very welcome! One of my cars had a slow leak where you put the power steering fluid, so I'm very familiar with that!

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