Over the river and through the woods, millions of people will soon hit the road for the holidays. If you’re one of them, you're probably busy packing your bags and picking out the perfect presents. But don't forget that to get to your destination worry-free, you need to prepare your car as well.
Holiday road trip checklist
The expert mechanics at RepairSmith recommend this holiday road trip checklist. Some steps you may be able to do yourself, but others are best for a professional to handle. They can also help if you’re tight on time with the hustle and bustle of the season. You can even get car repair and maintenance delivered when and where you need it — in your driveway or at the office — with RepairSmith.
1. Check all critical fluids
Do yourself a favor and check your car’s fluids before you hit the road because dirty or low fluids can do a number on your engine and transmission.
- If you’re up to do it yourself, check the engine oil, brake fluid, washer fluid, coolant and power steering fluid, which you’ll find in late-model cars. Be sure to only check coolant when the radiator cap is completely cool to the touch to avoid severe injury.
- Other fluids, including automatic transmission fluid and transfer case fluids, should also be filled and/or cleaned with the help of a professional who has specialized tools for the job.
2. Measure tire pressure – and more
Worn tires can compromise traction, handling and braking performance — nothing you want to risk while on the road.
- Start at square one and check your tire pressure using a high quality pressure gauge (others can give inaccurate readings). If the pressure is not up to snuff with the standard for your car — listed inside the driver’s side door jamb or the owner’s manual — give them some extra air, being careful not to overinflate them.
- Check tires for tread wear using a tread depth gauge. Check tread depth in at least three different spots across the tire: the outer tread, middle tread and inner tread. Most professionals recommend replacing tires when tread depth is 4/32 of an inch or less.
- Also look your tires over for defects such as uneven tread wear and cupping, and inspect the sidewalls for cracks, bubbles or other flaws. If you spot any problems, you’ll want to consider replacing your tires.
3. Take care of known issues and maintenance items
Hearing a funny noise? Tempted to ignore your check engine light? Now’s the time to address any issues. Putting off repairs and scheduled maintenance can lead to big problems, such as a broken timing belt, which will halt a happy holiday.
- Some of the top things to look for under the hood are:
- Wear and tear on items such as belts and hoses, which puts you at risk for a breakdown.
- A dirty air filter, which can affect fuel mileage.
- The strength of your battery, which you can have tested to ensure it won’t leave you stranded.
- Not familiar with the recommended maintenance schedule for your car? Find it in the back of your owner’s manual.
4. Have a professional check the brakes and undercarriage
Brakes and undercarriage systems go hand in hand with safety and reliability. It’s no surprise they should be checked regularly by a trusted mechanic. With full-service car repair and maintenance delivered direct to your driveway or in certified repair shops, RepairSmith makes this an easy one to check off your list.
- To ensure safe stopping distance, most professionals suggest replacing brake pads when they’re worn to 6 millimeters or less. If the pads have less than 3 millimeters of friction material left, and if rotors are worn below the manufacturer’s specification, they need to be replaced immediately.
- While they are checking the brakes, have a professional also check undercarriage systems, such as the steering, suspension and drivetrain, to ensure everything is safe and in good working order.
5. Make sure you can see and be seen clearly
Even sunny places like California get more rain and mixed weather during the winter. It’s important to ensure lights and wiper blades are working well so you can see and be seen clearly, no matter what Mother Nature decides to do.
- Look over your wiper blades and give them a test run. Fraying or streaking are telltale signs you’re in need of a new pair to keep visibility clear.
- Shorter daylight hours mean your car’s lights will be working overtime. Grab a friend or family member to help you check that your headlights, brake lights and turn signals are all working properly.
6. Check the conditions of your destination
If you’re heading to the mountains, make sure to check if snow is expected.
- Many mountain destinations require the use of snow chains under certain conditions and if you’re unprepared, it may be difficult to reach your final destination.
- Many retailers offer snow chains for rent or purchase, and they take up minimal room in your trunk.
When it comes to prepping your car, a little proactive effort will help you go a long way. For more road trip tips, visit roadtrip.repairsmith.com.