How to Prepare Your Car for a Roadtrip in 2021

As the weather warms up and inter-state travel becomes safer, it can be hard to not rush out to the car, cash in those vacation days, and hit the road. Families, couples, and even groups of friends are eager to get out of their town and see some new sights. While road trips are one of the best vacation options to opt for, whether it’s a couple of days or an entire week, there is some vital vehicle maintenance that needs to be completed before you head out.

For many people, this will be the first time your car has been on the road for an extended period of time in over a year. Remote work has regulated cars and trucks to the driveway, where they’ve sat for days if not weeks before being fired up for a simple grocery run. A sitting car does not mean it is free from care, however. In fact, the longer your car has sat, the more care it may need before it’s road trip ready.

Make sure your vacation doesn’t turn into a disaster and get cut short due to tow truck fees, unexpected breakdowns, or costly repairs. These quick tips will help you make sure your car is safe for whatever you have planned. Got questions? Give us a call or schedule an appointment online today to be ready to hit the road without any delay.

What To Do If My Car Has Sat for a Year

First things first — how long has your car been sitting in the driveway? If you’ve ran your car at least 4 days a week for the last year, on average, this certainly doesn’t apply to you. If you’ve parked your car and ran it maybe once or twice a week at most throughout the last year, however, you’re going to need to give your car some extra love and attention before it’s road trip ready.

How To Make My Car Road Trip Ready After a Year of Sitting

Battery

If your car has been sitting for a while, the battery is probably drained. Running your car helps keep your battery charged, so check this before heading out and consider getting a new battery if your current one is old and near the end of its lifespan.

Tire Pressure

Sitting cars lose their tire pressure, so either check these before pulling out of the driveway or make your first stop a gas station with an air station before hitting the highway and main roads

Rust

Cars parked on gravel or concrete don’t need to worry about this, but cars parked on grass or even dirt may have had the undercarriage exposed to high levels of moisture. This could have caused rust or corrosion. Get the underside of your car inspected before heading out to ensure you’re not at risk for parts’ failure and major breakdowns.

Fluid Check

Get an oil change. Check coolant levels. How’s your washer fluid? Whether you do it yourself or have an auto mechanic complete a car inspection for your road trip, make sure you check for any and all possible leaks and all fluid levels before you head out on the road.

Belts and Hoses

Although your car hasn’t been running, that doesn’t mean your belts or hoses haven’t been at risk from other sources. If your car hasn’t been run a lot, especially over the colder months, rodents may have found your engine space a safe and warm sleeping area. Ensure that no wildlife decided to gnaw on your belts or hoses while your car sat.

Road Trip Car Maintenance CheckList

These are the best tips for preparing your car for a road trip in 2021. Don’t neglect these inspections or maintenance tips, even if things look fine on an initial inspection. It’s better to take the time now instead of when you’re out on the road and handling the situation as an emergency.

Local auto care shops are available to step in if you need some extra assistance with getting your vehicle road trip ready this summer. Many mechanics offer general inspections and maintenance services that handle the majority of tasks on this list.

Tires

When was the last time your tires were rotated? Is the tread in good shape or are they worn down and bald? What about your air pressure?

Ask these questions before hitting the road. Also check your tires’ overall condition: do you see any nails, screws, punctures, bulges, or anything that looks unusual? You don’t want to have to be changing a tire or getting a tow during your road trip so always, always check the status of your tires.

Fluid Check

Your car needs the right amount of fluids to operate precisely. Check when you last had your oil change or at what mileage: older vehicles should have their oil changed every 3,000 miles or every 3 months regardless of mileage; some newer vehicles can last 5,000 miles or 6 months between changes, so check your car’s owner manual and schedule an appointment if you need one.

Transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant levels should also all be checked. Make sure to top off your windshield wiper fluid, as well.

Light Check

Having a broken headlight, taillight, brake light, or turn signal isn’t only illegal, it’s dangerous. Do a light check before you leave: have someone turn each light on and off while you circle the car and replace any broken bulbs before you leave. This will ensure you have clear visibility, you can signal your intent to other drivers, and you’ll stay safe when on the road.

General Car Maintenance

When was the last time your car got a general tune-up? Take it into a local auto shop and ensure all parts are running smoothly: get the air filter replaced, have all belts and hoses checked, swap out the wiper blades, have the battery tested, check the brakes, and ensure the AC is operating properly.

Before you leave, also have your emergency roadside service info on hand. Whether you have roadside coverage through your insurance or a third party, you don’t want to be searching for the phone number on the side of the road. Add it to your phone or keep it handy in the glovebox, just in case.

Emergency Kit and Road Supplies

Do you have an emergency roadside kit in your car? When was the last time you checked it? Part of preparing your car for a road trip is making sure you have all of the emergency supplies on hand. Many times you can purchase an emergency car kit online, but it’s also possible to put one together yourself.

Supplies like road flares and a flashlight are important for your visibility, both so others can see you and so you can see. Check the lifespan and batteries of your current equipment and upgrade them if you need to. Make sure there is a spare tire in the car plus the tire iron and other equipment used to swap it out safely. You should also have jumper cables on hand.

For personal safety, have a car charger or battery pack for your phone, extra bottles of water, non-perishable food like trail mix or granola bars, and warm clothing. You never know what type of situation you’ll be in if your car breaks down, so you want to have everything on hand that you may need. This includes waiting overnight, staying warm in harsh weather, and having the appropriate nourishment.

Ready to Hit the Road

That’s it! You should be ready to go! A well taken care of car will treat you well — you’ll go further, have less stress, and can concentrate on the trip. Hoffmaster’s Auto Care in Silver Spring, MD is available to make your vehicle road trip ready this summer. Give us a call if your car is having issues or if you just need a general inspection and routine maintenance.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the journey!

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