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Road Trip Planning: How to Avoid a Vacation-Busting Breakdown

Road trip

Road trip planning should take place well before you start to pack your bags for an extended trip. Intensive driving for a week or more can take its toll on any car, even if you have stuck to the regular maintenance schedule. Here is a list of things for you to check before you hit the road this summer:

Review Your Owner’s Manualtire

Careful road trip planning begins by reviewing your owner’s manual and taking note of which maintenance events are on the horizon. These routine modifications include changing belts, replacing filters, flushing fluids and a host of other tasks.

Project the number of miles you will drive on your trip and add that number to your current odometer reading. Any scheduled maintenance that falls within that mileage threshold should be taken care of before you hit the road.

Oil and Oil Filter Change

Heat, air and moisture combine to break down motor oil, which is designed to keep your engine cool, prevent metal surfaces in your engine from grinding together and transfer heat away from the combustion cycle. Change your oil, replace the oil filter, and inspect the coolant level before taking to the road.

Battery Inspection

Use a voltmeter to ensure that your car’s battery has enough life left in it to make it through your trip. If your battery reads anywhere under 12.45 volts, it is operating at a diminished capacity and should be recharged. If the battery won’t hold a charge, replace it before you leave. Ensure that the battery terminals are clean and firmly attached.

Replace Wiper Blades and Fluid

Wiper blades last about 6 to 12 months, and extreme temperatures and weather can take a toll and wear them out faster. Replacing wiper blades and topping off the washer fluid is an essential part of road trip preparation.

Brake System Check

Don’t wait until you’re heading down a steep mountain road to discover your brakes need some work. Before your trip, inspect your brakes, including the pads, calipers, brake lines, the master cylinder and wheel cylinders. If the brake pedal feels spongy or responds slowly, or if you hear grinding or squealing while braking, then you should have your car checked.

Examine Exterior Lights

Check all exterior lights, making sure that both headlamps function in low- and high-beam modes. Verify that the daytime lights, such as parking lights, fog lamps, brake lights, turn signals, tail lights and all other exterior lights, are operational.

Check Tires and Spares

Tires should be rotated periodically, typically every 5,000 to 7,500 miles per the tire manufacturer’s recommendations. If your car will hit that mark within your trip, save yourself some time and rotate them before you go. When you can see the treadwear indicator bars in the tires’ grooves, it’s time to replace your rubber entirely. Inflate your tires to the proper PSI, and double-check the spare to ensure it is in top condition.

Verify Weight and Balance

Your vehicle’s payload capacity can be found in your owner’s manual. When packing your vehicle, keep in mind that the weight of your items and the weight of your passengers compose the payload. Going over the payload threshold can result in tire failure. To avoid handling issues, ensure that luggage is properly distributed in the storage areas.

Road Trip Planning Considerations

Road trip planning starts well before you leave home. Make sure that your auto club membership is current in case you need emergency service.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on road trip planning, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store or NAPA AutoCare Center.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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