Let’s paint the scene here. Work has been stressful these last few weeks, the budget is a little tight at the moment, and you still don’t have quite enough for a down payment on that new Volkswagen you’ve been eyeing. But on the bright side, you do have a few vacation days you’ve been itching to use, so you decide then and there that you are ready to go on a long car trip.
There’s nothing like hitting the open road for a lengthy drive through areas you’ve yet to experience, whether it be along the coast or through the heart of the country (whichever one you choose). Here are a few tips before you start your journey, as your vehicle should be checked to be in top condition. You certainly don’t want any unscheduled roadside stops (unless they’re photo opportunities at glorious scenic overlooks).
A Quick Check-Up
The first thing is to head to the auto shop and have them perform maintenance on your vehicle. Check fluids and windshield wiper condition. Change the oil and get a tune-up. Check the battery holds a full charge. Check the brakes. Check the tires for proper alignment, good condition, and adequate tread. Inflate them to the pressure printed on the driver’s door jamb.
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A Spare Tire
Breaking down on the side of the road with a flat tire is exasperating. Inspect the spare tire in your trunk for correct tire pressure and tread depth. See the tire jack to change the tire. If your tires require a special security key, make sure that it is available. If the spare tire is deflated or damaged, have it fixed. Check tire pressure with a pressure gauge.
Another must is a portable GPS navigator. The GPS will make it easier to find gas stations, lower prices on gas and auto repair shops if necessary. It will warn of traffic congestion and find alternate routes. It can aid emergency services or roadside assistance to your current location. It can find overnight accommodations and places to eat. All these features are readily available on smartphones. As a backup, a paper road map is helpful.
Remember to bring your AAA card or any other equivalent with you on the road for roadside assistance membership verification. AAA services will benefit a road-trip driver, like 24-hour roadside assistance and towing services.
For a long road trip, this is a must as it can help you identify whether that Check Engine light is serious or just a small little O2 Sensor. An Onboard Diagnostics II (OBD2) scanner is a standardized onboard system that vehicle computers use for diagnostic reporting. The OBD2 Scanner quickly reveals the cause of those pesky “check engine” light warnings.
We can buy prepackaged emergency kits, but DIY is much more satisfying. Our emergency kit should include a charged fire extinguisher, emergency reflective triangles, ‘extended wire’ booster cables, two flashlights with extra batteries, tape, flares, first aid kit, work gloves, scraper, a few emergency tools like pliers and adjustable wrench, Swiss army type pocket knife, flat blade and Phillips-head screwdrivers, bungee cords to hold items broken loose, cable ties, a portable air compressor, and a tow rope.
Duct tape is a modern miracle if a minor collision or other cause breaks part of your car away or an engine component holder breaks. Wrapped duct tape will hold the free-swinging part in place, away from hot engine parts and fan blades.
Pack bottled water, garbage bags, tissues, paper towels, and several rolls of toilet paper. Allow for the possibility of spills and car sickness. Also beneficial are pens, pencils, and paper for emergency notes. Finally, your vehicle’s user manual should be in the glove box. Keep a duplicate set of car keys on your person at all times to avoid getting locked out of the car. Make sure you’ve downloaded plenty of games on your phone in case you get stranded somewhere, and always keep a cash stash in case you’re stuck at a station without power.