How To Prepare Your Car For A Road Trip

Someone once said, "Time on the road makes the gears in your head spin differently." If you're looking to unwind and make this the year of your great American staycation, then you'll want to read this article about how to prepare your car for a road trip! Having crisscrossed, looped, and darted across this country many times by car, SUV, & motorcycle, I am here to help you organize your road trip car checklist into three main categories: your plan, your car, and your gear. With all three of these key areas examined ahead of time, you'll be ready to indulge in some of the greatest freedoms available to us as Americans. There's so much waiting for you out there. Ready? Let's dig in.

Make sure your car is safe before you and the family hit the road this summer!

Complimentary Road Trip Inspection includes the following:

Oil Check

Oil Filter Check

Tire Check

Alignment Check

Headlight and Taillight Check

Air Filters Check

Coolant Check

Brake Check

Wiper Fluid and Wiper Check

Road Trip Inpsection Volvo

Your Plan. Your Road Trip. Your Rules.

Before we even get to the details of how to prepare your car for a road trip, we need to look at the road trip itself. Let's take a peek at the big picture so that we can accurately pin down the essential details. Where are you going? What do you want to do? Answering these questions (and a few others) will define how you prepare your car for a road trip. Ask yourself the following:

How far am I going & for how long?

A journey of a thousand miles is different from a journey of 250 miles. Knowing how much time you plan to spend away will help you cover necessary things at home like turning off the water, paying bills, ensuring pets are taken care of, among many others.

What kind of things do I want to do?

Research and plan! If you love spas, or nature, or history & culture, it's all out there. Search engines love words like "best" and "location." So if you know your route, do some searches for "Best historical sites near ________." Then fill in the blanks for your chosen destination(s). Do the same kind of search for other activities and destinations. Feeling adventurous? Search for "worst," too. You never know. It might be interesting.

Where am I going and when?

This little consideration can make or break a trip. If you're planning to drive to Montana in November, you will plan very differently than if you were traveling in May. Avoid northern or mountain regions into the fall & winter and plan carefully if traveling to the south and desert regions in the height of summer. Extreme heat will take a toll on you and your vehicle.

Having determined your approximate mileage and what you'll be doing along the way, you'll know exactly how to prepare your car for a road trip, including how to manage your timing, expenses, and a rough idea of where you'll get to be spontaneous along the way.

PRO TIP: Talk to someone! When you're on your way or get to where you're going, you might discover a treasure that someone local will reveal to you!
Talk to locals when on a road trip

Your Car. Your Ticket to Adventure. Your Responsibility.

No matter what you drive, your vehicle has to get you there, get you through, and get you home. She is your backpack on wheels, your modern-day horse & wagon, your temporary hotel accommodations, and so much more. The following checklist of how to prepare your car for a road trip highlights key areas of your vehicle that require attention. No matter how new she is or how many adventures have previously been logged, any traveler will tell you that you must get your eyes on a few critical components before you go, such as:

  • Engine Oil - Your engine is about to run a triathlon. Make sure she has the nutrients that she needs to perform at her best. A fresh oil change can help you save on gas, keep your running temperature down, and optimize available torque and horsepower.

  • Engine Coolant - Marathon runners grab water along the way. Your car comes with her own built-in refreshment system, but if coolant is low or a component is compromised, your engine will overheat. Have hoses, seals, radiator (and liquid oil coolers), manifolds, water pumps, and passageways tight and freshly sealed.

  • Starting & Charging - This inspection takes no more than 15 minutes and can save you a very long walk to the next town for a battery - assuming that you'll be able to find one at three in the morning. Make sure that your vehicle's starting capacity and self-charge abilities are in good nick.

  • Brake & Lamp - Key safety equipment includes your braking system and your visibility systems. Make sure to have your brakes inspected for thickness and condition. Additionally, you'll want to ensure that all position lights, reverse lights, direction signals, and projector beams work as they should.

  • Tires & Alignment - Positive contact with the ground in all weather and driving conditions is essential to your safety. Make sure your tires have plenty of tread, even wear, and are damage-free. Make sure your spare tire or road inflation kit is present and working. You may need it!

  • Filters & Wipers - Clean filters are a must if you intend to make the most of fuel economy. They are inexpensive and easy to change. They are always worth the investment. Other wearable items like wipers and wiper fluid must be topped up and inspected for operation. If you can't see, you can't drive. There's a lot of dust, bugs, and weather out there. Be ready!

By this point, you're probably asking yourself the obvious question: "Do I have to do all of this even if I have a new car?" And the answer is yes. A lot of people assume that they can beat on a new vehicle and ignore certain symptoms and signs.

Let me tell you, those 10-degree inclines that go on for 100 miles in the southwestern desert are littered with new cars on the shoulder. Hoods open. Steam billowing. Confused drivers. Whether your car is new or old, a road trip inspection is a must. Don't miss this step.

PRO TIP: Races are won first, in the shop.
Races are won in the shop

Last But Not Least: Your Gear

The duration of your trip and the scope of activities will define what you bring along. Make sure you check with your parts department for cargo-carrying solutions, pet security accessories, and lifestyle/weather protection packages. Regardless of where you're going, the following checklist is a must for any road-tripper:

  1. Bring any and all medications that you take or might need
  2. Bring along basic first aid, including wound care, pain management, allergy medication, skin/burn relief, and animal bite relief
  3. Basic survival tools like a hand-held radio, two days of calorie/water intake, a flashlight, and a multi-tool, including pliers, screwdriver, blade, saw, etc.

Let's face it; if you're preparing your car for a road trip of only 250-500 miles, then you won't need to pack as heavy as you would for an adventure into the unknown for thousands of miles. If you have your doubts about what to bring, just bring it.

PRO TIP: It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
Better to have it and not need it

You Wanderer: There Are No Roads. Only Wind Trails Left on the Sea.

This translated portion of a poem by Antonio Machado captures the romantic ideals of an inspired journey. If you live in Dallas Fort Worth (or any other urban area for that matter), you'll relish in the freedom of seeing urban planning vanish behind you while your spirit charts your new course. But with freedom comes responsibility. When you're out there enjoying the best this country has to offer, keep in mind to:

  • Obey all signs, speed limits, and property postings
  • Respect truckers and give them space - it's their world out there
  • Tread lightly & safeguard protected areas by staying on the trail
  • Pack it in, pack it out - clean up after yourself and leave only footprints behind

I hope you've enjoyed reading this article about how to prepare your car for a road trip. These insights apply to any type of vehicle of any age. Following these steps will help you have a safe, successful, and memorable adventure.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others who might be interested in it, or feel free to contact us and let us know what you think. Before you head off, don't forget to come see us for your complementary road trip inspection! Safe travels!


Take 15% off any services recommended after the Road Trip Check*
*Cannot be combined with any other offers.
  1. Grubbs Volvo Cars Grapevine

    1500 E State Hwy 114
    Grapevine, TX 76051

    • Contact Us: 817-631-9202
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