Pre-road trip to-do list

July 2nd 2016 | Benjamin Yong

You’ve packed your bags, asked the neighbour to get your mail and set the important out-of-office email. There’s only one thing left to do before setting off on a road trip, and it’s one of the most important: making sure your car is roadworthy. Follow along with these pre-trip to-dos to make sure you spend more time enjoying the scenery and less time on the side of the highway.

Tires

This is an item on the list that you do not want to overlook. If your tires are under-inflated, there is a greater chance of a potential blowout happening, not to mention lower fuel economy due to the higher rolling resistance of flattened tires. Fill them to the appropriate pressure recommended on the driver’s side doorjamb, and while you’re down there, look for any nails, bald tread or other warning signs.

Lights

You can’t drive if you can’t see. It’s usually pretty easy to tell if your headlights aren’t working, but you’ll want to get a friend to sit in the driver’s seat and turn on all the auxiliary lighting and pump the brakes while you do a walk-around of the car. Replace any faulty bulbs — look up your vehicle online or check the paper guide at most auto parts stores to determine which kind to buy.

Windows

Along the same lines, it’s important to be able to have 100% visibility out of the windshield and all the windows. First give the car a wash to get all the grime off on the outside, and then take some glass wipes — a lightly soaped damp towel also works — to throughly clean the inside. Use another dry towel afterwards to get rid of any streaks.

GPS

A lot of new vehicles come with an onboard navigation system, but some of us might not have that luxury. Save yourself the data charges from using a smartphone version of Google Maps and invest in a portable GPS like a TomTom or Garmin. Prices have dropped in recent years and a feature-packed model can be had for less than $200.

Phone charger

Even if your phone is spared navigating duties, you still want to make sure it’s charged and  ready to go in case of emergencies (and for bouts of Candy Crush, if you’re into that sort of thing). Either bring the USB cord along for cars with the appropriate inputs, or pick up a 12-volt adapter cable from pretty much anywhere. 

Fluids

Open the hood and check that the windshield washer fluid is topped up, and everything else like coolant, engine oil, etc. is at their proper levels. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve last changed your wiper blades, replace them. It might not rain, but you’ll probably have to wipe some splattered bugs away at some point during the journey.

About the Author

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5.

Twitter: @b_yong
Instagram: @popuplights