Winter is a season when life often comes to a standstill. Add a pandemic into the mix, and it’s easy to go days and even weeks at a time without leaving the house. This can often leave your vehicle sitting with minimal use.
If you’re thinking of taking a road trip this summer — and who isn’t after a year of quarantine? — you want to make sure your transport is up to the task. Here is a quick checklist you can review in order to make sure that your car, van, or other mode of transportation is ready to hit the pavement when the warmer weather officially takes over.
Give the Mechanics a Once Over
Of course, the most obvious factor that will impact your road trip adventures is your vehicle itself. After a winter of cold weather, snowy driving conditions, and salted roads, your car will likely need a tune-up before traversing hundreds of miles over the course of dozens of hours of driving time.
There are many easy DIY car repair and maintenance activities that you can do to get your car ready. For instance, you can:
- Check the tread and air pressure of the tires;
- Replace the battery if it’s weak or dead;
- Check fluid levels for things like the oil, coolant, and wiper fluid;
- Change the oil and air filters;
- Replace brake pads and spark plugs;
- Check the lights and replace any blow bulbs;
- Install new windshield wiper blades.
You can also look for wear, cracking, fraying, or glazing on any of your engine’s drive belts as well as brittle, extra soft, or bulging radiator hoses. A leaking radiator or malfunctioning A/C is also worth noting.
If you find more serious problems like these, bring the vehicle to the mechanic. In fact, even after doing your DIY maintenance, it doesn’t hurt to have a professional look your car over before you’re depending on it to take you vast distances.
Clean Your Car
Once your car is tuned up, it’s time to consider the interior. After all, if you’re going on a road trip, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in that small, confined space.
Months of winter use can often leave the inside of a car disgustingly in need of a thorough once over. You can clean your car and prep it for heavy use by:
- Washing the outside of the car carefully and thoroughly;
- Emptying all garbage and extra belongings that may have been left behind;
- Vacuuming the inside of the car;
- Wiping down the windows, both inside and out;
- Cleaning the seats with a cleaner that is appropriate for their material.
On the one hand, a clean, decluttered car is a great environment to travel in. On the other hand, a vehicle that is cluttered, dirty, or smelly, can automatically add a level of distaste and even stress to your adventures.
Along with an initial clean, you can also bring several different things along with you for personal hygiene. If you’re going to be in the car for extended periods of time, consider the smell and cleanliness of the car itself. Bring wet wipes, paper towels, garbage bags, hand sanitizer, and — if you have younger children — even a kid potty with bags for when there isn’t a bathroom in sight.
Prep Your Tech and Tools
You’ll have varying levels of tech built right into your car depending on the kind of vehicle that you’re working with. Whatever tech comes with your car should be checked before you hit the road. Built-in navigation systems, entertainment hardware, and even automatic windows and doors should be tested.
Beyond that, consider what other devices and tools you’ll want to bring along with you. Make a list, gather the items, and then stow them away in your car or in a receptacle ready to bring along when the time comes. A few common items like this include:
- A GPS;
- A phone charger;
- A phone holder;
- A tire pressure gauge;
- Spare bulbs for the lights;
- Portable tablets or televisions for entertainment.
Whatever your particular tech and tool needs may be, it’s worth thinking of them ahead of time. That way you can check whatever your car already has and gather other items to bring along with you. This can save you from needing to detour from your route and spend unbudgeted money on gadgets as you go along.
Safety-Proof Your Car for Travel
The safety of your car is also something that should be thoroughly prepared before you pull out of the driveway. This pertains to several different aspects of your travels, such as:
- First aid: You’re going to want to have a well-stocked first-aid kit handy while you travel. If you don’t have one yet, pull it together. If you already have one, review it to make sure it still has everything you might need in case of a medical emergency.
- Roadside emergencies: Spending so much time in your car means you’re also going to want to have items on hand if you break down on the side of the road. Flares, flashlights, a spare tire, a floor jack, and even preserved food and bottled food water are good to have stashed in the trunk.
- Documentation: You also want to consider any documentation that you’ll need to bring along with you. Insurance, your driver’s license, and passports may be needed. Even a physical map can be worth having on hand.
Equipping your car for the various hazards and safety concerns that you may face is always wise — especially before you find yourself on the road, dealing with any issues that may arise.
Dominating Your Summer Road Trip
Road trips are fun. Add in the warm summer weather and they’re a blast. Do so after a year spent in quarantine, and a summer road trip becomes a chance to stretch your wings and fly.
However, it’s important to do your homework and prep your vehicle before you take off on your upcoming adventure. Start with basic maintenance. From there, clean the car, gather your tech and tools, and consider any safety concerns. If you can head into your adventure prepared, you’ll be able to have the time of your life in safe, clean, and relaxed style.