Top 5 Things Every Motorist Needs To Check Before Leaving Town

Anticipation and planning can turn your next road trip from “nice” to “spectacular.”

From making snacks to creating a playlist, there’s no shortage of things to do in order to get ready for an outdoor adventure. Is your vehicle ready for the adventure?

Check off these helpful reminders to help prevent your vehicle from intruding on your fun. We’ve included a list of take-alongs that are easy to forget but can make your family adventure more enjoyable.

1. Eyeball tread wear on every tire: It’s easy to overlook the tire--and the spare.

Trouble signs: Are there any bald spots? Tread wear uneven? Is it inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations?

The solution: Automotive experts recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. If your vehicle has a matching full-size spare tire, include that tire in the rotation.

Ask your service advisor to inspect your tires and adjust the inflation pressure, including the spare tire.

2. Get those brakes checked: The brake system remains a vital safety component that’s prone to problems in intense summer weather. Heat is the main culprit, especially for vehicles loaded down with travelers and their gear.

Trouble signs: Wheels squealing as you come to a stop? Vibrating steering wheel?

The solution: Brakes depend on friction, and the process slowly erodes the brake system over time. Routine maintenance of the shoes, fluid and hoses prevents normal wear and tear from becoming a costly headache.

Brake pads scraping against the rotor can cause permanent damage and require replacement.

3. Take a peak at the radiator fluid. An overheating engine on a hot summer day? Not if you want to maintain peace and harmony on your next family outing.

Trouble signs: The heat gauge for your engine is rapidly rising. Steam billows from under the hood.

The solution: Have a technician check for leaks in your radiator and add more coolant.

An overheating engine is usually the result of poor maintenance or a system failure.
Always check fluid levels before heading out on the road. Engine coolant is like oil, it needs to be replenished and replaced periodically.

4. Make sure your vehicle battery is holding a charge: Modern vehicles are more complex and could require more sleuthing to discover the source of the power drain.

Trouble signs: Headlights are dimmer, windows take longer to roll down and the engine struggles to turn over.

The solution: Have your battery inspected thoroughly. Check the terminals for corrosion. Make sure the cables are securely fastened and that the battery itself isn’t leaked, cracked or bulging.

Vehicle batteries are tasked with far more than simply helping start the engine these days. It also needs to power a navigation system, charge your cell phone, operate a back-up camera and enable that plethora of 21st century conveniences to function.

Not all batteries require water replacement--some are closed systems. If your vehicle battery has removable caps, make sure to ask about the water level.

The water also should be checked when you’re on the road. The level should be be set at about a half-inch above the tops of the plates. Battery manufacturers also recommend using only distilled or deionized water and to use a watering gun or pitcher to fill each battery cell.

A good preventative medicine: Get the charging system checked every three months or with every oil change.

5. Look for cracks on belts and hoses: Modern engines have a variety of critical belts and hoses, and they’re easy to take for granted--until they snap or crack.

The problems: The engine simply won’t start, leaks appear on the pavement underneath your vehicle, you hear squealing noises under the hood.

The solution: A broken serpentine belt can keep your engine from starting. Cracked hoses can create serious brake problems or engine overheating.

Experts recommend a thorough inspection at least twice a year and before an extended road trips.

“Belts and hoses might be mundane items in the back of the mind for most drivers,” said Tony Molla of the Automotive Service Association. “But maintaining and replacing them is as important as changing your oil.”

Now that the vehicle is ready, it’s time to load up the essentials. Here’s some of our favorite items for late summer and autumn road trips:

  • Hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and disposable gloves: Invaluable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevent contaminants from entering your vehicle by cleaning your hands, vehicle handles and other surfaces.
  • Collapsible chairs: A collapsible lounge chair belongs in every trunk. They’re practical, comfortable and available in essentially any color scheme or pattern.
  • Camp table: Perfect for tailgating or a game of cards, collapsible tables are another useful summer and autumn item for the trunk. They’re not only a place to eat meals, they’re the place to prep them, too. Invest wisely--consider how you will use your table, how much weight it needs to support and how much cargo space it uses.
  • Insulated drinking bottle: Keep drinks piping hot and icy beverages cool for hours. The ingenious design of insulated bottles places a vacuum between the interior and exterior walls of the vessel, creating an environment that’s difficult for heat to escape.
  • Snacks: Everyone gets hungry during a road trip, and stopping at a drive-thru can cost precious minutes. Consider packing an insulated cooler with granola bars, fruit, beverages and other healthful, filling fare. Grapes, nuts, and pre-sliced cheese are among some items to consider bringing along with you, as they are easy to grab and can be eaten by the driver without taking their eyes off the road.
  • Electronic cooler: You’re going to need a place to store those snacks. What better vessel than an electric cooler? Officially known as thermoelectric coolers, these portable devices don’t contain refrigerant,. They draw surrounding air and push it through an electric fan. This process allows cooler to stay about 40 degrees colder than ambient air temperature. “Electric coolers aren’t only for long-haul truck drivers who want to avoid eating fast food,” said Sneha Kulkarni of Koolatron, an Ontario-based manufacturer of thermoelectric coolers since 1983. “Demand continues to grow as families embrace day trips, staycations, camping, and road trips.”
  • Trash bags: Easy to forget but essential for extended road trips. Pack a few trash bag to stuff all those discarded snack bags, soda cans, wrappers and other assorted miscellanea that can accumulate in your vehicle cabin. Don’t reuse bags; they’re full of odors and potential bacteria incubators. Toss the into the trash at the next road stop or refilling station.
  • Music playlists and games: Keep all the passengers engaged in the travel not just the destination.

Have your family put together several road trip playlists. And if setup mobile phones with fun road games that support multiple players. The digital versions of Scrabble, chess, checkers and monopoly are among the games passengers can play together.