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Be road-trip ready

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Car care 101

Ah, the joys of the open road! You've packed your snacks, plugged in your playlist and taken the kids to the bathroom (again) — but is your car road-trip ready?

Road trip

Thanks to the experts at AutoSquad.com, these comprehensive car and planning essentials will help to ensure that your vehicle is road-trip ready so you won't become stranded before you reach your destination.

Plan ahead

Give yourself plenty of time — about two to four weeks — before your trip to get your vehicle in shape and to allow for any unplanned vehicle expenses.

Address major repairs

Check your records to make sure no major repairs are pending. Address all engine, brake and suspension issues well in advance of the trip, just in case additional problems crop up.

Service your tires

There's a lot riding on your tires, so plan to have a qualified service facility rotate and rebalance them. Most of these facilities will do a free inspection and pressure check during the process. Be sure to make your technician aware of your upcoming trip so your tires can be checked for tread depth, bubbles, abrasions and defects. Also, don't forget that all-important spare tire. Make sure it is in good condition and has the correct air pressure, just like the tires on your car, and make sure you have all the tools you need to install the spare in an emergency.

Get an oil change

car oil

Review your service records to see if your oil and air-filter change is nearly due. If your trip is going to be a long one, change the oil and filters beforehand to avoid additional stress on the engine caused by sluggish oil or a clogged filter.

Top off the fluids

While your car is in the shop, ask the technician to top off or replace your other fluids, such as coolant and washer fluid.

Check the belts and hoses

Most service appointments include this during an oil change, but be vigilant about making sure the belts have no cracks and the hoses have no weak spots.

Diagnose your battery's health

Ask to have a "state of health" diagnostic run on your battery to make sure no weak or damaged cells are present. At the same time, your service shop can check your alternators/charging system for potential problems.

Test your lights

Make sure all of your car's lights — headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals — are working, clean and in good condition before you set out on your trip.

Pack a roadside kit

If you have a roadside-assistance service, be sure its number is plugged into your cell phone.

If you don't have roadside assistance, purchase a kit that includes flares, a reflective safety triangle, a multi-tool, a flashlight (with working batteries), an air pump and/or compressor and a jump box or jumper cables.

Pack paperwork

Place a copy of your owner's manual in the glove box so you can easily find the location of fuses, hoses and other mechanical items you may need to access while you're on the road. (If you don't have an owner's manual, visit the manufacturer's website to download and print a copy.) While you're managing paperwork, make sure each driver's license is current and that your vehicle registration and insurance card are on hand.

More car help

Driving lessons from the go-kart track to the highway
Instant safety with a lower seat
Tips for driving in the rain

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