The Ultimate Car Maintenance Checklist for Your Road Trip

A road trip is one of the most popular vacation ideas, and for a good reason: you can go at your own pace, stop to see the sights, and you already have your car when you arrive at your destination! There are a few things you should do to have the smoothest and least stressful road trip possible. Check out the ultimate car maintenance checklist for your road trip.

Check Your Fluids

Motor Oil: You’ll want to make sure you changed the oil recently. Not having enough oil can do serious damage to your engine, and running out is disastrous.

Windshield Wiper Fluid: If you’re going to drive for long periods, you will run into bugs and dirty up your windshield. To get rid of the mess, make sure your wiper fluid canister is full. Wiper fluid is useless without good wipers, so replace them as well.

Transmission Fluid: Check your owner’s handbook to discover how often you should replace it. If it’s past due, you’ll need to replace it.

Brake Fluid: The ability to brake efficiently can make the difference between getting in an accident and avoiding one. If you’re unsure, take it to a professional.

Radiator fluid: Check to see if your antifreeze is full, then consult your owner’s manual to see if you need to replace it.


Tread: Check the tread on your tires to make sure there are no bald spots with sufficient tread remaining. Then, inspect it for any cuts that need repairing and replace them if you can’t. If you need new tires near Meridian, Idaho, stop at Commercial Tire, where our experts are happy to answer any questions you have.

Spare Tire: Perform the same checks on your spare tire as you would on your main ones. Having an issue with your spare tire after replacing a flat is effectively the same as not having replaced it in the first place.

Rotation: Make sure your tires don’t need rotation. Tires that aren’t balanced or rotated properly might wear unevenly and cause your car to shake. Rotating tires can keep your vehicle even for your whole trip.

Air Pressure: Check to see that you have properly inflated tires and that the pressure in each is the same. Allowing your tires to get too low can cause them to spin off their rims, which is not something you want to happen on your road trip.

General Items

Battery: Make sure your battery terminals have not corroded and have properly tightened positive and negative terminals. You may need a new battery if your car starts slowly. Having a dead battery can add more than a few minutes to your travel time if you can’t get a jump quickly. Besides, you’ll need to go straight to a mechanic.

Belts and Hoses: Taking care of your belts and hoses may seem difficult if you aren’t an auto technician, but it is simple. The first step is to look for splits in the hoses, then squeeze them to see if they’re breakable. Hoses should have a rubbery feel to them; if they are extremely breakable or have cracks, replace them. Check your hoses for leaks, especially where they connect to other components. Finally, inspect the belts to make sure they aren’t loose or missing notches. A damaged belt or hose can quickly derail your travel and cause damage to your engine.

Air Filter: If you’re like most of us, your air filter has needed a replacement for years. Luckily, it’s simple to do, inexpensive, and can help you get better gas mileage. If it goes unfixed for too long, though, it can cause serious damage to your engine. The air filter keeps dangerous debris and contaminants out of your engine, but the filter starts to let less air in overtime if too much sits on top of it.

Light Bulbs: Check that your headlights and taillights are working properly. It’s a safety hazard if they don’t work. It’s also important to double-check your turn signals and parking lights. Upgrade to LED bulbs for brighter lights and decreased power use.

Brakes: Having the ability to stop your car safely is essential for avoiding collisions. To have a risk-free vehicle for your vacation, you may need to change your brake fluid, replace your brake pads, and even purchase new brake rotors. You don’t want to drive anywhere without properly functioning brakes, but traveling exacerbates this problem.

Exhaust: A faulty exhaust system can lead to poor fuel efficiency, decreased power, and, in some cases, improper venting of the poisonous gases produced by your engine. If you have heard engine noises such as popping and hissing, it’s important to check your exhaust system. The noises sometimes indicate difficulties with the exhaust manifold, muffler, tailpipe, or catalytic converter. And what if you don’t hear any engine noises? You still want to have a technician inspect your car’s exhaust system before embarking on a long journey. Vehicles five years or older should have their exhaust systems checked by a professional once or twice a year, even if nothing feels or sounds wrong. You don’t want to exhaust yourself by having to fix a broken-down car while on vacation.

Steering and Suspension: Broken or worn-out mounts or bushings, damaged shocks or struts, and loose steering parts could put a damper on your vacation plans—and make for a bumpy ride! Program your GPS toward a specialist who can inspect your car’s steering and suspension system to ensure a smooth ride to your holiday destination before you hit the road.

Once you’ve completed all the steps in the ultimate car maintenance checklist for your road trip, you can successfully head off for your big trip. You’ll probably want to load your car with drinks and snacks to keep from having to stop as often. If you’re traveling with the whole family, your local library will have plenty of books to check out to pass the time and even movies if your vehicle has an entertainment system. Anything you can do to stave off boredom during the long car rides will make your trip that much more enjoyable. Once all that’s in order, you’re ready to roll!