Road Trip Checklist
When you’re planning on heading out on the road for an extended trip there are things that you need to consider. Not taking the time to check a few things on your van could mean being stuck in the middle of nowhere unprepared or worse, getting into an accident. A good road trip checklist will have all of the following items listed on it.
All of these things are easy to check and take only a few minutes but can save you a lot of time, money and head aches along the way. You’re better off spending a little time in your driveway at home taking care of business than you are walking thirty miles to the nearest service station on the road.
- Tire Pressure– Under inflated tires can be very dangerous. People driving with under inflated tires are walking a thin line. Statistics show that under inflated tires account for 33,000 injuries and 660 deaths each year due to the accidents they cause. Even if you don’t get into an accident because of your tires, under inflated tires also mean that more of your tires surface contacts the road creating more friction and reducing gas mileage. Check your tire pressure by reading the tire sidewall to find out what the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) of your tires is and then use a tire gauge to measure. Tire gauges cost about $3 and air is about 50 cents at any gas station. While you’re at it check your spare tire too and make sure it has air and is properly inflated. Make sure you have a working jack in case you have to change a flat tire. Definitely a worthwhile investment for your safety.
- Coolant Level– If you haven’t checked the level of coolant in your radiator for a while it’s a good idea to check it before you go on your road trip. In fact, you should make sure this is on your road trip check list. Low coolant levels can mean that you might have a coolant leak somewhere. It’s also important to check the quality of your coolant. Anti-freeze should be used rather than water. Despite it’s tricky name, anti-freeze actually acts to keep your engine cool when it’s working hard. A cool engine performs better and is less susceptible to malfunction or damage. If you find that your coolant level is really low, you can try to look for a leak yourself or better yet, take it in to have a qualified technician service it. Most radiator shops will diagnose your problem for free. You might end up spending a little money to fix a worn hose but that beats the cost and time associated with trying to get towed to an auto repair shop in Smalltown, USA.
- Oil– This might seem really obvious but it’s surprising how many people never check their vehicles oil. If your van is low on oil and you take it for a long drive, you can damage your motor beyond repair. You can do expensive damage to internal engine components and leave yourself stranded on the side of the road. When checking your oil you should look at the color of the oil and note the smell of it. If your oil is dark black it probably needs to be changed. If your oil is bubbly and milky you have some serious problems brewing. Milky oil is a sign that your head gasket is going out and water has leaked into the oil. If this is the case your vans oil will no longer have the lubricating effect that it’s suppose to and you will do severe damage to your van if you drive it. If it’s been more than 4,000 miles since your last oil change you need to have it changed before any long road trip. Experts say that for maximum engine life you should change your oil every 2,500-3,000 miles. Checking your vans oil needs to be on your road trip checklist.
- Wiper Fluid– Fill your wiper fluid before heading out. Nothing is more obnoxious than being stuck behind a semi truck in a mild rain and having your windshield turn into a mud bath. It’s times like these that we find with frustration that we are out of wiper fluid. A dirty windshield can be more than a nuisance, it can also be dangerous. A dirty windshield can cause glare that makes it impossible to see the road ahead. Save yourself the frustration and danger and fill your wiper fluid before leaving home.
- Safety Essentials– No road trip is safe without making sure that you’re carrying a few essentials with you on the road. A few simple things to carry are maps of the area you’re traveling, a flashlight some drinkable water and a blanket. Chances are that you’ll have these items on hand if you’re heading out on a road trip but it doesn’t hurt to add them to your road trip check list. If you break down in the middle of nowhere late at night, having some fresh water and a warm blanket can mean the difference between a comfortable evening and a frightening experience unexpectedly camping on the side of the road. Other things to consider bringing are phone chargers, snacks and a road side emergency kit that includes a reflective triangle or road flares. Road flares can be a literal life saver if you break down and can’t get your can all the way off the road.
Make sure someone else knows your planned route, especially if you’re taking obscure scenic routes. It’s always a good idea to check in with family or friends from time to time and give them an idea of your itinerary for the week. If something happens to you and nobody knows where to look you could be stranded for days or worse. Taking a little time to be prepared and making a road trip check list that includes the items above will ensure that you have a better road trip with less hassle and more fun!