Road Trip Checklist

All packed and ready for the road? How about your car?

Road trips can be a lot of fun, but not if your car breaks down or you get in an accident because of simple maintenance mistakes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lack of basic maintenance is responsible for more than 2,600 deaths and more than $2 billion in related expenses.

Before you hit the road, take a few minutes to go through our road trip checklist. Most of the items listed here you can do yourself, and others require no more than a quick stop at the gas station. Take ten minutes of your pre-trip time and check:

Wipers – The useful life of windshield wipers is no more than six months. If they streak or smear, they need to be replaced. While you’re at it, check the windshield washers and wiper fluid.

Lights – In general, they should be checked every month, especially turning, brake and tail lights because you wouldn’t normally notice if they fail. When on the road, keep your lights on at all times.

Fluids – Antifreeze/coolant, oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids are essential for your car. If you ever run out, the results could be as catastrophic as your engine blowing up or brakes not working.

Battery – This is one of the leading causes of roadside problems and cars that won’t start. The electrolyte level can be checked removing the caps on the battery. Terminals and cables must be clean and securely attached.

Hoses and belts – They help your car cool down, transfer fluids and affect the electrical system. One of them breaks and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, paying for an overpriced tow truck and mediocre repair.

Tire pressure and condition – Under or over inflated tires affect your fuel-efficiency and can pop easier. Also, check the tread for uneven wear, bulges and bald spots. It’s also a good idea to have them aligned, balanced and rotated at least once a year.

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