How to get your car road trip ready

If you have never had a car issue while on road trip with children, you have no idea of how stressful this is. My biggest worry before a road trip is the car, because I am a disaster and I would not know where to start on how to fix anything. This blog includes my checklist of car checks, i.e. things to get checked before travelling by car on a family road trip.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Battery check

Battery health is essential. It is very important to check the car battery periodically, because sometimes waiting until it begins to show signs of weakness can put you at risk of being stranded. This has happened to me a few times and it worries me before any trip.

Checking the car battery is the easiest task you can do yourself. Even I can do it. Do a visual inspection of the two terminals to make sure it is free of rust, corrosion, or battery acid build-up. If any of these are present, take it to a mechanic or a car battery shop to be professionally checked.

Then test the battery by turning on the headlights and see if they are bright and have a steady consistent glow. Leave the headlights on and start the engine of the vehicle. Step back and watch the lights again. Have a helper check the lights as the engine is revving.

If you see a steady, consistent, and bright glow to the headlights, it is a good sign of a healthy battery.


Car’s fluids

Car’s fluids are vital to a car’s health. A car will run and operate with low or dirty fluids but it can be detrimental to the long-term health of a vehicle.

Look for spots under the car. Use a large cardboard box broken down flat. Then slide the cardboard under the front of the car between the front wheels and leave overnight. See if there are spots on it.

Also, while the engine is running and hot, if you smell burning or you see smoke, that is a sign that a fluid of some sort is dripping onto your hot engine. Fluids to check include the engine oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid.

Drive belts

Drive belts are not the easiest to check. Depending on the car, there might be timing belts, alternator belts, air conditioning belts. The main thing to check is any squealing.

With the engine running and the hood raised listen to the engine for a few minutes. Also try turning on the air conditioning and you will notice a pull on the engine when the air conditioning kicks in. If you hear no squeaking, squealing, or squalling that is a good sign.


Side mirrors / wing mirrors need to be clean and adjusted correctly for the driver.

Car lights

Checking the car’s lights is fairly easy. We rarely notice when a bulb is out or a fuse is blown until someone tells us. The best way to check headlights is to pull the car up to a wall or garage door and stop about 5 feet away. Make sure you are parked in a level spot and you should see the lights shining on the wall. Look to make sure they are equally bright and white, not dim and yellowed. If one is less bright or more yellow than the other, then change them both at the same time.

Windshield Wipers

Activate the wipers to see if they function properly. They are easy to change while at home but not as easy when you are away.

Tyres’ pressure

The night before departing refuel full tank  and while at the gasoline station, check the pressure of the tyres. The amount of pressure depends on the type of car so check the manual beforehand or google the name of your car to find out.

These are easy things to check but it is always wise to get the car checked regularly at least during the annual MOT. 

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