Essential Road Trip Car Maintenance Tips Before Hitting the Open Road

Are you about to embark on a road trip soon? Before you venture out on the open road, it’s essential to perform the following road trip maintenance tasks to minimize the chance of a break-down. Even if you’re not a DIY’er, I’m going to show you how to perform most of these tasks yourself so that you can get your vehicle road trip worthy.


Changing your oil is one of the top Road Trip Car Maintenance Tips Before Hitting the Open Road

The first thing you want to do is change your oil and filter. Start by draining the pan, then pulling the oil filter. FRAM is your best bet, I’ve been using them since I was 16, when I first learned how to change my own oil.

I will admit, this can be a bit of a dirty job, but it’s really rewarding doing these types of tasks on your own. After the oil is completely drained, replace the pan bolt and install a new oil filter. Be sure to put a thin layer of oil on the rubber gasket to insure a good seal. The last thing you need to do is add new oil. I like to use synthetic, which will get you more miles in between changes than traditional oil.


Checking your fluids is one of the essential road trip car maintenance tips.

The next essential road trip car maintenance tip is to check and top-off the fluids.

  • Power steering
  • Transmission (be sure engine is running when you check it).
  • Windshield wiper fluid. While you’re at it, check the wiper blades.
  • Brake fluid.
  • Radiator fluid (be sure the engine is cool).
  • You may also want to check your AC refrigerant. (See video on how to properly fill)


check your tires before your next road trip

Next, examine the tires. Look for uneven wear and measure your tread. Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it’s time to replace your tires. Lastly, check the tire pressure. NOTE: during hot conditions your tire pressure can be 4-6lbs higher.


check your brake pads

Check your brakes by pulling one of the front and one of the rear tires. Make sure the brake pad has plenty of meat. If the pad has less than 1/8 inch, it’s probably time to replace the pads. Note: Brakes usually last about 40,000 to 50,000 miles.


Changing your air filter is one of the essential road trip maintenance tips

Replacing the filters will really help the road trip performance of your vehicle.

  • Start with the engine air filter. FRAM also makes great air filters.
  • Then you’ll want to change the cabin air filter, however not all vehicles have them. The cabin filter is usually located under the glovebox and can be a bit tricky to change. Search YouTube for instructions on your specific vehicle.
  • Lastly, to improve your fuel efficiency, change the fuel filter, which is most often located along your fuel line on the driver’s side.
change your fuel filter for better fuel economy on your next road trip


clean your battery posts before a road trip

It is very important to check your battery levels (unless you have a maintenance free battery) as well as clean the posts to make sure there is no corrosion. For some reason my truck has always had an issue with post/cable corrosion, which will render the battery inoperable if too much build-up occurs. By keeping them clean and coated, you should not have an issue. Be sure to check the age of your battery, in hot climates like the Southwest, your battery will likely only last little more than two years. If you’re getting ready for a long road trip, and your battery is over two years old, you might want to consider replacing as preventative measure.


emergency road trip maintenance tip

Really important to pack an emergency kit just in case. Items you may want to include:

  • Jumper cables or jump booster.
  • Flairs.
  • Duck tape.
  • Reflectors.
  • Rain Poncho.
  • Basic tool kit.
  • Gloves.
  • Cell phone charger/back up battery.
  • Emergency Blanket.
  • Flashlight.
  • Bungee cords.
  • Extra fuses.
  • Fix-a-flat.
  • Water filter.
  • Water and a few energy bars.


road trip maintenance tip #9 - check hoses and belts

Check and/or replace Belts and Hoses. You want to make sure the rubber is in good condition, no cracks. Hoses should be replaced every 100,000 miles and belts every 50,000 or so.


last road trip car maintenance tip is to walk around the vehicle and give it a good look over

Simply walk around the vehicle – Make sure all lights, blinkers and brake lights are in working order. Get under the vehicle and check for any leaks, and anything else that might be out of the ordinary.


Lastly, Clean and pack the vehicle for your epic adventure.

If you have any questions about getting your vehicle road trip worthy, please leave a comment below.

Mike Shubic

Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.


  1. It was a great tip when you said to include flairs on your emergency kit. My car has been acting up lately, because I think that the engine is starting to deteriorate. That being said, I’ll make sure to find an auto servicing facility in my area that specializes in Mazda servicing.

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