Road Trip Checklist for Car: 7 Easy Steps to Prepare for A Long Trip

Planning a long road trip? Make sure your vehicle is prepared for it by using an easy road trip checklist for cars.

That way, you won’t overlook the obvious (and not-so-obvious) risks when you hit the road.

And, you’re going to have a more pleasant adventure, knowing you’ve covered the essentials.

Keep reading to find out how, below.

road trip checklist for car - checking fluids

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn about the things you need to do so your car is ready for taking a long trip, including:

  • Preparing Your Vehicle for Long Trips
  • 5-Step Road Trip Checklist for Car
  • 1. Check Fluid and Gas Levels
  • 2. Ensure Tires & Brakes are Safe
  • 3. Vehicle Lights Working?
  • 4. Test Interior Climate Controls
  • 5. Get Road Side Assistance
  • 6. Pack Emergency Gear
  • 7. Make Last Minute Preparations
  • Final Thoughts on Easy Road Trip Checklist for Car
  • Next Steps

Preparing your Vehicle for Long Trips

If you’re heading out on a long journey in a car, van, or minibus, it’s important to make sure your ride is ready for the trip.

It’s worth treating the vehicle to a little bit of care and attention before you get started.

That way, you’ll be able to minimize the chances of a mechanical failure. Better yet, you’ll maximize your fuel economy.

You’ll also give yourself the best possible driving experience, too.

5-Step Road Trip Checklist for Car

Here are the essential checks you need to do for your vehicle before you set off on your trip.

1. Check Fluid Levels and Get Gasoline

Obviously, you’ll need to fill up with gasoline if you’re going to go anywhere.

Ideally, you’ll do it at a filling station with the best possible price.

Don’t wait until you’re on the motorway before filling up. You’ll be charged a hefty premium if you do!

This goes especially nowadays, with fuel prices being higher than they ever have been.

You’ll want to also check your other fluid levels in the car.

Engine oil, coolant, washer-fluid: they should all be topped up. You should also check your power steering fluid, brake fluid, and transmission fluid (unless it’s a manual transmission).

The last thing you want to have to contend with midway through a trip is a shortage of any of them.

Replace all caps after checking the levels, and make sure your hood is thoroughly closed.

If you don’t feel comfortable checking the fluid levels yourself, just find yourself a reputable full-service station to do it for you.

Then, you’ll have peace of mind and a smooth ride!

2. Assure Tire & Brake Safety

tire gauge to test tire pressure before road trip

Your tires are among the most important components of your car.

They make a significant difference to driving performance, and to your overall experience behind the wheel.

You’ll need to inflate your tires appropriately and check the tread depth. This will ensure that you get the right amount of traction and that you’ll get the maximum mileage from every last drop of gas.

If you need to replace your tires for the trip, pick tires that are suited to the weather — especially if you’re taking a performance car for a long drive for the fun of it. 

You’ll get the best performance if you shop for a premium tire from a reputable manufacturer. Bridgestone tires can be bought from online vendors.

It’s a good idea to invest a few bucks in a small pocket gauge to test the tire pressure. It will come in handy beyond the trip.

And, if you’re not certain how to check your tire pressure or how to add air to your tires, a service station along the way will usually be happy to help.

You’ll also want to make sure your brakes performing optimally before you go.

3. Lights in Working Order?

If you’re heading off in daylight, then it can be easy to miss the fact that one of your lights has gone out.

That’s why you should check your lights before you head out.

So, go ahead and test your:

  • Headlights
  • High beams
  • Fog lights (if you have them)
  • Break lights
  • Directional lights, and
  • Hazards

If your car is a speciality vehicle with hard-to-get light fixtures, you may want have a stock of spares on hand.

Then, you won’t have to worry about waiting for the part and other delays if a light goes out.

4. Air Conditioning & Heat Working?

While it may not be essential that your air conditioning and car heat are in good working order for a trip, it sure can make a difference on your comfort.

Therefore, test out both before your trip.

If you have an A/C leak, need the coolant recharged, or the heat is not working, you’ll want to take care of that before you embark.

The alternative is riding in a sweaty or frigid car for several hours! Ugh.

Remember, you may need to use one or the other climate settings on the way or at your destination.

If you need to replace your windshield-wipers, this is a good time to do so.

5. Breakdown & Other Insurance

Despite all your planning and maintenance, it might be that your vehicle fails midway through the trip.

It happens!

But if you’re covered against breakdown with roadside assistance, then you can have someone out to you fairly promptly. Most will tow your car to a local service station if needed, or can address minor problems on the spot.

They can also come to the rescue if you lock your keys in your car, need a jump for your battery, or run out of gas.

For a reasonable annual fee, it’s money well-spent on any road trip.

You’ll also want to make sure your auto insurance coverage is up to date. Review it for possible limitations and policy benefits before you go.

For instance, you may have a car rental rider that covers you if your car is not drivable.

6. Worst-Case Packing

As the saying goes, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

While your road trip will probably go smoothly, you should have a stash of basic supplies in your car.

They will serve you if you do become stranded.

Include a blanket or two, a first-aid kit, a torch, and a supply of water and non-perishable food. 

Hopefully, you will not need them.

But just in case you do, you’ll be prepared.

7. Last-Minute Preparation

prepared for the weather with appropriate rain gear

Pack a few more last-minute items before you go.

These include items that are weather dependent.

Check the weather predictions for the route, and the average temperatures at the destination for the season.

You might need sunglasses, rain gear, or extra layers of clothing.

Of course, no road trip is complete without the right soundtrack. So make sure that you’ve curated your playlist, podcasts, or audiobooks in advance.

Then you won’t be fiddling with the radio as your favorite station goes out of range.

Final Thought | Road Trip Checklist for Car

So, now that you have gone through your road trip checklist for the car, you can feel more secure about your ride.

You can always get an oil change, tune-up, and break job before you go, if needed.

But hopefully, you’re already doing that on a regular maintenance schedule.

That means, all you have to worry about now is hitting the road and having fun!

Next Steps

If you want to continue planning your road trip, look to these articles next: 

If you’re looking for road trip routes, you’ll find road trip inspiration here:

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.