I love summer road trips and I’ve taken a few, so in this ultimate guide to preparing your car for a summer road trip I’m sharing with you my best tips and tricks on this topic.
You can use this article as your comprehensive car maintenance checklist for summer road trips.
From basic recommendations (checking various fluids and tire pressure) to many complex tips (including for safe navigation!), this ultimate car preparation guide has it all.
Trips should be about having fun, relaxing – and not having problems and looking for solutions and asking oneself: Why didn’t I think this could happen? Or Why didn’t I check that? Use these expert tips and insights to help you get your car ready for the ultimate summer road trip.
Included in this summer road trip car preparation guide:
- Car Maintenance Checklist for Summer Road Trips:
- Fluid Levels and Oil Filter
- Battery and Electrical System
- Tires and Inflation
- Brakes and Brake Pads
- Coolant Levels and Quality
- Radiator and Cooling Fan
- Air Conditioning System
- Air Filters
- Check the Mandatory Safety Kit
- Summer Road Trip Safety Checklist
- Pack a Roadside Emergency Kit
- Pack Smart: Essentials and Comfort Items
- Protect Your Car’s Interior from Sun Damage
- Ensure Proper Ventilation
- Keep Calm and Cool
- Proper documents
How to prepare your car for a summer road trip
Whether you’re embarking on a scenic road trip through breathtaking landscapes or you want to take an epic cross-country adventure, follow these steps to prepare your car and make the most of your summer travel.
Car Maintenance Checklist for Summer Road Trips:
Before you set off on your summer road trip, it’s important to thoroughly inspect and maintain your car. Just as you create your travel itinerary prior to traveling, you need to make sure the car is in the best shape possible for your trip.
By addressing the following key areas, you can minimize the risk of unexpected breakdowns and ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.
Now, one of the ways to do this is to take your car to a service and conduct an inspection. They can check all the oils, the breaks, the tires, and more. If you do not have planned such an inspection, don’t worry – these top tips for preparing your car for summer travel will help you compensate for a visit to the service!
Insider tip: check all of the elements included below in this article at least a week before your trip once you have decided where you travel next. This way, if you discover you need to address an issue, you have the time to do that!
Here I can share quite a few personal experiences. One, which is not related to us preparing the car, was really funny, but stressful at the same time.
We were leaving for Vienna on a Saturday morning. On Friday, my husband went to work – with the car. During the day someone broke the left mirror (not only the window glass but the whole mirror). Obviously, on Saturday most of the car services are closed. Well, most of them!
We learned about the issue in the afternoon – when Andrei left his job. It was already late, everything was closed. So we started calling services – we found 2 open on a Saturday. Of these two, one had the mirror we need (same color, for the same car model.) We were truly lucky. Of course, instead of leaving home at 5 AM, as planned, we left the service at around 9 AM – but, we had solved the mirror issue!
The trip went smoothly from there on!
Anyway, getting back to this car preparation guide for summer travel, let’s see what you need to pay attention to!
Fluid Levels and Oil Filter
One of the most important elements of this car maintenance for road trip checklist is checking fluid levels.
Maintaining the proper fluid levels, including engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, and more is crucial for a stress-free road trip.
It’s essential to check these levels and top them up if needed. Consider changing the oil and replacing the oil filter to keep your engine running smoothly throughout your trip. Newer cars have various alerts – but you can check some of the fluid levels anyway.
Insider tip: Remember to also check the washer fluid and make sure the recipient if full!
Use a washer fluid that helps remove the insects (perhaps one of the most important issues when taking a long trip by car.
Battery and Electrical System
Inspect the battery for any signs of wear or corrosion, ensuring the terminals and connections are clean and secure. Test the battery’s voltage to determine if it needs replacement or charging. We do this every time for our petrol-based car (the electrical one is obviously different, as we see the battery status daily, and travelling with an electric car is a bit different.)
You can check your car’s voltage using a multimeter – it is really easy (there are even YouTube tutorials if you need one.) We also bought a battery charger – so that shows us the battery’s voltage and we can charge it if it needs it.
Additionally, check the functionality of lights, fuses, and wiring to ensure proper electrical system performance. It goes without saying that you should replace all lights that are not working!
Tires and Inflation
It goes (or it should) without saying that you should have summer tires (or at least all-year tires). You can be fined for not having the proper tires! This is valid for winter tires too as during the cold season you may be not only fined but turned back for not having proper tires. Not to mention that it is a matter of safety – to have the best tires for the weather – safety not only for you but for all the other traffic participants!
Check the tire pressure using a gauge and inflate them to the recommended levels. You can do this along the way too – especially on long road trips, to make sure the tires keep the optimum pressure (gas stations offer this service for free, but you can also go to a service in the cities you are visiting.
It’s crucial to inspect the tire tread depth and replace worn-out tires for optimal grip and safety.
Don’t forget to ensure your spare tire is in good condition and that you have all the necessary tools to change a tire.
Brakes and Brake Pads
While it is mentioned on this list of tips on how to prepare your car for a summer road trip, having brakes that are in optimal condition is a must each day. Again, for your own, and other participant’s safety.
Before going on a trip by car, visually inspect the brake pads and discs for any signs of wear or damage. Replace worn-out brake pads promptly to maintain optimum braking performance.
If you hear squeaking, or grinding, if the stopping is slow, or if you feel a vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal when you apply the brakes, this usually means that the brake pads are worn out and you need to go to a car service to have them replaced.
Coolant Levels and Quality
Overheating is the last thing you want happening on a road trip. So check the coolant levels and top them up if necessary to prevent overheating.
Consider performing a coolant flush to ensure a fresh and efficient cooling system – again, go to a service for this. Remember to use the appropriate coolant mixture recommended for your specific vehicle.
Radiator and Cooling Fan
Visually examine the radiator for any leaks or damage. Ensure the cooling fan is functioning correctly to prevent overheating. If needed, clean the radiator to optimize heat dissipation.
A long road trip means you will spend a lot of time inside the car, so you need air filters that are clean!
Inspect and clean or replace the engine and cabin air filters to maintain optimal airflow and air quality inside the car. Follow the recommended maintenance intervals and use high-quality filters to keep your car’s interior fresh and free from contaminants.
Air Conditioning System
We had to postpone some trips and fix the air conditioning system in one of our cars before taking a trip. During the summer, air conditioning is vital for us!
Test the air conditioning system to ensure it’s functioning correctly and providing adequate cooling. Clean or replace the cabin air filters to ensure fresh and clean air circulation within the car. Maximize the efficiency of the air conditioning system to keep everyone comfortable during the trip.
Check the Mandatory Safety Kit (first-aid, reflective triangle and vests, fire extinguisher)
Make sure the emergency first-aid kit is not expired – nor it will expire during your trip.
Make sure you have the fire extinguisher with you (and, as the emergency first-aid kit, make sure it is not expired.)
Check the reflective triangle – make sure all is OK.
Finally, make sure you have reflective vests with you for each passenger (there are countries requiring these items, especially in Europe. Check in advance to see if they are required and buy them.)
Summer Road Trip Safety Checklist
In addition to the car maintenance checklist, prioritizing safety during your summer road trip is of utmost importance. Consider the following essential safety measures to ensure a trouble-free journey:
Pack a Roadside Emergency Kit
First of all: I am writing this wishing you that you NEVER need such a kit!
But it is always better to be prepared!
So consider creating a comprehensive kit that includes essential items such as jumper cables, a flashlight, first aid supplies, and emergency tools. Additionally, include spare fluids, a tire repair kit, and a fully charged mobile phone. Don’t forget to carry important documentation like insurance and registration details.
And now the experience: I usually count on gas stations and others for emergencies. What we pack though is a flashlight, a charger for the phone, and external batteries. We have a multitool, a kit of spare fuses. We also have a screwdriver and a lightbulb for each type (in case we need to change one). We also have some energy bars, fruits, crackers and water and soda when we travel.
Pack Smart: Essentials and Comfort Items
Pack necessary items for comfort, safety, and convenience. Organize your luggage efficiently, maximizing space. Carry reusable water bottles, a roadside assistance membership, and snacks to keep you fueled throughout the journey.
Protect Your Car’s Interior from Sun Damage
Next on this list of tips for enjoying a comfortable summer road trip is the car’s interior.
Now, obviously, protecting it from the sun’s rays is something that you will do all the time – not only when you travel.
However, when you travel, it is good to have some items that will prevent overheating and will protect the car.
Therefore, consider using a sun shield – we have one that you use on the interior of the car, but there are some that can be used on the outside (it is said that they help prevent small cracks in the windshield as a result of extreme heat.) You can also consider using dashboard covers to reduce interior heat and protect your car’s surfaces from harmful UV rays. Additionally, consider using seat covers and steering wheel covers to prevent fading and cracking.
You can also have window shades or even a car cover (for long trips, when you cannot park in the shade.)
Try to park your car in the shade as often as you can!
Ensure Proper Ventilation
Utilize the car’s ventilation system effectively and strategically open windows for airflow. Make use of air recirculation and fresh air modes to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the car.
For instance, if the air in the car is OK, we would use the recirculation when we leave (to be able to cool the interior of the car faster), but we would definitely stop the recirculation after the air cooled down.
Keep Calm and Cool
Now that you know how to prepare your car for summer travel, remember to prepare yourself.
The destination is there, regardless if you are arriving 2 hours later or 20 minutes later than Waze is telling you.
Take breaks, keep calm, and ignore people who drive aggressively! Enjoy each moment of the trip whether it is a one-day trip or a longer one!
This should go without saying, but as this aims to be the complete guide on how to prepare your guide for a road trip, I am mentioning this aspect too.
Make sure you have the proper documents for your trip. Here is a list of documents to carry when going on a road trip:
- driving license
- the registration certificate of your car (RC)
- the mandatory vehicle insurance certificate
- optional vehicle insurance certificate
- Pollution Under Control (PUC) Certification
- various permits (depending on the countries(s) you are visiting
- vignette (road fees) + bridge crossing fees
We also bring with us the periodical inspection certificate – just to be on the safe side 🙂
Congratulations! You’re now equipped with the ultimate car preparation guide for your summer road trip. By following this comprehensive checklist and implementing the expert tips provided, you’ll ensure a safe, comfortable, and memorable journey.
Remember, proper car maintenance and safety measures are essential for an enjoyable summer adventure. Prepare your vehicle with care, pack smart, and embark on a trouble-free road trip filled with stunning landscapes, unforgettable experiences, and cherished memories. Happy, comfortable, uneventful travels!