How to prepare your car for summer travel

Before long, winter’s cold fingers will lose its grip on America the Beautiful, and it will be time for summer travel! If you’re thinking about traveling this summer, keep on reading. We will share some of our best tips from regular travelers.

There’s something about summer road trips that conjures up excitement. Open tops, sunglasses on, hair in the wind, and sea spray on sun kissed skin… These are just some of the best parts of a well-planned summer road trip. 

summer travel

If you’re planning your first – or tenth! – road trip, it’s always a good idea to read up on some summer travel tips to get you going.

Your first question is probably…

How do I prepare my car for a long trip?

It’s easy to forget about the important things when summer rolls around and it’s time for your first road trip. That’s almost alright if you’re just driving down the road to a staycation spot in town, but if you’re heading out of the city, it’s crucial to ensure that your car can handle summer travel.

Summer travel: road trip preparation 2 weeks leading up to the trip

We’d love to share our summer travel car inspection checklist with you. However, be sure to read the full instructions after the jump.

summer travel car inspection

So, how do I prepare an old car for a road trip? We’re glad you asked. You should check on your vehicle at least 2 weeks before you leave for a trip so that you have time to get small issues sorted out in time. These are the checks to do to ensure your car is up for your summer travel plans.

Check for leaks. Reverse your car from its usual overnight parking spot, and look at the ground to see if there are any damp spots which might indicate leaks. If you see anything like that, take it to a professional mechanic. 

Check all tubes and pipes. Take a good look under the hood and follow each pipe from where it starts to where it enters a different accessory, checking for cracks and leaks. Also check any belts for signs of fraying, glazing or cracking. Replace any radiator hoses that are bulging, brittle, or worn.

Check your battery expiry date. Summer heat can cause car batteries to stop working. In most cases, car batteries last approximately three years. If you don’t know when last you replaced your battery, have it tested. Check the connections before your trip to ensure it works as it should. You can get a free battery check if you are an AAA member.   

Refill your emergency supply kit. Have a well-stocked emergency kit handy, both of the medical kind and the emergency type. Here’s what your emergency kit should include:

emergency kit

Check the tire tread and pressure. Inspect all four tires and the spare tire for sidewall bulges, gouges or cuts. Use a quarter to check the depth of the grooves. You know your tires are good if you can’t see George Washington’s head. You might consider investing in summer tires for your summer road trip, or perhaps even wider wheels to maximize your driving enjoyment.

Check the brakes. While driving, when you apply the brakes, see if you feel a vibration or hear a grinding sound. If you do, head to your mechanic, who will check for leaks and professionally test the:

Check your headlights. You may end up driving at night, in which case you should consider buying good quality LED highlights. 

Clean your car. Cleaning your windshields should go without saying. After all, a dirty car is not only unpleasant to drive in (especially across long distances!) but it poses a risk. Clean your car properly, inside and out to ensure a good, safe trip. 

Replace windshield wipers. If you can’t see properly because your windshield is dirty, old and damaged windshield wipers will simply make a bigger mess. Replace your wiper blades and top up the windshield cleaner.

Check your air conditioning. You’re bound to encounter some hot days on the road, so it’s a good idea to ensure your AC is working as it should. Take a drive and turn the air conditioning on. Simply turn it on, and if it blows cold air, it’s working fine.  If it doesn’t cool the air as it should, take your car to a mechanic to check for gas leaks or to top off the gas. 

If you already know that you have mechanical issues with your car that need to be fixed before your road trip, you can estimate car repair costs in order to budget your needs. 

Pre-driving checks on the day you leave for your summer road trip

On the day before setting off , or on which you leave for your road trip, perform your standard pre-driving checks and safety precautions, which include:

Some newer cars don’t have dipsticks as most automatic transmissions are sealed. Likewise, some newer electric power steering systems don’t use fluids.

road trip inspection checklist

How do I know if my car can handle a road trip?

In most cases, if you’re wondering if your car will survive your road trip, it’s not a safe option to drive an old car long distances and you should rather consider renting a car for your summer travels.