The weather’s warming up and everyone’s getting antsy to get outside. With spring fever comes a need for freedom, and this is the season for planning out the road trips we’ll be taking for the rest of the year. Before you heed the call of the open road, you need to make sure your car is up to the challenge with a pre-trip checklist.

On the Outside

You can avoid a lot of potential breakdowns, simply by taking a close look at the outside of your car. Check that your tires still have good tread and are wearing evenly. Check the pressure, and make any necessary adjustments. Be sure to include your spare in your tire inspection. Changing a flat in the middle of a desert in the middle of the night would not be the high point of your trip, so do what you can to avoid it. Make sure your headlights, taillights, and front and back blinkers are all working properly, so you can be safe and avoid a ticket. Your brakes and windshield wipers should also be inspected to make sure they have enough life left in them for your trip.

On the Inside

The gauge cluster on your dash, and the electronic messaging center are your guide to how your car is handling a long road trip, so make sure all of these instruments are functioning properly before heading out. If your check engine light is on, find out the cause and get it fixed before you go. If you’re traveling to a climate that is either warmer or colder than what you’ve been experiencing in your neck of the woods lately, be sure your heater and/or air conditioner are working to keep you comfortable and safe.

Under the Hood

Checking out things under the hood of your car is all about fluids, filters, and belts. Making sure that these components are functioning properly is basically like checking the vital signs of your car, and it will help you to root out and avoid any potential problems on your road trip. Here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Engine Oil: Make sure you have enough and that it’s clean. This includes checking the oil filter.

  • Transmission Fluid: Check both quantity and quality.

  • Other Fluids: Make sure you’re topped off on power steering, brake, and windshield washer fluids as well.

  • Coolant: Your engine coolant needs to be at the right level, and of the right grade for the season wherever you’re traveling to.

  • Air Filter: The air filter affects your cars fuel efficiency and the health of your engine. Make sure it’s clean and up for the trip.

  • Battery: Make sure your battery is clean, that the cables are connected properly, and that the fluid levels are balanced if your battery requires that.

  • Belts and Hoses: Inspect the condition of your car under the hood, checking for any leaks or indications that any hoses may be leaking. Check any belts for obvious wear and tear.