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What Should You Inspect On Your Vehicle Before Going On A Road Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Stephi Brenner



Embarking on a road trip is not only an exciting adventure but also a chance to explore new destinations and create unforgettable memories. However, before you hit the open road, it is essential to ensure that your vehicle is in top-notch condition. Performing a thorough inspection before your road trip can help prevent potential breakdowns, ensure your safety, and save you from unnecessary hassles along the way.


While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning your route and packing your bags, taking the time to inspect your vehicle can make all the difference in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey. This article will guide you through the key areas to inspect on your vehicle before heading out on your road trip, giving you peace of mind and confidence in the reliability of your vehicle.


By thoroughly inspecting your vehicle, you can identify any potential issues that may arise during your road trip and address them before they become more significant problems. This proactive approach will not only help you avoid unexpected breakdowns but also save you time, money, and inconvenience on the road.


Remember, a well-maintained vehicle is the foundation of a successful road trip. So, let’s dive into the essential areas you should inspect before setting off on your adventure.



When it comes to road trip preparedness, checking your tires should be at the top of your list. Your tires are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road, making them crucial for your safety and overall driving experience.


Start by inspecting the tire tread depth. A worn-out tire can negatively impact traction and handling, especially in wet or slippery conditions. Make sure your tires have a minimum tread depth of at least 4/32 of an inch or more, ensuring proper grip on the road.


Next, examine the tire pressure. Underinflated tires not only compromise fuel efficiency but also increase the risk of blowouts. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines or your vehicle’s manual to determine the recommended tire pressure. Use a reliable tire pressure gauge to check the pressure of each tire, including the spare.


Inspect the tire sidewalls for any signs of damage, such as cuts, bulges, or uneven wear. These can indicate potential tire failure and should be addressed immediately. Additionally, check for any foreign objects lodged in the tire, such as nails or screws, which can lead to a flat tire.


Lastly, don’t forget to check the condition of your tire’s spare. Make sure it is properly inflated and in good working condition. In the event of a flat tire, having a functional spare tire can save you from being stranded on the side of the road.


Regular tire maintenance and inspections can significantly improve the lifespan and performance of your tires. If you notice any issues during your inspection, such as excessive wear or damage, it is advisable to replace your tires before embarking on your road trip. Investing in high-quality tires can ensure a safer, smoother, and more enjoyable journey.



When it comes to road trip safety, properly functioning brakes are non-negotiable. Your brakes play a crucial role in maintaining control and stopping your vehicle, especially during unexpected situations or emergencies. Before you hit the road, it’s essential to ensure that your brakes are in optimal condition.


Start by checking the brake fluid level in the reservoir. Low brake fluid can indicate a leak or worn brake pads. If the fluid is below the recommended level, it’s crucial to have your brake system inspected by a professional mechanic.


Next, inspect the brake pads. Worn brake pads can significantly affect braking performance, increasing stopping distances and compromising your safety. Look for any signs of thinning or uneven wear on the brake pads. If they are less than 3mm thick, consider replacing them before your trip.


Check the brake rotors for any signs of damage or warping. Warped rotors can cause vibrations or pulsations when braking, negatively impacting your vehicle’s braking efficiency. If you notice any significant damage or warping, it’s best to have them replaced or resurfaced by a qualified mechanic.


Another essential component to inspect is the brake lines. Look for any signs of leakage, such as fluid drips or moist spots around the brake lines. Leaking brake fluid can lead to brake failure and should be addressed immediately by a professional.


Lastly, test your brakes by taking your vehicle on a short test drive and paying attention to any unusual noises, vibrations, or a mushy brake pedal. These can be indicators of brake problems that need to be addressed before your road trip.


Remember, maintaining well-functioning brakes is essential for your safety and the safety of other road users. If you have any doubts or concerns about your vehicle’s braking system, it’s always recommended to have a professional inspection and service performed before embarking on a long journey.



Checking the fluid levels in your vehicle is an important part of preparing for a road trip. Fluids are essential for the proper functioning of various systems in your car, ensuring optimum performance and preventing potential damage. Here are the key fluids to inspect before hitting the road:


Engine Oil: Start by checking the engine oil level using the dipstick. Ensure that the oil level is within the recommended range and that the oil appears clean and free from any contaminants. If the oil is low or dirty, it’s advisable to change it before your trip. Also, make a note of when the next oil change is due based on your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.


Coolant/Antifreeze: Maintaining the right level of coolant is crucial to prevent engine overheating, especially during long drives. Check the coolant level in the reservoir while the engine is cool. Ensure that it is between the minimum and maximum markings. If the level is low, add the appropriate coolant mixture as per your vehicle’s specifications.


Transmission Fluid: If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, inspect the transmission fluid level and condition. Consult your vehicle’s manual for the proper procedure to check the transmission fluid. If the fluid appears discolored, has a burnt odor, or is low, it may be time to have the transmission serviced by a professional.


Brake Fluid: As mentioned earlier, check the brake fluid level in the reservoir. Low brake fluid can indicate a brake system issue, so if the level is low, it’s essential to address the problem before your road trip. Use the recommended brake fluid type and consult your vehicle’s manual for proper instructions.


Power Steering Fluid: For vehicles with power steering, check the power steering fluid level and condition. Low or dirty power steering fluid can affect steering responsiveness. Top up the fluid if necessary or have it flushed and replaced if it appears dirty.


Windshield Washer Fluid: Ensure that your vehicle has an adequate supply of windshield washer fluid to clean your windshield during your journey. Refill the reservoir if needed to ensure clear visibility while driving.


Regularly inspecting and maintaining these fluids can help keep your vehicle running smoothly and prevent potential issues during your road trip. If any of the fluids appear low, dirty, or have a strong odor, it’s recommended to have them inspected and serviced by a qualified mechanic.



Properly functioning lights are crucial for safe driving, especially during a road trip. Before you embark on your journey, take the time to inspect all the lights on your vehicle to ensure they are in good working condition. Here’s what to check:


Headlights: Check both your low beams and high beams to ensure they are working properly. Replace any burnt-out bulbs and ensure that the headlights are properly aimed for optimal visibility at night.


Brake Lights: Have someone assist you in checking the functionality of your brake lights while you press the brake pedal. If any of the brake lights are not working, replace the bulbs as soon as possible to ensure that your vehicle’s braking intentions are clearly communicated to other drivers.


Turn Signals: Test the turn signals on both the front and rear of your vehicle. Make sure they are functioning correctly and have proper visibility from all angles. Replace any malfunctioning bulbs promptly.


Taillights: Inspect your taillights to ensure they are illuminating properly. These lights indicate your presence on the road to other drivers, especially in low-light conditions. Replace any faulty bulbs.


Reverse Lights: Check your reverse lights to ensure they are working when you engage the reverse gear. These lights are crucial for alerting others to your intentions of backing up.


License Plate Light: Although often overlooked, a functioning license plate light is essential for ensuring your license plate is visible at all times. Check if it is illuminating properly and replace any burnt-out bulbs.


Interior Lights: Test the interior lights, including the dome lights and dashboard lights. Replace any bulbs that are not functioning properly to ensure clear visibility while driving at night.


By thoroughly inspecting and maintaining your vehicle’s lights, you improve your visibility on the road and ensure that other drivers can see you clearly. If you notice any issues, such as flickering lights or bulbs that keep burning out, it’s recommended to have them inspected by a professional to identify and resolve the underlying problem.


Belts and Hoses

Inspecting the belts and hoses in your vehicle is an important part of ensuring its reliability and preventing unexpected breakdowns during your road trip. These components play a crucial role in the proper functioning of various systems in your car. Here’s what you should look for:


Drive Belts: Check the condition and tension of the drive belts, such as the serpentine belt or V-belt. Over time, belts can become worn, cracked, or frayed, compromising their performance. If you notice any signs of damage or excessive wear, it’s essential to have them replaced before your journey.


Hoses: Inspect the hoses in your vehicle for any signs of leaks, cracks, or bulges. Pay close attention to the coolant hoses, as they are crucial for proper engine cooling. If you notice any issues with the hoses, have them replaced by a professional to prevent potential engine overheating or coolant leaks.


Radiator Hose: Specifically, check the condition of the radiator hose. A damaged radiator hose can lead to engine overheating and potentially cause severe damage. Look for any signs of cracks, leaks, or bulges, and address any problems promptly.


Power Steering Hose: If your vehicle has power steering, inspect the power steering hose for any leaks or damage. Power steering fluid leaks can affect the steering responsiveness and should be addressed before your road trip.


Heater Hoses: Examine the heater hoses for any signs of leaks or deterioration. These hoses are responsible for circulating hot coolant to provide heat inside the vehicle. Malfunctioning heater hoses can lead to a lack of heating during the journey, especially in colder climates.


Regularly inspecting the belts and hoses in your vehicle can help identify potential issues before they escalate into more significant problems. If you notice any signs of damage or wear during your inspection, it’s advisable to have them replaced or repaired by a qualified mechanic. This proactive approach will help ensure the reliability and longevity of your vehicle’s systems, providing you with peace of mind on your road trip.



Ensuring that your vehicle’s battery is in good condition is essential for a smooth and worry-free road trip. The battery provides the power necessary to start your engine and operate various electrical components in your car. Here’s what you should check:


Battery Age and Condition: Determine the age of your battery. Most batteries have a lifespan of about three to five years. If your battery is near or past its recommended lifespan, it’s advisable to have it tested or replaced before your trip, as aging batteries are more prone to failure.


Battery Terminals: Inspect the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion or buildup. Corrosion can hinder the flow of electricity and impact your battery’s performance. If you notice any corrosion, remove it carefully using a battery cleaning brush and a solution of baking soda and water.


Battery Connections: Ensure that the battery connections are secure and tight. Loose connections can lead to intermittent electrical problems or prevent the battery from charging properly. Tighten any loose connections but be careful not to overtighten them, as this can damage the terminals.


Battery Charge Level: Check the battery’s charge level using a multimeter. Ideally, it should read around 12.6 volts or higher when the engine is off. If the charge is significantly lower, it may indicate a weak or discharged battery. Consider charging or replacing it if necessary.


Load Test: Performing a load test on your battery can help determine its ability to hold a charge under a heavy load. This test is usually done by a professional using specialized equipment. If you’re unsure about your battery’s condition, it’s recommended to have a load test performed.


It’s also important to note that extreme temperatures, especially in hot summer or cold winter months, can put additional stress on your battery. If you’re planning a road trip during these seasons, it’s even more crucial to ensure your battery is in top shape.


By inspecting your vehicle’s battery and addressing any issues before your road trip, you can avoid the frustration and inconvenience of a dead or weak battery on the road. If you have any doubts about your battery’s condition, it’s always wise to have it tested or replaced by a professional mechanic to ensure a reliable journey.


Wipers and Windshield

Clear visibility is crucial for safe driving, especially during adverse weather conditions. Before heading out on your road trip, take the time to inspect your wipers and windshield to ensure optimal visibility throughout your journey.


Wiper Blades: Inspect the condition of your wiper blades. Look for any signs of cracks, tears, or deterioration. Worn-out wiper blades can streak or skip across the windshield, compromising visibility. If your wiper blades are in poor condition, it’s best to replace them before your trip.


Wiper Fluid: Check the level of your windshield wiper fluid. Ensure that the reservoir is filled with a suitable washer fluid solution that can effectively clean your windshield. Refill the reservoir if needed to ensure you have an ample supply of fluid for your journey.


Windshield Condition: Inspect your windshield for any cracks, chips, or other damage that may obstruct your view. Small cracks or chips can quickly expand due to temperature changes or road vibrations. Consider repairing any minor damage and replacing the windshield if necessary.


Windshield Rain Repellent: Applying a windshield rain repellent product, such as Rain-X, can improve visibility in rainy conditions. These products cause water to bead up and roll off the windshield quickly, enhancing your ability to see clearly even in heavy rain.


During your road trip, regularly clean your windshield using your wiper fluid and wiper blades to remove dirt, bugs, and other debris that may accumulate. This will help maintain clear visibility and prevent smearing that can hinder your ability to see the road ahead.


Remember to also check the rear wiper blade and rear windshield if your vehicle is equipped with them. Rear visibility is just as important as front visibility, especially during heavy rain or snowfall.


By ensuring that your wipers are in good condition, your windshield is clean and free from obstructions, and you have an ample supply of wiper fluid, you’ll be equipped to handle various weather conditions and enjoy a safe and clear view of the road during your road trip.


Suspension and Steering

Ensuring that your vehicle’s suspension and steering components are in good working condition is essential for a smooth and safe road trip. A well-maintained suspension and steering system not only provides a comfortable ride but also enhances your vehicle’s handling and control. Here’s what you should inspect:


Shocks and Struts: Inspect the shocks and struts for any signs of leakage, damage, or uneven wear. Worn-out shocks or struts can result in a bumpy ride, reduced control, and increased stopping distances. If you notice any issues, have them inspected and replaced by a professional.


Suspension Bushings: Check the suspension bushings for signs of wear or deterioration. These components help absorb road irregularities and maintain proper alignment. If the bushings are worn or damaged, they can lead to a rough ride and affect your vehicle’s stability.


Ball Joints: Inspect the ball joints for any signs of looseness or excessive play. Worn or damaged ball joints can cause steering instability and affect your vehicle’s handling. Address any issues with the ball joints promptly to ensure safe driving conditions.


Steering Components: Check the steering components, such as tie rods, control arms, and steering linkage, for any signs of wear or damage. Make sure they are properly lubricated and functioning correctly to maintain precise and responsive steering.


Wheel Alignment: Proper wheel alignment is crucial for even tire wear and optimal handling. If your vehicle tends to pull to one side, or if you notice uneven tire wear, it may be a sign of misalignment. Have your wheel alignment checked and adjusted by a professional if necessary.


Power Steering: If your vehicle has power steering, ensure that it operates smoothly and without any excessive noise. Check the power steering fluid level and condition, and top it up if necessary using the recommended fluid type.


Regularly inspecting and maintaining your vehicle’s suspension and steering components will help ensure a comfortable and safe driving experience during your road trip. If you notice any issues or are unsure about the condition of these components, it is best to have them inspected and serviced by a qualified mechanic before embarking on your journey.


Emergency Kit

An emergency kit is a must-have for any road trip, regardless of the length or destination. Being prepared for unexpected situations can make a significant difference in handling emergencies and keeping you and your passengers safe. Here’s what your road trip emergency kit should include:


First Aid Kit: A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for addressing minor injuries or medical issues that may arise during your trip. Include items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.


Emergency Contact List: Prepare a list of important emergency contacts, including roadside assistance, local emergency services, and your insurance provider. Keep a physical copy in your vehicle’s glove compartment and save the numbers on your phone.


Reflective Warning Triangles or Flares: These are crucial for alerting other motorists of a hazard or breakdown. Place them a safe distance behind your vehicle to warn approaching traffic and enhance your visibility.


Jumper Cables: Have a set of jumper cables in case your vehicle’s battery dies. This allows you to jump-start your car with the help of another vehicle’s battery.


Tire Changing Tools: Include a spare tire, jack, lug wrench, and any other necessary tools for changing a flat tire. Familiarize yourself with the process of changing a tire before your trip.


Flashlight and Extra Batteries: A flashlight is essential for navigating in the dark or inspecting your vehicle’s components. Pack extra batteries to ensure it remains functional throughout your trip.


Blankets and Warm Clothing: In case of unexpected cold weather or breakdowns, have warm blankets and extra clothing to stay warm until help arrives.


Non-Perishable Food and Water: Pack some non-perishable snacks and several bottles of water to sustain you in case of unforeseen delays or being stranded for an extended period. Choose items that are easy to store, open, and consume.


Basic Tool Kit: Include a set of basic tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and adjustable wrenches, for simple repairs or adjustments that may be necessary.


Roadside Assistance Membership: Consider joining a roadside assistance program for additional peace of mind. These services can provide towing, fuel delivery, and other emergency assistance in case of a breakdown.


Having a well-equipped emergency kit can help you handle unexpected situations and make your road trip safer and more enjoyable. Regularly check and replenish the items in your kit to ensure they are up to date and in good condition. With the right preparation, you’ll be ready to handle any unexpected events that come your way.


Paperwork and Documentation

Before embarking on your road trip, it’s essential to gather and organize all the necessary paperwork and documentation. Having the appropriate paperwork readily available can help you avoid unnecessary hassles and ensure a smoother journey. Here’s what you need to include:


Driver’s License and Registration: Make sure you have a valid driver’s license and the vehicle’s registration documents. Keep them easily accessible in case you need to present them to law enforcement or if any issues arise during your trip.


Insurance Information: Carry a copy of your vehicle insurance information, including the policy number and contact details for your insurance provider. This will be essential in case of an accident or if you need to file a claim.


Vehicle Manual: Bring the owner’s manual for your vehicle. It can provide valuable information on maintenance, troubleshooting, and operating specific features of your vehicle.


Trip Itinerary: Prepare a detailed trip itinerary that includes the planned route, estimated travel times, and any hotel or accommodation reservations. Share the itinerary with a trusted friend or family member, so they are aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency.


Map or Navigation System: Carry a physical map or use a reliable navigation system to guide you during your journey. Familiarize yourself with the route beforehand to minimize the chances of getting lost.


Evidence of Vehicle Maintenance: If you have recently serviced your vehicle, keep any receipts or documentation as evidence of maintenance. This can be helpful if any warranty claims or inquiries arise during your road trip.


Toll Pass or Cash: If your route includes toll roads, make sure you have the necessary toll pass or enough cash to cover the toll fees. Familiarize yourself with the payment methods accepted on the specific toll roads you will be using.


Identification Documents: It’s always advisable to carry identification documents, such as passports or identification cards, especially if you’re crossing international borders during your road trip.


Cellphone and Charger: Don’t forget to bring your cellphone and a car charger. Having a working phone is essential for emergencies, navigation, and staying connected with family and friends.


Emergency Contacts: Apart from the emergency contact list mentioned earlier, also have a list of contacts of family members, friends, or any destination-specific contacts you might need during your trip.


Keep all these documents and paperwork in a secure and easily accessible location, such as a folder or document organizer, within your vehicle. Regularly check that you have all the necessary documents before starting your journey and ensure that they are valid and up to date.


By organizing and having the appropriate paperwork and documentation on hand, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any situations and enjoy a stress-free road trip.



Preparing your vehicle before a road trip is a crucial step to ensure a safe, smooth, and enjoyable journey. By taking the time to inspect and address key areas such as tires, brakes, fluids, lights, belts and hoses, battery, wipers and windshield, suspension and steering, emergency kit, and paperwork and documentation, you significantly reduce the risk of breakdowns and unforeseen issues on the road.


Thoroughly checking your tires for wear, maintaining a well-functioning braking system, and inspecting and topping up essential fluids like engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid are vital for longevity and performance. Ensuring that all lights are working properly, including headlights, brake lights, and turn signals, enhances visibility and promotes safety. Keeping belts and hoses in good condition and inspecting the battery’s health and charge level prevent unexpected failures, while a clean windshield and functioning wipers improve visibility in all weather conditions.


Additionally, having an appropriately stocked emergency kit, including first aid supplies, necessary tools, and essential contact information, helps you handle unforeseen situations with confidence and preparedness. Gathering all the required paperwork and documentation, such as driver’s license, registration, insurance information, and a trip itinerary, keeps you organized and ready to navigate through any challenges that may arise.


Remember, investing time and effort into inspecting and maintaining your vehicle before a road trip not only ensures your safety but also enhances your overall experience. It allows you to focus on creating unforgettable memories and enjoying the beautiful destinations along your route.


So, before you hit the open road, take the necessary steps to prepare your vehicle, gather your supplies, and check that all the essential paperwork is in order. With proper preparation, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way, making your road trip an incredible adventure filled with amazing sights, memorable moments, and peace of mind.