car maintenance checklist

Car Maintenance Checklist for Your Next Road Trip

Car maintenance is essential before a long road trip to ensure you do not have a disastrous breakdown. Whether you are going on vacation with the family, visiting relatives for the holidays or going on a work-related trip, having a car you can rely on and that has received the proper maintenance can ensure your trip goes smoothly. Here’s a car maintenance checklist for you.

A six-step car maintenance checklist

Before your next road trip, be sure to check your car oil, fluids, tires, light bulbs, brakes, belts, hoses and battery. If there are any concerns, you may need to take your car in for a tune-up or service your car yourself before you leave. This can prevent set backs and unnecessary stress on your car and yourself. The following is a review of each of the six steps for car maintenance before your next road trip. 

1. Check your car oil and fluids

Your car oil lubricates the moving parts of your vehicle and aids in temperature control. It is always important to check your car oil, give it regular oil changes and always add oil when necessary. However, this is particularly important on long trips as there is an increased risk of your car overheating or enduring excessive wear and tear if there is not enough clean oil. 

Therefore, check your oil before you leave and schedule an oil change if you have driven more than 3,000 miles since your last change. Other car fluids such as the transmission fluid, radiator fluid, brake fluid and windshield fluid should also be checked before you leave. 

2. Check your tire tread and air pressure

One of the main reasons for setbacks during a road trip is a flat tire. This can not only set your schedule back several hours, but it can also become a safety hazard. Therefore, be sure to check your tire tread, pressure and rotation. If your tire tread is worn-down and shallow, then you may need to replace the tires before you start your road trip. 

Also, check for and punctures to your tires and repair or replace them accordingly. Although tire rotation is less essential, rotating your tires before you leave can prevent excessive tire damage and make your ride more comfortable. You should also ensure you have a reliable spare tire with you as well. 

3. Ensure your lights work properly

For optimal safety and to avoid getting pulled over due to a light that does not work properly, check all of your lights before you leave. This includes your headlights, taillights, turn signal lights, parking lights, brake lights and license plate lights. If you know there are issues with one or more of your car lights, then order the replacement parts plenty of time in advance to ensure they have arrived and are installed before your road trip. 

This is particularly important if you plan to drive at night, although all of your lights still need to work properly during the day as well. This should not only include replacing lights that do not work but rather all dim or flicking headlights and headlamps that are foggy or oxidized. 

4. Service your brakes as necessary

This is a critical piece of the car maintenance checklist. You should service your brakes approximately every 50,000 miles. This should include changing your brake fluid and brake pads as well as an inspection of your brake rotors. If it has been a while since the last time you serviced your brakes or have experienced issues with your brakes recently, then servicing them before your next road trip is important for optimal safety and comfort. 

Properly serviced brakes are essential in accident prevention and in reducing the overall wear and tear your car endures during a long road trip. If you have car maintenance experience, then you may be able to service your brakes on your own, although trusting a professional for brake service is encouraged. 

5. Check the belts and hoses

Belts and hoses often are overlooked during car maintenance checklists before a road trip. If you are not familiar with car belts and hoses, then you may prefer to have your auto mechanic check them for you. However, you can inspect them yourself rather easily. The main thing you are looking for are any excessive wear to your belts and hoses. 

Most notably, change any belts or hoses that are fractured. You may also need to replace or repair belts and hoses that appear worn-down and fragile. This ensures your engine works properly during your road trip and reduces the overall risk of car trouble while on the road. 

6. The last step in your car maintenance checklist is to ensure the battery works properly

A dead battery is not a major cause for concern as it relates to the long-term condition of your car, but it can cause a major inconvenience and can set your travel schedule back substantially. Be sure to check your battery to ensure it is properly connected and that the battery terminals do not have rust.

If the car fails or is slow to start, then it is important to replace the battery before you leave. This is easy to do on your own, and you can find a new battery at most auto parts stores. If you are not sure if your battery is bad or if you have a more serious complication (i.e. the alternator), then visit your mechanic for car maintenance before your next road trip. 

When to see an auto mechanic for service

If you do not have the time to go through the full car maintenance checklist, or you would simply prefer a professional opinion, then scheduling a car maintenance tune-up visit with your auto mechanic before your road trip may be the best option. 

They can tell you what all you need before your road trip to ensure you do not break down, have a flat tire or are vulnerable to dangerous driving due to dim, flickering, broken or burnt out headlights and brakes that do not work properly. However, you can complete the six steps laid out in this car maintenance checklist for your next road trip on your own as well.

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Aaron Westbury
Aaron is a content writer with a passion for cars. He enjoys learning new things and loves to share what he learns with others. Aaron also has a Bachelor's in English and years of experience as a writer, and he constantly seeks to improve and make his writing more informative and helpful for readers. Although a writer by day, Aaron enjoys his free time by getting outdoors and staying active anyway he can.


    1. I wish I knew all this for my first road trip. This would’ve made the journey way better.

    2. I never done a road trip. I find this article very useful for the future if I ever do a road trip. It has a lot of valid points.

    3. Check all of your fluids and put a piece of clean cardboard under your car when you park. Do you see any spots? There might be a small leak that you did not notice. Now is the time to fix it.

    4. I have taken plenty of road trips and I have never checked my car first. I know, terrible. These days, I always just get a rental.

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