The arrival of spring always stirs up a longing for adventure. After months cooped up inside and navigating , blue skies and warm weather are reason enough to load up your car and hit the highway.
However, your best planning will be undone if you can't depend on your car. A on your daily commute is one thing, but what if your car leaves you stranded miles outside the middle of nowhere? Car care is necessary , but especially before a road trip, so complete these basic maintenance tasks before becoming a horror movie cliché.
Fluids are the lifeblood of any car. Service intervals on your car's six essential fluids usually depend on mileage, so consider how far you've driven since your last one, and how far you plan on driving on your trip, to decide what needs attention.
Oil: You don't need to be a car expert to know that oil is critical for an engine. It like the pistons, crankshaft, and camshaft so they can move smoothly without friction. Oil should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. If you've gotten an oil change within that range, to check the oil condition and fill level. If it's black, gritty, or below the minimum, right away.
Radiator fluid: Engines produce a lot of heat and the radiator . Radiator fluid, also known as coolant or antifreeze, works to extract heat from the engine and dissipate it through the radiator. A low coolant level will also likely result in overheating, so check your coolant and top it off if need be, and make sure to flush the system at .
Brake fluid: When you push the bake pedal, fluid—yes, fluid—compresses inside the brake lines, forcing the brake pads to clamp on the rotors and slow your car. If you ever notice that the pedal feels or has , the fluid may be . Be sure to the brake fluid if necessary, and every 36,000 miles.
Power steering fluid: Modern cars use power steering to make turning the wheel easy at any speed, but this fluid can also become contaminated, making your steering wheel less responsive. About you're going to want to get your braking system checked out.
Transmission fluid: Not much ruins a drive like a transmission that jerks when it shifts. helps gears mesh smoothly, and when it goes bad, can be the result. Fortunately, transmission fluid lasts a long time, and some cars are even sold with so-called "lifetime" transmission fluid. Generally, though, it's a good idea to replace the fluid at . Increased problems are likely with transmission fluid older than 100,000 miles.
Windshield fluid: Long drives mean a dirty car, and there's nothing on your car's exterior more important to keep clean than the windshield. After all, you have to be able to see where you're going. Adding windshield washer fluid is super basic – get a jug of fluid at any gas station, then simply use a funnel to your reservoir if it gets low.
As you'd expect, tires are paramount to safety, comfort, and fuel efficiency, so it's important to check their condition.
Air pressure – 1,000 miles: Every road tripper wants to get the best fuel efficiency, and tires are guaranteed to waste gas. Conversely, tires make ride quality worse because they're less compliant. Incorrect air pressure also causes tires to wear unevenly and need replacement sooner. Be checking tire pressure , so depending on the length of your trip, that could be a few times.
Rotation – 5,000 to 8,000 miles: Even if tire pressure is correct, variations in suspension calibration, weight balance, and road conditions make tires wear out at . Because of this, it's important to periodically between different locations on your car. Swapping between the right and left side or front and rear helps tires last longer because they're each exposed to similar variations. Tire rotations should be completed every .
Replacement – 25,000 to 50,000 miles: If you think your tires are nearing their expiration date, the is an easy way to check. While tires last anywhere from depending on their type and use, if damage like punctures or occur, replace them immediately.
Cars have numerous components that need maintenance to stay in good working order, so make sure to check these parts before you hit the road.
Brake pads: Brake pads provide the friction needed to slow and stop your car. They with use, becoming too thin to work effectively. Usually it's obvious when this happens due to irritating they make. Replacing the brake pads should fix the noise and, more importantly, make your road trip safer. Depending on what your brake pads are made of and how they're used, they can last anywhere from .
Air filters: With dust, debris, and bugs everywhere, the road is a dirty place. Cars use to prevent gunk from entering the engine or interior. Eventually air filters and can become clogged, potentially impacting engine and fuel economy, and definitely affecting interior air quality. Air filters should be replaced about every , but fortunately, they're usually inexpensive and easy to change.
Light bulbs: Having a burnt out light is an easy ways to get on a drive. To check, turn on your car, switch on the , make sure it's in Park, and take a walk around to see if any are burnt out. Repeat the process for the left and right . With the gear lever in still in Park, use a brick to hold the brake pedal so you can check the condition of your .
Belts and hoses: Looking under the hood of your car can be intimidating, but there are a few trouble signs anyone can spot. Give the a squeeze to make sure they're tight–there should be slack. Also look to see if there's any visible cracking, fraying, or missing teeth in the belts, which indicate it needs to be . Check the to see if there's any , especially near joining points. Having a hose fail in the middle of a drive can spell disaster for an engine.
Yep, it's not secret that car care can be a pain. But it's not nearly as bad as having an adventure ruined by a preventable problem. Your car works hard on a road trip, so give it what it need to keep running.
Alex Leanse is a lead writer for , a car site dedicated to providing advice on how to keep your car running, and sending mobile mechanics to your home or office for maintenance and repair services.