Road Trip Checklist for SummerMay 13rd, 2021
With the amazing weather coming up, there’s nothing better than hitting the road when the sun is shining on a road trip. But before you start that playlist, take the top off and start your cruise, Finch knows you’ll want to put some thought into the nuts and bolts getting you from point A to point B.
1. Pick the Car
If you have more than one car, you’ll have to decide which to take. You could choose the older, high-mileage unit—a few more miles on the odometer isn't a huge difference. Or you could pick the newer one for a more comfortable ride. Think of it this way, if you’re heading out on a long trek, prioritize comfort and miles per gallon over speed. Take your time, see the sights and select the smooth ride. Plus, you'll save some gasoline along the way.
Also think of how much gear you’re going to need to carry. On your road trip, are you planning on camping for a long weekend or heading to Ottawa? If you plan to a bunch of camping gear, you’ll obviously want to take the car with the most cargo space.
The other thing is to think of the basic car parts. Make sure the car’s battery is in good condition, and check your wiper blades for cracks or missing pieces of rubber before you leave.
2. Change Your Oil
Long, hot drives are tough on your car’s oil—particularly if you’re pulling a trailer or driving up and down hills. Synthetic oil generally performs better in both hot and cold temperatures, and it lasts many more miles than conventional motor oil. If you’re already close to hitting your oil-change interval, it’s best to see us at Finch before to change it before you head out on your road trip.
3. Check Those Fluids
Everyone thinks of oil, but take a few minutes to check your car’s other key fluids: coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Coolant keeps the engine from overheating, brake fluid is what lets you stop in a safe (and timely) manner, and the washer fluid is sure to help you see where you're going, particularly during those surprise downpours.
4. How Are Your Brakes?
No matter how topped-up your brake fluid is, your car won’t be able to stop safely if your car has heavily worn brake pads and rotors. It’s worth having a Finch mechanic pull the wheels for a quick inspection of your pads and rotors if they haven’t been replaced in the last 15-20K miles or more. If they look low (say, 3 or 4 millimeters thick), have the pads replaced and the rotors either replaced or resurfaced.
5. Check The Tires
Just like depleted tread won’t help you in winter slush, summer heat is a killer for worn tires. Not sure how many miles you have left on your current tires? Try the dime trick! Stick a dime into the tread’s groove with the Queen's head pointed downward and facing you. If you can see her entire head, it’s time for new tires. If you can only see to her nose from the tread, you have some more life left in them. Alternatively, you can also check the tire wear indicators (or wear bars), which are located in several locations around the tire inside the grooves. If the bars are visibly flush with the tire’s adjacent ribs, it’s time for new tires. You should also check your tire pressure before and during the trip. Check the owner’s manual for the right number (it’s usually around 32 pounds per square inch, or psi), and don’t forget to check your spare before you head out on that road trip!
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6. Test the AC
Nobody likes riding in a hot car, so do a quick test to make sure the air conditioning is blowing cold before leaving for that road trip. Modern systems aren’t the gas hogs they used to be, and riding in comfort is way better than surviving 10 hours with the windows down. If things don’t appear to be working right, definitely have the system inspected by one of our amazing mechanics. Air-conditioner repairs are well worth their cost, especially in the summer heat.
Nowadays, your cell is the simplest solution for navigation. You can save a few seconds (and some data) by downloading the map area of where you’re going before starting your road trip, and apps like GasBuddy can even help you find the closest (and least expensive) gas station. Smartphone GPS systems are very reliable, but a standalone GPS device is a good back-up system. Or you could go old school and bring an actual road map!
8. Don't Forget Emergency Supplies
There are a few things you should always keep in your car, whether you’re taking a road trip or not. Your just-in-case list should include water, a first aid kit, jumper cables, safety triangle/road flares, mechanic gloves, extra engine fluids, and a flashlight. It's always better safe than sorry.
Classic road games like I Spy or the License Plate Game can be fun for people of all ages (have you ever seen one from the Yukon?). If reading in the car doesn’t make you nauseous, a road trip is a great chance to catch up on your booklist. Music is a given, but you can also use your time driving to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or, if you’re not behind the wheel, to catch up on your favorite TV shows or movies. Don’t forget your various charging cables, adapters, and a portable battery pack if you have one.
10. The Most Important Part - Snacks
You’re going to have to eat sooner or later, right? Pack some snacks so you won’t have to stop and pay the insane gas station prices. You need to stay properly nourished and hydrated for a successful road trip, so bring some reusable water bottles you can fill along the way. Choose healthy treats, because nothing is worse than crashing off a sugar high when you still have two hours of driving left. Beef jerky, or trailmix anyone? And nobody wants to drive or ride in a car filled with trash wrappers, so make sure to bring and use a trash receptacle.
The main thing is road trips are great for seeing the country and bonding with friends or family, and they're often less expensive than flying. Take a few precautions in advance, make sure to pack the essentials, and you’ll leave your driveway bound for a successful trip. Be safe, be prepared, and have some fun.