Hillmuth Blog

How to Prepare Your Car for a Long Trip

As the summer heat dies down, now is the perfect time to use those vacation days, roll your windows down and take a trip somewhere you’ve never been before. Flying is another option, but if you don’t want to deal with a rusty bucket of a rental car, start packing for a road trip! Besides, imagine all the beautiful places you will pass and exciting detours you could take to turn your trip into a true adventure. But before you put the keys into ignition, get your car in an optimal road trip shape to ensure safe travel.

Address ongoing issues

Did you have that check engine light cleared but not fixed? Have you known for a while that one of the parts has to be replaced but did nothing about it? Be sure to address any present issues before your trip. Even if it’s something that doesn’t directly impact your car’s performance (like an occasional hard start), you never know what kind of underlying problems could be causing it. The last thing you want is to get stranded in the middle of an unfamiliar highway on your way to the vacation spot.

Don’t put off the repairs until the last moment. Schedule several weeks ahead, so that you can make sure your car drives fine and the check engine light doesn’t come back. Some mechanics may misdiagnose a symptom and conduct a repair that won’t do any harm, but won’t fix the problem either. Don’t end up spending all your vacation days on car maintenance—do business with a reliable Maryland auto repair service.

Perform scheduled maintenance

If you’ve been diligent in maintaining your car, you probably already know what needs to be done—oil change, tire rotation, new break pads, etc. However, if oil change is the only kind of maintenance you do, dig out your owner’s manual to see what your car is overdue for. Did you know that regular led-acid car batteries only last 2 to 5 years, depending on the weather conditions? Ask your mechanic to perform a battery test to see if yours is on a verge of dying.

And don’t forget to check the tires, which includes tire tread, pressure, balance and alignment. Make sure to check your spare as well—you have one, right?

Pack the glove box

And by glove box we mean the random papers, pens and documents compartment. Make sure your glove box contains the following:

  • The owner’s manual
  • Your car’s registration
  • Auto insurance card
  • A copy of your driver’s license
  • In case of emergency card with your emergency contacts

If the space allows, you can also pack a flashlight, backup fuses and a first aid kit (and gloves?). But your car might have other storage compartments to accommodate these items. Throw in a paper map just in case your electronic devices fail. Don’t forget to check whether any of your policies, plates or registration are coming up for a renewal.

Consider a full inspection

When was the last time your car was inspected? Depending on your state of residence, it could be anywhere from a year ago to back when you first bought it. Even if you have a newer car, it doesn’t hurt to bring it to your trusted Maryland auto repair station and ask your mechanic to do a complete check-up. Just explain to them that you are going on a road trip and they will know what to do. Although you can always open the hood and look inside, a visual inspection is often not enough even if you know what you are looking for. An auto repair professional can perform tests and access parts of the car you can’t easily check. If you want a piece of mind, this is the way to go.

And if you ever need help with car maintenance or repair, Hillmuth Certified Automotive is just a phone call away. We have multiple locations in Maryland, including Clarksville, Columbia, Gaithersburg and Glenwood.