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Can My Car Handle A Road Trip (Check These Things Before You Leave!)

Can My Car Handle A Road Trip (Check These Things Before You Leave!)

Going on a road trip with friends or family is an exciting way to see the landscape and beauty of an area that you would like to explore up close. You can drive up the coast, head across the country, or head from one destination to another while taking a scenic route. 

However you do it, a road trip can also be pretty hard on your car with all the miles that it will be driven. Ensuring that your vehicle can handle the long trip is imperative to be able to make it through the whole trip without needing work done on your car.

If you are not sure that your car is ready for this type of trip, then you should take the time to review and inspect it. Even if you are confident that your car will make it, you will still want to make sure that the vehicle has what it needs before you head out. 

So, can your car handle a road trip? If your car is not currently experiencing issues and has been receiving routine maintenance then there is a good chance that it can handle a road trip. However, you should still check things like fluid levels, check belts, inspect tire wear, and get an oil change if it’s close to needing one before hitting the road.

Let’s jump in and discuss in more detail the ways to:

  • prepare your car for the road trip
  • how to tell if your car is up to the job
  • what to do if you shouldn’t be driving your car for the trip!

How To Know You Shouldn’t Take Your Vehicle 

In most cases, your car will likely be able to handle the trip. This is because cars can be tuned up, prepared through proper maintenance, and given the best care before a trip like this.

But, if you are already having trouble with your car, then you might want to rethink the use of your vehicle on your road trip. Some problems will persist throughout the trip and make your car a hassle to deal with.

This will take away the excitement and focus from the beautiful scenery around you, and you don’t want that to happen. 

So, one immediate way to decide if you want to take your car is if you have been having trouble with the engine lately.

Also, if you are having any of these specific issues mentioned below, then you will want to rethink using your car.

Fluid Leaks 

If you have begun to see some fluid spots on the ground from your car being parked, then you may have a fluid leak that could throw a wrench in your road trip plans.

These types of leaks could mean that any number of fluids could be the culprit, but if you aren’t sure which one is leaking, don’t drive your car.

Spots like these could be from condensation from using your air conditioning, coolant leaks, or oil leaks, and some are more serious than others.

If your car is leaking water or condensation, then this is not a problem that will need any attention. 

If you notice that the car is leaking oil or transmission fluid, then you could have a much more expensive fix.

If your car is supposed to take you on a trip soon, then you might want to get a rental or borrow a friend’s vehicle to avoid not getting the car back in time. 

Alternator Issues 

The alternator affects the battery and the electrical power that supplies current for the lights and locking systems in your vehicle. If the car is losing power, it could be a sign that the alternator is not working properly. 

This will eventually make your car unable to start up. This is obviously an issue that you don’t want to deal with while on the road. 

If an alternator is not fixed or replaced before you go on your trip, then you do not want to take your vehicle.

This will only cause more worry on the road and will likely cause you to stop the trip to get the car fixed when it inevitably stops starting. 

How To Prepare Your Vehicle For Your Trip 

If you don’t see any major issues with your vehicle that could be a sign that your car won’t make it, you can feel confident that your car will be able to be driven the entire way without issue.

You want to start making the necessary preparations to ensure your vehicle is ready for a longer trip than it’s used to. 

Checking all the main functions and making sure your car is ready for the road trip will ensure that you will have no problems on the road.

Doing some routine maintenance will keep your car driving smoothly and make your road trip a breeze. 

Fill Up Your Fluids 

Your vehicle has many different fluids that are needed to run properly, but there are six that are essential to check out before you head out on your trip. These are the oil, radiator, brake, power steering, transmission, and windshield fluid

These fluids all help essential functions on your vehicle and will need to be sufficient if your car is going to make the trip.

If these fluids are not filled to the proper level, then you could have some major issues like overheating, difficult steering, or transmission issues. 

Any of these problems will make your road trip much more difficult, and they could cause some damage to your vehicle and engine. So, check all six of these fluids to ensure that they are to the proper level and the oil does not need to be changed. 

Check Your Tires 

Your tires will be working for a longer time then they are used to, so you need to make sure that they are able to handle the task.

Checking the tread to see if they need to be replaced or rotated will keep them from causing trouble on the road. 

If you notice that they have not been rotated, then get that done to help the tires from being worn down unevenly.

If any of the tires look too worn down, then it is better to get them replaced to ensure that they will make it the entire trip without blowing. 

You also want to fill up the tires to the proper tire pressure so that they will be ready for the long trip.

A longer drive will lower the tire pressure, so ensuring that they are up to the high level they should be at will keep them from getting too low. 

Routine Maintenance 

While you are handling the maintenance for your trip, you don’t want to forget about the routine maintenance that you do every so often.

These small things are typically checked throughout the year, but you will want to check them before you go on your trip. 

Air Filters 

The filters on your car keep dust and dirt from getting into your engine and affecting how your car runs, but they need to be changed out to keep them from getting clogged up.

Checking your air filters will ensure that they will work during the trip where there will be lots of dust and dirt. 

If your air filters are clean, then you can get away with not changing them out. However, if they are looking fairly dirty, you will want to switch it out because the trip might make the filter clogged with the extra dirt!

Brake Pads 

The brake pads are the part of the brake that gives you the friction needed to stop the vehicle. These will get thinner with use and need to be replaced when they are too worn down.

These often make a loud squeaking sound when they start wearing down, so it is easy to tell.

When going on a long road trip, you will want to replace them even if they are not completely worn down, just to be safe. 

Bulbs in Brake Lights and Headlights 

Having a broken or fading light anywhere on your car could cause cops to pull you over, and if you go on a road trip with a broken bulb, you will likely get stopped multiple times.

This is a hassle that you don’t want to bother with!

So, check all the lights before you go and replace any bulbs that are not at full power. It might be a good idea to have extras in the car, just in case of an accident along the way that takes out a light. 

Hoses and Belts 

Although you might not need to replace any of these often, you will still want to double-check to make sure that they are not damaged or frayed.

Also, you want to see if the belts are tight, but offer a little slack. 

You also want to see if any of the hoses are leaking any fluids. If you see any work needed, you will want to replace them to ensure you won’t have to deal with this issue on the road. 

Heading Out For Your Trip 

Making sure that your car is up to the task of driving you the entire length of the trip doesn’t take too much effort, so you want to take the time and check everything that might affect your trip. 

Once you feel like your car has gotten all the tender loving care that it needs, and you have replaced any parts that were needed, you will feel like your vehicle is ready for the road trip!

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!