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Summer is when we’re most likely to take an extended trip, with many of us driving to destinations that are hours, or perhaps even days, away from our homes. When the weather gets warm, the question of how to prepare your car for a road trip is sure to come up. Long trips can take a toll on our cars, which is why it’s important to make sure it’s ready for the journey ahead. So, how do you prepare your car for a road trip? By following our checklist and tips.

Before You Hit the Road

You’ll rack up many miles on your vehicle before your trip is done. To avoid a breakdown, which can delay or even ruin your vacation, ensure that your maintenance items, as outlined in your owner’s manual, are accomplished in advance. These may include:

1. Change your oil and oil filter.

2. Replace belts and hoses. Signs of bulging, cracking or leaking mean it’s time for new ones.

3. Clean battery connections or replace the battery.

4. Top off all fluids, including the transmission, brake, power steering, radiator and windshield fluids.

5. Rotate tires, if necessary. Replace if worn. Always ensure that each tire, including the spare, has sufficient air.

6. Inspect air filters. Replace or clean, if clogged.

7. Check the brakes. Brake pads and calipers may need replacement.

8. Perform a walk around with all of the lights on. Replace burnt out bulbs, including the brake lights and turn signals. Check the interior lighting as well.

Tools, an extra set of belts, hoses and an emergency kit should be stored onboard. If you belong to a roadside assistance service, bring that information with you. Owners of newer vehicles should also be familiar with their warranties.

Creature Comforts

There are also a few things you should do before you leave to ensure everyone’s comfort while on the road. These include:

1. Check all equipment, including heating and cooling. Make sure the audio, entertainment and navigation systems are working. The latter may need a downloadable update.

2. Bring USB cords and a fully charged backup charger.

3. Include water, snacks and games to keep everyone hydrated, filled and entertained.

4. Pack the vehicle evenly, ensuring that there isn’t too much weight on one side, which can affect control. Stay within payload limits. Never tow more than what your vehicle is designed to handle.

Begin recording your miles the moment you leave your home. Download whatever trip-related apps will help you.

While on the Road

Each time you stop for fuel, there are a few things to check before continuing on your journey.

Do a visual check of the tires, lights and trailer connection. Take note of any leaks — the water dripping underneath the front of your vehicle is likely from the air conditioner. However, if the leak is black, then it may be oil. Green, pink or orange suggests coolant. Other colors, such as red or brown may point to the transmission, brake fluid or power steering system. Resolve these issues before continuing on your journey.

When You Return Home

Once home, unload your vehicle. Then take note of the miles driven and perform whatever maintenance is necessary. At the very least, you’ll want to wash your car and add air to the tires. Rotate the tires, if necessary. Once you get into the rhythm of completing this checklist for every road trip, you’ll be a pro at expediting the process for the next journey.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to prepare your car for a road trip, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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