Balancing Act

How to prepare for a road trip

I like to take road trips (for leisure or business) on an occasional basis. Aside from having an ample amount of gas on hand at all time, in order to mitigate any headaches, you and your vehicle must be prepared to take the road trip.

I've created a simple check list that you can use, based on my experience and recommendation by my auto mechanic. The list is itemized by components. Feel free to comment if you have additional suggestions and recommendations. Some of the items you want to double check before embarking on a lengthy (700+ miles) road trip includes:

Lighting

  • check your head lights and tail lights; bringing spare bulbs will not hurt. In fact, my Acura has aftermarket HID installed and I carry spare halogen bulbs with me at all time incase they burn out prematurely during any trip. Of course carrying a basic tool kit is also essential.
  • check your front and rear turn signal and ensure that they are operational. If you have side marker lights, make sure they are also working.
  • if you know you will be traveling through areas that are prone to have inclement weather condition, i.e. snow, fog or rain, equipping your vehicle with front and rear fog lights will be a plus. Folks traveling along the northern west coast, i.e. north California, Oregon and Washington (especially through the 101) definitely should consider investing in factory or aftermarket fog light options.

Fluids

  • change your interval fluids (i.e. motor oil, transmission oil [if its due for a change]). Acura recommends an oil change once every 10,000 mile interval under 'non severe' driving conditions. If you are traveling a lengthy distance, you may want to change your oil at 3,000-5,000 intervals, but will be OK up to 10,000 miles. Check with your car make's recommendation for your specific application.
  • have your reservoir tanks topped off
  • coolant reservoir
  • power steering reservoir [worse that can happen is you run dry on power steering fluid and screw up your power steering pump]
  • brake fluid
  • windshield wiper fluid - since you'll be driving quite a distance, you probably don't have a lot of option to stop and clean your windshield at every gas station stop.

Tires

  • check your tire pressure (you should check the pressure every time you stop for gas during your trip).
  • check your tire treads and make sure they are not balding. If they are, replace all tires as necessary. A brand new tire typically lasts 40,000 to 50,000 miles. You can calculate if you need to replace your tires based on the age of your tires and on the length of the trip.
  • keep a properly inflated spare tire with you at all time.
  • snow chains - if you will be passing through snowed-in areas.

Miscellaneous and emergency items

  • check your battery level and ensure that it is adequately charged.
  • change your windshield wipers.
  • road flares
  • tire pressure gauge
  • jumper cables
  • coolant / anti-freeze
  • extra bottles of motor oil for replenishment
  • bottled water
  • first aid kit
  • a box of spare fuses (I keep one in my center arm rest at all time)

Atop of keeping your vehicle primed for a lengthy road trip, you should also consider bringing the following items along just in-case.

  • cash money
  • snacks (in the event where it's improbable to access a market or restaurant)
  • portable GPS
  • cell phone with car charger
  • LED flashlight
  • portable jug with 1-2 gallon of gas (recommended only for road trips lasting 2,000+ miles)
  • tool set (philips screwdriver, flat head screw driver, socket & ratchet set)
  • pillow, blanket/sleeping bag - in the event that you need to sleep in your car (i.e. hotels booked out, car breaks down in the middle of the night, etc. recommended for cross country trip)

So that's basically it. Use common sense and proper judgement with respect to the preparation of your road trip. You may want to omit some items if you are doing a relatively short road trip, i.e. 700 miles or less. However, keep this in mind:

It's always better to be well prepared when faced with an obstacle amidst a road trip than to be stranded in a road in the middle of nowhere with poor or no cellular reception just because you want to save time/money and/or pack less.

And one more thing. I've gotten 475 miles from a full tank doing road trips on my RSX Type-S driving at an average speed of 75-80 mph. I'm sure if I kept my speed limit down to 60-65 mph, I could exceed 500 miles on a full tank easily. The RSX can be an incredibly fuel efficient car if you want it to be. I can just imagine what a base model RSX can pull off in MPG.

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