Preparing for Cross Country Travel in Your Car
When you’re planning a cross-country trip, your focus should be on your journey––not your destination. While you already might be thinking about the people you’ll meet and the sights you’ll see, it’s easy to overlook one important thing: preparing your car. Even if you just drove a new car off the lot, there are still some things you need to prepare.
Formulating an emergency plan, taking your car in for maintenance, and mapping out your journey are three things you should do before leaving for your trip. While these things are only recommendations, they could prevent any unnecessary roadblocks.
Formulate an Emergency Plan
When you’re out on the open road, you want to be prepared for anything. That’s why it’s always important to have an emergency plan in place. You want to be prepared for the following scenarios:
Your Car Breaks Down
Whether your engine finally gives out or you run over a nail, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place. One precautionary measure could include signing up for AAA. Depending on the plan you chose, you could get roadside assistance, towing to a mechanic, and other benefits. Remember: AAA follows the user, not the car. Even if you’re using a rental, AAA’s benefits would still apply to you.
Traffic Is Stalled for Miles
While sitting in traffic, your eye might be on the fuel gauge. Aside from facing any necessary delays, you don’t want your car to run out of gas. You should always keep a gas can in your car just in case. There are many gas canisters on Amazon that limit odors and leaks. This could also help if you’re running on a tight schedule; instead of scanning the road for exits, you could just pull over and refuel.
You Encounter Inclement Weather Conditions
You’re going to encounter a lot of different climates during your cross-country trip. So, you should be prepared for any and all types of weather conditions, including rain, sleet, snow, or hail. You might even want to prepare for dust storms if you’re making your way across the southwest.
You can prepare for these situations by:
· Downloading weather apps to your phone and enabling alerts
· Plotting out any “stopping points” in case it’s not safe to drive
· Reading on how to avoid hydroplaning
· Getting flares and flashlights in case you break down in the dark
Again, you always want to be prepared. Even the smallest preparation could save your trip from total disaster.
Take Your Car in for Routine Maintenance
Even if your dashboard’s lights are dim, you should still take your car to a mechanic before embarking on your journey. They can advise you on what services could ensure a safe trip. Additionally, they can check:
Your Oil Levels
According to AAA, you could get your oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Failure to do so could result in:
· Permanent damage to your engine
· Your engine overheating
· Smoke and steam
· Unpleasant odors
It can also cause higher-than-normal wear and tear because of the lack of lubrication. If you feel like taking on a challenge, you don’t have to pay someone to check and change your oil levels; you can do it.
Your Tires’ Alignment
When you’re driving on an empty stretch of road, take your hands off the wheel for two seconds. If your car starts “pulling” to one side, then your tires need to be rotated. Many auto body shops perform this service for free. That’s because they understand how detrimental poorly-rotated tires can be to your safety.
If you don’t get your tires rotated:
· You’ll need to have your tires changed more often.
· You risk having one of your tires “blow out,” which can pose a threat to yourself and other motorists.
· Your tires could lose tread, making your vehicle harder to control.
You need to rotate your tires once every 5,000 miles, the same as you would get your oil changed.
Check Your Battery
Hopefully, when your battery’s running low, your car will “tell” you. However, we’ve all heard horror stories about people stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery. Many auto part stores offer free battery checking services. You generally need to replace your battery every five years, but if you live in a hot area, this timeline could be even shorter.
Things to Buy on Your Cross-Country Road Trip
Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, the following things could be a lifesaver in the event of a car breakdown or accident:
A Digital Air Compressor
Your tire pressure can fluctuate depending on the time of day and where you are. Your tire pressure will be higher during the day when it’s hot out. It will drop at night and when temperatures get colder. Eventually, your air pressure light could come on, indicating that if you don’t fill up soon, you risk getting a flat.
A digital air compressor will measure how much air is in your tire and fill in the gap accordingly. Anyone can use it, as instructions are given on the digital read-out. Using an air compressor would also buy you some time if you get a flat––although not entirely remedy the problem.
No, we’re not talking about the snacks you’ll need on your trip; we’re talking about a replacement spare tire. If you get a flat tire, you can use this temporary tire for about 50 miles. You can get a donut either online or from an auto parts store. Be sure to consult your car’s dimensions before pulling out your wallet.
According to the National Safety Council, while nighttime car accidents only make up a quarter of all collisions, they account for nearly half of all collision-related deaths. The reason for this is simple; people can’t see well at night.
When you’re on the side of the road, you want to be visible, not only so the tow truck can find you but also so no one hits you.
When you’re out on the open road, expect the best––but also expect the worst. For more information on how to prepare for a cross-country trek, click here.
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