4. Check the tires
Tires are critical for car safety and fuel efficiency, so make sure yours are in road-worthy shape by checking for signs of wear on the side walls. Check that you have enough tread depth and enough tire pressure. You can find out how much air your tires need on the sticker located inside the driver’s door, or in your owner’s manual.
5. Top up fluids
In order to run properly, your car’s six essential fluids — oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and windshield fluid — must be checked and topped up regularly. Have your oil changed every three months or every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, and check it every time you fill up with gas during your road trip.
6. Replace the filters
Air filters prevent dirt, dust and insects from infiltrating the engine and the inside of your car. Clogged air filters decrease your engine’s performance, gas mileage and interior air quality, so it’s important to swap them out for clean ones at least once a year or every 10,000 miles. Cabin filters should be replaced every 12,000 miles.
7. Check belts and hoses
If you look under the hood and see significant damage on your serpentine belt — located beside your engine — it will need to be replaced, O’Dell says.
“Start checking the belt when the car is at 30,000 to 40,000 miles,” he says. “You’ll start to see little cracks in the rubber. And when you see enough of those cracks within an inch or so, I would replace it.”
Check your hoses; if you see any fluid leaks, get them verified by a mechanic. Having a belt or a hose fail in the middle of a road trip could mean major engine trouble, leaving you without a car and with a hefty repair bill.