If your move is taking you across a state–or across the country–it is of the utmost importance that you make it to point B. It may be the last thing on your mind when it comes time to move, but your car might need a little TLC before you strike off into the distance.
The procedure for making sure your car is ready for a lengthy road trip varies drastically depending upon how old it is.
For the most part, if you are current on your maintenance and oil changes, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Most newer cars have a roadside assistance package, and are kept in ship-shape by the dealer, and can make it up to 5000 miles between oil changes. Regardless, It is critical to visually inspect your tires, blinkers, lights, and break lights before driving — regardless of the age of the car. You should be road ready.
Used and Older Cars
Depending on your local climate, older cars can make it up to 3000 miles before needing an oil change. Even if you aren’t due for an oil change, it doesn’t hurt to double check your oil level. Pop the hood, pull out the dip stick, wipe it clean with a clean cloth, then replace it. Pull the dipstick back out and see if the level is near the “F” or “FULL” notch. If it is there, and isn’t looking too terribly black, you should be all set.
If the oil is relatively “clean,” but it is a halfway between the “F” and the “L” mark on your dipstick, you need to add oil. Check your owners manual to be sure you are using the right oil, and add about a half-quart at a time until the dipstick shows the oil is at the “F” mark. DO NOT OVERFILL OIL.
If you are close to the 3000 mile mark since your last oil change, and the oil looks black and goopy, it is more than worth it to pay the $30 for an oil change. Driving long distances on low or bad oil can cause irreparable damage to your car, and even leave you stranded.
Before driving, you should also double check your wiper fluid with a quick visual inspection of the overflow portion of the tank. Pull out your transmission fluid dipstick, but don’t whip it like you would the oil dipstick. Simply look for the reddish colored fluid to be at the “F” or full notch, then replace it. Most of the other critical fluids can be checked visually through clear plastic overflow containers that will actually say “HIGH” or “FULL” where the fluid levels should be.
Whatever you do, don’t open the radiator after you have driven your car. Be sure to give it at least forty-five minutes to cool, unless you would like to send a boiling geyser into the air, potentially injuring yourself and others. Besides, in most cars you can also see that there is some radiator fluid/anti-freeze in the overflow tank without touching the cap.
Always inspect tires, brake lights, head lights, and blinkers before driving. It could save your life.
In older cars, it also helps to stay in tune with the engine during a long drive. Pay close attention for vibrations and loud, irregular engine noises. If you pull over to inspect the car before a problem is allowed to fester, it can often save you money in repairs.
Either way, be safe out there!