Road Trip Checklist

Best Road Trip Checklist For Cars

Road Trip Checklist

If you are searching for “road trip checklist for car“, “is my car ready for a road trip“, “road trip inspection“, “car checklist before road trip“, “road trip high mileage car” or “how to prepare my car for a long road trip“, this road trip checklist should help!

Road Trip Inspection & Preparation Services

$79 Road Trip Inspection

Get your car ready for your next road trip with our road trip inspection and preparation services.

Our road trip inspection and preparation services include:

  • Inspecting battery, fuses & relays
  • Inspecting tires and spare tire
  • Inspecting belts and hoses for durability, leaks or cracks
  • Inspecting brake fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid etc
  • We also finish the inspection by test driving the vehicle

The cost for the inspection is $79. Receive 15% off by showing us this coupon or by printing it out. Click here for Road Trip Inspection Discount. Good until 8/30/18. *Coupon can be used for road trip inspection only.

Road Trip Checklist For Cars

Here’s a list of the items you should check on your vehicle before a road trip.  Each of them are important to your safety and to make the trip trouble free and fun!

Battery Check

BATTERY CHECKThe battery isn’t something you always think about when getting ready for a road trip, but they can go out without much notice.  In Arizona we all know that car batteries don’t typically last longer than about 3 years at the most.  Also check the posts or terminals on top of the battery for signs of corrosion.  The connection the wires make to the battery needs to be secure to the positive and negative leads on the battery.  Use a wrench to ensure these connections are tight. Watch carefully for signs that you’re vehicle’s starting sluggishly, get it tested, and replace it if necessary.

Engine Oil Check

ENGINE OIL CHECKRoad trips pack on the miles and most people don’t want to interrupt the fun to get an oil change while on the road.  Get your oil changed before you set off on your road trip to keep your engine healthy.  Your oil and it’s condition play a big role in how your vehicle’s engine wears and how many miles it will be good for.  If the mileage on your trip is going to even get close to needing an oil change considering getting it done before you head off.  It will help cut down on wear on your vehicle’s engine and avoid needing to get it done while on your vacation.

Transmission & Differential Fluid Check

TRANSMISSION & DIFFERENTIAL FLUID CHECKEngine oil isn’t the only place lubricant is used to keep the parts of your vehicle moving properly as your transmission and differential also use it.  Check your owner’s manual to find out when it’s due for your vehicle.  These are typically a little harder to get to for your DIY oil changer and are best handled by a lube and oil shop.  While they are down there consider having the U-joints a touch of grease to help your suspension operate smoothly.

Hose Checks

HOSE CHECKSThe heat inside your engine bay causes rubber hoses to degrade faster than it would if it simply sat in a parts house.  Because of the extreme heat your hoses should be check for being too hard and ready to crack.  Look for any areas that attach to the radiator to the engine.  Check near the connection points as the clamps tend to cause strain along with keeping an eye out for blisters and bulges in the hoses.  Checking before you go helps you avoid that “side of the road” nightmare of steam pouring our of your engine and you calling for a tow truck instead of cruising the highway.


BELT CHECKSBelts in your vehicle transfer power from your engine to accessories like your alternator, water pump, ac compressor, power steering, and other critical systems.  You should look for any signs of wear such as fibers cords showing, cracks, tears, if they are torn or ragged.  Modern vehicles typically have a single belt called the serpentine belt.  Most serpentine belts are good for up to about 50,000 miles.  So if you’re under that, you should be just fine.  You should check as many belts as your  vehicle uses by pressing on them while the vehicle is off.  If it moves more than  half an inch the belt is probably stretched.

Engine Coolant

ENGINE COOLANTEngines run at about 212 degrees no matter what season it is.  When it gets hot outside the engine coolant has to work harder to keep your vehicle’s engine cool enough.  Make sure your engine coolant is in good condition before you set off on your trip.  Modern vehicles are sent out from the factory with coolant that’s good up to between 100k and 150k miles.  If you find that your coolant level is low do not mix water or the wrong type of coolant into your vehicle’s system.  GM uses Dex-Cool (orange in color) while other vehicles typically use the green coolant that’s ethylene glycol-based.  If the coolant is dirty or looks like it is rust colored you need to change it before you leave on your road trip.

Window Washer Fluid

WINDOW WASHER FLUIDDust, dirt, insects, and rain are just a few of the reasons you might need to rinse your windshield while you’re cruising down the highway.  Even mud or dirty water getting splashed up by other cars will make it impossible to see out of your car safely.  Make sure your windshield washer fluid reservoir is full so you can spray as much as you need to while driving down the road.  Most vehicles have the window water fluid reservoir marked with an icon that looks like your windshield and a line of spray.  The reservoir will have a fill line so you’ll know if it is low or not.

Power Steering Fluid

POWER STEERING FLUIDModern vehicles feature power steering that makes it easy to control your vehicle.  If the fluid is low you’ll notice it gets harder to steer or you might notice a shrieking noise during turning.  Many times this is caused simply by low power steering fluid.  It is something that owners can choose to do but does require a number of steps such as warming up the car, finding power steering tank, and checking the fluid level.  If you can find the power steering cap you should be able to check the level and add some where necessary.  Ensure the tank cap is secured back in place if you do remove it.

Tire Pressure & Tread

TIRE PRESSURE & TREADTires are the only part of your car that actually contacts the road, and is what keeps you safely on it.  To find the right tire pressure for your vehicle’s tires look on the inside of the driver’s side door, on the fuel door, or in the glove box.  Never just fill tires to the pressure listed on the tire as that number is generally the maximum pressure and not always exactly what your vehicle needs.  Low tire pressure causes undue heat, tire wear, and wastes gas as there’s increased friction with the road.  Before you set off know the pressure you need and check it with tire pressure gauge that you can buy at your local auto parts store.

Brake System

BRAKE SYSTEMMost vehicles brake systems use what’s called DOT3 or DOT4 brake fluid which is known to attract and absorb moisture.  When it gets water laden the color will change to a rust color and begin to damage your vehicle’s braking system.  These repairs can be quite costly and frustrating for vehicle owners.   If it’s been longer than about 3 years since you’ve had your brake system flushed and refilled with new fluid you should get it done before you leave.  As the water level in the fluid rises the boiling point goes down and you can find yourself with less effective braking.  It’s better to find the rust colored brake fluid than find out as your coming down a steep canyon and have ineffective brakes.

Air Filters

AIR FILTERSYour vehicle is likely equipped with 2 air filters.  One for the engine and one is called the cabin air filter.  If there’s too much dirt, dust, or debris in your air filter your vehicle has to work much harder to run and keep you cool.  Take the strain off your ac compressor and motor by changing your air filters if they look dirty.  The engine air filter is located under your hood and cabin air filters vary, check your owner’s manual for more information one where to find it and which filter you need to replace them with.

Spare Tire

First off you should check to make sure your vehicle is equipped with one.  Some models of newer vehicle’s include an inflator where the spare tire should be and older vehicles might have had their’s used and not put back.  Make sure your spare is where it should be and ready for use if you need it.  You should check the tire pressure to make sure it’s up the the job  and fill it when necessary.  Checking before you go means you’ll be safer on the road in case you run over a nail in the heart of Death Valley.

Road Test

Before you start your road trip prep and after you’ve performed it make sure you take your vehicle on a test drive on the road.  This will help you listen for unusual shaking, noises, and signs of trouble in your vehicle’s gauges.  Pay attention to how the car behaves and sounds during the road test.  If you feel it pulling, vibrating, or hear unusual moaning or grinding from the wheels.   Grinding noises are a sign of bad hub bearings while a car that pulls one way or another means bad alignment. If your car squeals or shimmies under braking your pads or rotors may be worn or warped.  Pay close attention to catch problems now so you don’t ruin your fun later!

Road Trip Checklist for High Mileage Cars

Higher mileage cars have a higher risk of having a problem. Depending on how high your mileage is and weather you get regularly scheduled maintenance done at regular intervals will determine what you parts of your car your should inspect and what other issues could come about.

  • Check all items in the car checklist above, plus
  • Check Thermostat & Water Pump
  • Check Alternator
  • Check Radiator
  • Check Rotors
  • Spark Plugs & Wires
  • Cabin Air Filter
  • Freon Check

Car Maintenance After A Long Road TripCar Maintenance After A Long Road Trip

It is also wise to get your car inspected and maintenance after a road trip to ensure that your fluids are still filled properly, tires are still within normal wear etc and that there are no new issues since the long trip.

Live In The Scottsdale Area? Get Your Inspection Done At Bridwell Automotive Center!

5 Star Review: Bridwell did an excellent job on my road trip inspection. We just got back from Lake Havasu and my high mileage car had no problems whatsoever. Highly recommend getting the road trip inspection done before any long road trip! Erick C

Get your road trip inspection and preparation service done at Bridwell Automotive Center, located at 7171 E Lincoln Dr. Scottsdale, Arizona 85253 or call (480) 948-4781 for more information.

How To Replace Transmission Fluid

How To Replace Transmission Fluid

How To Replace Transmission Fluid

If you’re replacing transmission fluid in your vehicle you’re likely searching for a guide on how to replace transmission fluid.  For motorists that have the time, tools, and desire to do the work themselves, this guide will help.  It is a general guide for most automobiles but will not cover every mark or model.

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Why Change Transmission Fluid

All vehicles use fluids to either clean or lubricate vital functions.  Over time the fluids unavoidably collect metal shavings and dirt.  If you’re lucky this debris settles at the bottom of the pan instead of circulating through the entire system.  For this reason, many auto repair shops choose to flush transmissions under pressure to remove as much of the metal shavings and dirt from your vehicle’s transmission.

Regular fluid changes extends the life of your vehicle.  Transmissions need to have the fluid changed every 30 months or 30,000 miles.  The exact interval or mileage will differ from vehicle to vehicle so ensure that you read your owner’s manual for information specific to your care, truck, suv, or van.  If you check your transmission fluid and it has a burnt smell or dark appearance you should change it sooner.

Changing Transmission Fluid Yourself

While some motorists don’t mind changing their oil, those same people typically avoid changing their own transmission fluid.  This is because changing transmission fluid can cause a huge mess as you will need to remove the pan.  Even if your vehicle has a transmission pan drain plug, you’ll have to remove the pan to change the transmission fluid filter.  As fluid changes go, transmission fluid is one of the messiest.

Signs You Need To Change Transmission Fluid

Unless you’re a master technician you likely don’t know the symptoms of worn out transmission fluid.  If your automatic transmission has any of the following symptoms it may well be time to change your transmission fluid.

  • Vehicle will not engage a gear in forward or reverse
  • The transmission shift roughly from gear to gear
  • Your transmission slips as you drive
  • The transmission has unusual or louder noises

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms you should consider changing your transmission fluid, or have your transmission fluid changed by an automotive service shop.

Transmission Fluid Change Steps

If you’ve got the space, tools, desire and want to spend the time to change your transmission fluid, you can do it yourself by following these steps.

Step 1 – Warm Up Your Vehicle

Your transmission fluid is designed to work at high temperatures and will change better if it is warmed up.  To do this just let your vehicle idle for a few minutes.  Once it’s warmed up shut it off, raise, and then secure your vehicle.

Step 2 – Protect Your Work Space

You likely are working in your garage or driveway and don’t want transmission fluid all over the place.  Lay down a tarp, newspaper, or cardboard under the vehicle.  Place a minimum of a 2 gallon catch pan to collect the transmission fluid as you drain it.

Step 3 – Unbolt Transmission Pan

Start by removing the bolts on one side of your transmission pan.  Be very careful not to burn yourself on the hot fluid or the high temperature sections of the exhaust system.   Next loosen the bolts which should start to lean the pan and start the fluid to drain.  After you have removed all of the bolts carefully lower the pan and drain the rest of the transmission fluid into the pan.  You may need to gently break the seal with a flathead screwdriver.

Step 4 – Clean & Inspect

This is a great chance to check your transmission for excessive wear by looking for signs of damage or metal shavings.  Once you’ve inspected the pan for shavings clean it with solvent.  You also will need to clean the gasket surfaces on the pan and housing of the transmission.

Step 5 – Remove Old Filter

Next you’ll need to remove the old transmission filter.  It is likely filled with dirt, metal shavings, and debris from your transmission.  Chances are it will still be holding some transmission fluid, so your catch pan should be handy so you can dispose of it properly.  This is also a good chance to remove the old o-ring that goes around the perimeter of the pan and housing.

Step 6 – Install New Gasket

With the surfaces on the pan and the housing cleaned you should install your new transmission fluid gasket with oil soluble grease.  Avoid using adhesive or gasket sealer for this area of your vehicle.  An easy way to do this is carefully attach the gasket onto the pan so gravity holds it in place as you gently reattach the pan by loosely replacing the bolts.

It’s important to check your owner’s manual to see if you need thread sealer on some or all of the bolts for your transmission pan.  Finger tighten the bolts to hold the pan securely in place.

Step 7 – Tighten Transmission Pan Bolts

Most vehicle manufacturers state the torque or pounds of pressure you should tighten your bolts to for most parts of your car, the transmission pan is no different. Not having enough pressure will cause it to leak, while too much could damage the bolts, housing, or pan.  Consult your owner’s manual to find out what that bolt torque should be. This should be done in a spiral pattern one bolt after another.  Double check all bolts after the pan is securely in place for correct torque.

Step 8 – Replace Transmission Fluid

Finally the exciting step of putting new transmission fluid into your vehicle.  Start by lowering your vehicle back down and fill it to the recommended amount for your make and model.

Step 9 – Test Your Vehicle

You’ll want to run your vehicle in your driveway to check for leaks before taking it for a spin.  Let it idle for a few minutes and then check for leaks.  If there aren’t any you can bring the vehicle up to operating temperature, shift through all of your gears, place it back into park, and then check for leaks.  It’s also a good idea to check the dipstick for your transmission fluid at this stage while the engine is just idling.

Transmission Fluid Change Service

If you live in Scottsdale and need to get your transmission fluid changed, Bridwell Automotive Center is here to help!  Our Master ASE Technicians understand all of the systems in your vehicle including your transmission and what it takes for it to work correctly.  We will happily and affordably replace transmission fluid in whichever vehicle you need.  To schedule transmissions fluid change please call (480) 948-4781