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10 Rules for Safe Road Trips

Many families are hitting the road for a well-earned break, a travel alternative that tends to be more affordable than flying. But before you get behind the wheel, check out our ultimate road trip safety checklist.

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Foot on brake pedalPhoto: Shutterstock

Check the Brakes

To prevent accidents on the road, checking your brakes prior to departure should be at the top of your road trip checklist. Make sure they’re free of damage or rust, which will ensure they’re in optimal working order, and check the brake fluid as well. The latter ensures the pressure you put in when pressing down on the brake pedal actually makes it to the brakes. It’s basically the secret ingredient to ensure they do their job successfully.

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Close-up of car headlightsPhoto: Shutterstock

Check Your Lights

When driving, you want to make sure that other drivers know when you’re switching lanes, pressing on the brakes, or turning your hazard lights on. Doing a quick check at home is easy: Simply test out all the lights with a friend to see which ones are and are not functional. Take note of any lights that may need to have their bulb replaced, and get them fixed before you go.

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Person checking car batteryPhoto: Shutterstock

Check Your Battery

The battery is the power that keeps your car running. Before a lengthy drive, you need to make sure your battery is juiced-up. Particularly during the summer, the heat can increase the rate in which the battery corrodes. Batteries tend to have a lifespan of three to five years, so if your road trip falls somewhere within that timeframe, it’s best to get it changed before you and your family hit the road.

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Man checking air pressurePhoto: Shutterstock

Check Your Air Pressure

Warm weather can really do a number on your tires. As the temperature rises, pressure increases, so you would have to let some air out of your tires. It’s best to get your tire pressure checked before you hit the road, as the more you drive, the more the pressure mounts. Always keep a tire-pressure gauge with you in the car-they’re inexpensive to purchase. Also, make sure the pressure on your spare tire is sufficient, too.

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Oil changePhoto: Shutterstock

Check Oil and Other Fluids

If your car is due to be serviced for an oil check, be sure to do so prior to leaving on your road trip, rather than waiting until you return. The oil, after all, ensures your engine runs smoothly, so the oil has to be checked whether it is both sufficient, as well as clean. It’s pretty easy to do on one’s own-you can find various ‘how-to’ guides online-but for extra precaution, bring it in to your dealer or a trusted mechanic. While you’re there, have them check the transmission, radiator and brake fluids.

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Woman checking engine coolantPhoto: Shutterstock

Fill Up on Engine Coolant

As its name suggests, engine coolant keeps the engine from overheating. So if you’re looking to spend hours on the road under the sun, this is an indispensable tip. Some think that plain water could be a good (and less expensive) alternative to coolant but while water does transfer heat better than coolant, coolant actually boasts ingredients that will keep your engine, radiator and heater from corroding.

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Man checking car air filterPhoto: Shutterstock

Check Your Air Filter

A car’s air filter tends to need a cleaning every time you get your oil checked-or as often as is suggested in your owner’s manual. It’s imperative that the filter isn’t clogged or dirty. By keeping it clean, your car will continue to run smoothly, as it’s an integral part of your engine’s system, keeping gunk from infiltrating the fuel system.

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Check Windshield Wipers and Top Off Washer Fluid

On average, windshield wiper blades need to be replaced once per year-this is particularly the case in cold climates like ours where the blades tend to wear out fast. How do you know when they need to be replaced? If they leave streaks behind and actually hinder visibility more than they help with it, it is time for a replacement. Be sure to also fill up on windshield washer fluid before you hit the road-you don’t want to be caught with an empty tank after a particularly muddy detour!

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Car washPhoto: Shutterstock

Get a Car Wash

A newly-washed car boosts a driver’s morale, and gets him or her excited for the road ahead. On the safety front, a washed car just makes your journey all the more secure. After all, a clean window ensures visibility, and spotless tail lights make it easy for drivers behind you to know when you’re hitting the brakes.

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Car emergency kitPhoto: Shutterstock

Stock an Emergency Kit

When you’re on the road-whether for a short or a long trip-you never know what to expect. Being well prepared for the unknown is imperative; that’s why a roadside emergency kit is wise to have in your car at all times. You can put one together on your own, or you can buy a kit at the store; they tend to include the likes of jumper cables, a flashlight, batteries, duct tape, bungee cords, a camper’s knife, etc. Be sure to also have a first aid kit handy, as well as a couple of blankets, bottles of water, and non-perishable, protein-rich snacks like granola bars in your trunk, in case of an extended emergency.

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