By Amanda Cross

DriveSafe Online Contributing Writer

Does the idea of roaming the open road looking for wonder and awe over each hill and around each bend sound just about perfect to you? The whimsy and romance of a long road trip may make you want to just grab your sunglasses and phone and hit the open road without a care in the world. What could go wrong? You’ve never had car problems before!

Not so fast. Driving around town is one thing, where you have access to gas stations and mechanics, and you certainly have cell service. Being out on the open road is quite another matter altogether. You’re in unfamiliar territory, you may not have cell service, and you don’t know when you’ll hit the next town with gas and food.

Road trips can be amazing experiences, or they can be utter nightmares, depending on how well you plan for them. Here are some important pre-trip tasks to make sure your trip is more amazing than nightmare.

Pre-Trip Car Maintenance

 Before you head out, you need to make sure your car is ready. Whether you do the work or have a trusted mechanic do the work, here are the preventative maintenance services and checks to complete ahead of your trip:

  • Oil changed (go ahead and do it if you’ll be due for one during your trip)
  • Fluids checked and topped off
  • Tire air pressure and tire tread checked
  • Car battery is properly charged and without corrosion
  • Brakes are in good working order
  • Hoses and belts are in good condition

After the maintenance is complete, take your car for a test drive to make sure everything appears in good working order. Really listen to the car and pay attention to its movements. Do you notice any odd noises, grinding, or shaking? Does the car pull to one side or just not “feel right”? Are the gauges working as they should? If you find any issues, get them fixed before you set out on your adventure and are forced to trust the work of an unknown car service shop on your trip.

Emergency Roadside Kit

Of course, completing these preventative maintenance tasks can’t keep all problems from cropping up on your journey. An emergency roadside kit will go a long way toward helping in case of car problems on the road.

Items you should pack in your emergency roadside kit include:

  • Your owner’s manual
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles or flares
  • Battery-powered weather radio
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire iron and jack, lug wrench (Click here to find out what to do in case your tire blows out.)
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Screwdriver, pliers, hammer, multi tool
  • Extra gas, oil, and coolant

You should also include appropriate seasonal items in your roadside emergency kit. If you’ll be traveling in the snow, be sure to include an ice scraper, collapsible snow shovel, and cat litter, sand, or a piece of carpet for traction on slick spots. (Learn about winter driving safety tips in this previous blog post) If your travels will take you through rain, be sure to include a rain coat and umbrella.

 First Aid Kit

Hopefully you won’t encounter any injuries on your road trip, but if you do, be prepared to handle them by including the following items in your first aid kit:

  • Waterproof container to hold first aid items
  • Bandages (assorted sizes), gauze pads and rolls, tourniquet
  • Elasticized wrap, medical tape, safety pins
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, allergy medicine, car sickness medicine
  • Antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, burn cream
  • Antiseptic wipes, alcohol cleansing pads, hand sanitizer
  • Scissors, tweezers, needle
  • Cotton balls, cotton tip swabs
  • Tongue depressor/splints
  • Hot/cold pack
  • Mylar blanket

Additional Items to Pack 

Finally, be sure to pack the following to help ensure your comfort and safety:

  • Driver’s license, insurance card, and roadside assistance card (such as AAA)
  • All prescription medications, as well as any over-the-counter medications you need
  • Car phone charger and solar phone charger
  • Paper maps (in case you don’t have cell service or your phone battery dies)
  • Non-perishable food and plenty of water
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Sunglasses

It may sound like a lot, and perhaps not as carefree as that romantic road trip experience you’ve been dreaming of, but it’s a lot easier to plan ahead and be prepared for the unexpected than it is to be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the rain with a flat tire and no cell service. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride on the wonder of the wide open road!

To learn more safe driving techniques, as well as how you can save money on auto insurance, visit www.drivesafeonline.org.