Is Your Car Ready For a Cross-Country Road Trip?

Are you thinking of driving from one end of the country to the other? There are many reasons to embark on such a journey. America happens to have an extremely diverse landscape, and experiencing it from the ground is far more immersive than traveling by flight. 

 

You get to eat at all the small-town diners, speak to the locals, hear their stories, and meet other travelers as well. There’s a spontaneity and sense of adventure that are only found on a road trip. 

 

That said, long trips can be taxing not only on you but also on your vehicle. You want to ensure that your car is ready for it. In this article, let’s look at some of the essential car aspects you want to look into before you begin your journey.

1. Checking Your Tires and Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure

If you are going to be traveling long distances, your tires are going to be facing the brunt of the journey. From easy highways to the rougher parts of unserviced roads, your tires are your vehicle’s first contact point. 

 

Ideally, it’s good to have new tires installed before any seriously long trip. However, most of us aren’t going to buy an entire set each time we need to make such a journey. Thus, the first thing you want to do is make a careful visual inspection of your tire. You are looking for obvious signs of wear and tear, i.e., uneven tread depths and peeling rubber. 

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If that’s the case, you may just need to replace the tire. Usually, the wear and tear tends to manifest on the tires that bear the heaviest load. If you are a responsible car owner, you should have been rotating your tires periodically. It’s usually recommended to do this every 6,000 or 8,000 miles. 

2. Ensure Everything is Strapped and Tightened Down 

A lot of people underestimate the simple but compounding power of vibrations. Vibrations can wreak havoc in critical areas like the engine compartment. Over time, vibrations can cause nuts and bolts to loosen. 

 

If it’s been a while since you popped the hood, you better do so now. You want to pay close attention to areas like the battery, alternator, and the various fluid reservoirs. Ensure none of the housing bolts are loose. 

 

That said, it’s not just the engine that you want to look at. Check out the suspension as well. Control arms, sway bar links, and bushings need to be firmly in place. The last thing you want is for these to get loose in the middle of the Nevada desert. 

 

Similarly, if you are carrying luggage overhead, ensure you are using sturdy, waterproof cargo strap hooks to keep everything in place. 

 

According to RoofPax, straps made of nylon and polyester are safe for tying down cargo. If you fail to secure your cargo properly, it’s highly likely that a series of rough patches or jerks can shake something loose. Imagine reaching your destination and realizing that several items have escaped. Not exactly an ideal situation.

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Sure, if your roof cargo carrier is one of the more secure ABS boxes, then there’s not too much to worry about. However, it’s still a good practice to ensure that the housing of your cargo carrier is screwed in and installed securely. 

3. Testing Brakes and Replacing Worn Out Brake Pads

On your trip, you will encounter a wide range of roads. Yes, if you are doing interstate travel, it’s mainly going to be highways, but things can still be unpredictable. There might be diversions, accidents, and other situations that cause you to maneuver in and out of traffic or difficult roads.

 

In this context, you want to ensure that your brakes are in tip-top condition and working perfectly. Remember, this is one aspect that you don’t want to make any mistakes in. 

 

You want to check for responsiveness, noise levels, and how it feels during operation. If you notice a weird squeaking or grinding sound, it’s likely a worn-out brake pad. A compromised brake pad can also be soft and spongy. If this is the case, you probably have air in the brake lines or there’s something wrong with your hydraulics. Get it checked by a mechanic ASAP. 

4. Route Plan to Ensure Safe Roads

This doesn’t directly relate to your car, but it can most definitely impact your journey in more ways than one. People tend to be overconfident when making long trips. They believe that since the GPS will show them the way, there’s not much that needs to be done with regard to route planning.

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It’s true that a lot of the usual trouble is solved with modern GPS systems, but it is only one tool of many. A well-thought-out route plan will take into account weather conditions, visibility, and road quality. Try to adjust your travel times to avoid bad weather and focus on daytime driving as much as possible.

 

Likewise, ensure that you have a clear map of where rest stops and gas stations are along the way. With many people owning electric vehicles today, this step is of utmost importance. Unlike gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, fuel isn’t as readily available yet. If you end up stranded on an empty battery, your only option may be to get towed. 

 

In conclusion, any cross-country trip will naturally warrant a good bit of planning. Choosing to go at it otherwise would be foolish. We have sort of gotten used to traveling being so easy that we forget that it wasn’t always so. Not too long ago, traveling across the country wasn’t something to be taken lightly. 

 

It was dangerous, and the likelihood of getting injured, robbed, or worse was high. Thankfully, we live in a time where travel has become far more pleasant and people go on cross-country trips for ‘fun.’

 

Keep your car in tip-top condition, plan your route carefully, and your trip is going to be enjoyable and relaxing.

 

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