15 Essential Auto Maintenance Tips for Summer Travel

Get your car ready to hit the road so you won’t have to worry about breakdowns.

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Updated June 5, 2024
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There's nothing quite like a summer road trip to see different places or enjoy time with family and friends.

But road trips can be tough on your car. Keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape can help you avoid wasting money on expensive repairs. 

Here are some essential auto maintenance measures you should take before your next summer road trip.

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Check your tire treads

AntonioDiaz/Adobe woman getting a flat tire

Before any long trip, review your tires and make sure you have sufficient tread so you can properly stop and maneuver your vehicle when you are on the road.

A great way to check this is with the penny test. Take a penny and put it in the tread with Lincoln’s head towards the tire. If your tread completely covers Lincoln’s head, your tires should be good.

If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are worn to the point of needing replacement quickly. If you're concerned, consider having them professionally inspected.

Top off any fluids

Milan/Adobe pouring antifreeze

Pop the hood of your car and check the fluids. Top off any that are low.

Remember to check things like engine coolant, transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid to ensure you're ready for a long trip.

Get your oil changed

DG PhotoStock/Adobe checking car oil

Oil helps to protect your car engine and keep it going. Use the dipstick in your car to check the oil level and make sure it’s where it should be.

Consider getting an oil change before your road trip, especially if you're almost due for a change.

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Rotate your tires

AntonioDiaz/Adobe mechanic rotating tires

You'll be doing quite a bit of driving on your tires during travel, so consider having them rotated.

Rotating your tires helps ensure they wear evenly as you take to the road.

Test your air conditioning

vladdeep/Adobe woman turning on car aircon

During the summer months, it’s likely that you will drive through some hot conditions in the summer. So, make sure your air conditioning is working properly.

Consider having the air conditioning checked by a professional.

Make sure your wipers are ready

felipe/Adobe picking up windscreen wiper

Windshield wipers wear down with age and can crack in the heat. Give your wipers a good check, and consider replacing them with new wipers before you head out.

Replacing wipers is a simple and affordable switch that can keep you safe when you get caught in the rain.

Look over brake pads

pongmoji/Adobe disc brake and asbestos brake pads

If your brake pads are worn and you're unable to stop the vehicle properly, they can be a safety hazard.

Check your brake pads to make sure they are at a safe depth, and consider getting them replaced before you head out if they are too worn.

Test your battery

Somsak/Adobe voltage of battery in the car

Your battery is an essential part of operating your vehicle, so make sure it’s clean and operating properly.

Temperature changes can affect a battery’s performance, so have it tested before your summer road trip.

Make sure you have a spare tire

Charnchai saeheng/Adobe hand taking spare tire

A tire could puncture or even blow out when you are on the road. That makes it important to have a spare tire.

Check the tire to make sure it's inflated and usable should you need it.

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Review your emergency kit

New Africa/Adobe car safety equipment in trunk

When you are on the road, you could encounter other emergencies, so make sure your emergency kit has what you need.

You may want to include a flashlight, food, bandages, and other first-aid items. It’s also important to have things like hazard flags in case you get in an accident or have to pull over to the side of the road.

Have your belts and hoses checked

Sved Oliver/Adobe clean motor block

The belts and hoses under your hood help keep things running smoothly. Before you go, give them a good check.

Belts and hoses can wear out. Temperature changes and age can take a toll, which can cause you problems when you are on the road.

Be prepared for weather conditions

GoodPics/Adobe car trunk full of bags

Review where you are going and think about how weather and temperature can affect your car during the drive.

Extreme temperatures, dry weather, and rain and hail can all make an impact. Be sure you're ready for these conditions.

Check tire pressure

Africa Studio/Adobe hand holding pressure gauge

Tire pressure can determine how much wear and tear your tires experience, and can impact their performance.

Review your owner’s manual to see what your tire pressure should be. Consider getting a tire gauge so you can easily check pressure when you are on the road.

Clean your car

Andrey Popov/Adobe worker cleaning car dashboard

You don’t want to start off a road trip with a messy car, so throw away trash and clean your windows before you hit the road.

It’s also a good idea to give the outside of your car a good cleaning so dirt, debris, and other grime won’t bake in the sun as you drive.

Know who to call

Sundry Photography/Adobe aaa insurance office

No matter how well you prepare your vehicle, things can still happen. Make sure you know who to call in case you have a breakdown or are in an accident.

Purchasing an AAA membership or enrolling in a service like OnStar for General Motors drivers can give you peace of mind as you drive. In the short term, they will cost you money. 

But if you need to use them, they can actually help you get ahead financially by giving you access to help at a reasonable price.

Bottom line

Kirill Gorlov/Adobe family wagon car

A road trip is a fun experience and an affordable way to travel this summer. Just make sure your vehicle is in good shape before you begin the journey.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.