Road Trip Car Maintenance: Are You Really Ready?

Advice to keep you on the road.

Stocksy/Raymond Forbes LLC

Don’t let car trouble put the brakes on your road trip. Here are five tips to help prevent problems from happening—and what to do if you encounter one


Long drives can be tough on tires. Road debris, improper inflation and worn tread all can contribute to a blowout.

How to prevent it: Inspect your tires at least once a month for tread depth, proper inflation and damage from road debris (here’s how to do an inspection). It’s also wise to make sure your spare tire is inflated properly.

What to do: If you have a blowout, don’t slam on the brakes. Keep a firm grip on the wheel, slow down and pull over at the first safe opportunity.


Battery trouble is a leading cause of roadside breakdowns, according to AAA research. And extreme temperatures—especially summer—can strain a car’s battery and hasten its failure.

How to prevent it: Have your battery tested before taking a trip—it’s free for AAA Members at a local AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility. Here’s what makes your car battery tick and some common warning signs.

What to do: Get a jump-start and have the battery checked by a qualified technician. Or contact AAA’s Mobile Battery Service (available in most metropolitan areas), and we will come to you. If you need a new battery, you can buy one that has a six-year limited warranty and have it installed on the spot (AAA Members save $25 off retail prices on the battery). Visit for more information and to get an Instant Battery Quote.


Before your road trip, get insurance coverage that is right for you, including all the discounts you qualify for.

Get a Policy Review

If your coolant is low or contaminated, the radiator can’t do its job and the engine can overheat.

How to prevent it: Check your coolant level. With the engine cold and not running, raise the hood and find the coolant reservoir (it’s usually a translucent plastic container mounted near the radiator or on one of the inner fender panels). The reservoir will have upper (hot) and lower (cold) level markings molded into it. If the fluid level is below the lower mark, add coolant up to that point, but not any higher. If you need help, visit a local AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility and take advantage of your AAA Member benefits and savings.

What to do: Pull over, turn off the A/C and other accessories as the engine idles and pop the hood. Contact AAA for a tow to a repair facility. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot.


Your engine oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, and if it runs low or is too dirty, it can cause serious (and expensive) damage to the engine. Typically, a dashboard warning light will illuminate when a problem arises but before any damage is done.

How to prevent it: Before leaving on your trip, check the oil for proper levels and any sediment. With the engine cold and not running, raise the hood and remove the oil dipstick from its tube. Wipe the dipstick clean and insert it fully back into its tube. Remove the dipstick and check that the oil level is between the upper and lower level markings. If the level is at or below the lower mark, add oil to raise the level to the upper mark.

What to do: If the warning light comes on, contact AAA to tow your vehicle to a repair facility immediately to have it checked. The longer you drive with a problem, the greater you risk serious engine damage.


When bad weather hits, worn or cracked wiper blades can prevent you from seeing clearly through the windshield, increasing eye strain, driver fatigue—and the possibility of an accident.

How to prevent it: Even if your wiper blades seem to be working fine, inspect them regularly for cracks, tears and brittleness. If you need new wiper blades, AAA Members save 10% and earn reward points on most auto parts and accessories at NAPA.

What to do: Replace wiper blades as soon as they begin skipping or streaking.

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