Car Maintenance Checklist for Your Road Trip: 9 Things to Check Before & After Your Drive

Malaysians love their holidays and what better way to spend long holidays than to go on a road trip around our country? With travel restrictions lifted in this new normal, more people are traveling across the country for vacations, work, or to visit family. 

But before you begin your journey,  you should check your car to ensure you don’t stumble upon mishaps on your drives. Having a checklist for your long drive can help you ensure that your car is in good working order and safe to drive. 

So, let’s check out the things you should have on your car road trip maintenance checklist – before and after your trip.

car checklist for road trip

Car Maintenance Checklist Before Your Road Trip

It’s generally recommended that you check and service your car before a long drive as driving long distances can put a lot of stress on your car. If you have existing mechanical problems, low fluids, or worn-out parts, your car is more likely to face issues on the road such as overheating or a punctured tire. These can be prevented by having a car maintenance checklist for your long drive.

1. Check Your Engine Oil

The engine oil is essential for smooth engine operation, and checking it before your road trip should be at the top of your checklist. If your next engine oil change date is not far off, just have it changed. Old engine oil may not be in the best condition and can increase the risk of damage to your engine, especially on long drives.

If your engine oil service date is still far off, simply check the engine oil level and condition by checking the dipstick on your engine. Your engine oil level should be between the minimum and maximum markers on the dipstick. If it’s below the minimum marker, simply top it up with some new engine oil. You should also ensure that the engine oil has a yellow or light amber color. If it’s dark brown or black, it’s best to change your oil.

Read More: A Guide to Car Warning Lights & Indicators

car maintenance check fluids

 

2. Check Other Car Fluids

Besides the engine oil, there are other car fluids responsible for keeping your car running optimally. You can refer to your car owner’s manual for the service intervals of the various fluids and the specifications of the fluids your car needs. When checking the fluids, make sure that they are at the right levels and conditions. 

While most car fluids are easy to inspect, some are harder to access and need to be inspected at the workshop. Here are the fluids to have on your long drive car checklist:

  • Transmission fluid: Ensures that your gearbox can change gears smoothly on the road.
  • Coolant: Keeps the engine running at a safe temperature and prevents overheating. Your engine is under a lot of strain on long drives, so having proper coolant levels is essential.
  • Brake fluid: Ensures that your brakes have enough bite to stop your car whenever you need to.
  • Power steering fluid: Keeps your steering responsive and smooth.
  • Windshield washer fluid: Used to clean your windshield. If its level is low, you can mix a few drops of shampoo with water and add it to the windshield washer fluid reservoir.

Read More: A Guide to Car Warning Lights & Indicators Part 2

Read More: A Guide to Car Warning Lights & Indicators Part 3

3. Check the Car Tires

Car tires are the main contact points with the road and should be checked, both before and after your road trip. Firstly, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Poorly inflated tires will not only affect your comfort, fuel economy, and handling but could puncture on the road, leaving you stranded. Also, do check the tire treads and sidewalls for any particles lodged in them. These can be really dangerous as they can cause a flat tire.

If you are not sure how much pressure your tires need, you can find the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure for your car on the sticker by the driver’s door, or in your car owner’s manual. Also, make sure the treads on your tires are not worn out. You can check the tread wear indicators which are spread evenly through the main grooves in the tire. If the indicators are flush with the tread level, which is when the remaining depth is approximately 1.6 millimeters, it’s time to change your tires.

long drive car checklist - battery

 

4. Check the Car Battery

Another component to check before your long drive is the battery. Pay attention to the sound of the starter, if it sounds slow when you turn the key, it can indicate that you have a faulty starter or are in need of a new battery. If you haven’t changed your battery in around a year and a half to two years, maybe it’s time to replace it as well. 

If you have a multimeter, you can check the health of your battery at home. The normal battery reading is 12 to 13 volts when the engine is off and between 13.5 to 14.5 volts when the engine is running. If you don’t have a multimeter, you can test your electrical system by starting your car and turning on the headlights. If they are dim but get brighter when you rev the engine, it means your lights are running off the battery and that the alternator is not producing enough current at idle.

car maintenance checklist - lights

 

5. Ensure Your Car Lights & Turn Signals are Working

The car lights and signals are important in ensuring a safe drive and should not only be on your long drive car checklist, but ideally, be regularly checked. Due to how important having functioning lights on your car is, you can get summoned if you are caught driving with blown lights on your car. Car lights and signals include headlights, reverse lights, indicators, and taillights. If one of them is not working properly, it is advisable to have it replaced in pairs. To be extra safe, you can prepare several spare bulbs in case any of your lights stop working during your road trip.

long drive car checklist - emergency kit

 

6. Prepare a Car Emergency Kit

Every car should have an emergency kit, especially when on a road trip. An emergency kit not only includes a first aid kit, but other items that can help you in sticky situations while on the road such as when you have a flat tire or when your car won’t start. Here is a checklist of what to have in your car’s emergency kit:

  • Tire changing tools including a spare tire and tire jack.
  • Warning triangle kit.
  • Toolbox with basic tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, spanners, of varying sizes, and other tools.
  • Battery jumper cable.
  • Duct tape or cellophane tape.
  • Gloves in case you need to handle dirty, hot, or dangerous items.
  • Umbrella and raincoat.
  • Mobile phone, flashlight, and power bank.
  • Bottle of water.
  • First aid kit.
  • Towels.

7. Check the Brakes

Your brake pads tend to be subjected to a lot of wear on road trips, especially if you drive to hilly areas like Genting Highlands. While the best way to check your brake pads is to remove the wheels, you can still do a quick check without taking them off. Look behind the wheel and check the thickness of the brake pad – the minimum thickness should be six millimeters.

You should also check the surface of your brake discs. If they have a lot of uneven and deep grooves similar to a vinyl record, they might need replacing. However, do note that a visual inspection like this is not the most accurate. Below we have more tips on how to check your brake pads.

Car break pad infographics

 

Car Maintenance Checklist For After Your Trip

8. Check & Clean the Interior

An important thing to have on your checklist after a long trip is to check your car’s interior for dirt, clutter, and odor. Clean your car’s cabin area by removing the trash that might have been stored in your car. You should also clean your seats, carpets, dashboard, and steering wheel to remove dirt before disinfecting and sanitizing the interior space.

Cleaning Tools and Materials

  1. Vacuum Cleaner: A vacuum with an extension hose and hand-held attachment will come in handy to clean the carpets, seats, and hard-to-reach nooks. It’s always best to vacuum the interior of your car of all the dust and small particles before you apply any cleaning product.
  2. Chemical Cleaning Products: You will need some specialty products to clean different interior surfaces like vinyl, plastic, upholstery, and carpeting. You can find most of these products at large supermarkets, automotive product stores, and petrol stations.
  3. Brushes and Applicators: Different-sized brushes can help in cleaning dust from air vents and other hard-to-reach places. You might also need sponges or rags to apply and wipe off dust and cleaning products

 

9. Clean the Exterior

After a long drive, your car’s exterior needs a clean-up as well. After all, letting dirt accumulate on your car can ruin its paintwork in the long run. What you can do is either send your car for a car wash or do it yourself to get rid of the mud, dirt, and dust on your car’s finish.

Do remember to use proper car shampoo or car cleaning products as they are designed to be safe on your car’s paint. Also, if you have bumped your car on your trip and see a dent or scratch on your car that is not too deep, you can fix them at home with some basic products that are easy to find.

What to Check After Driving On Different Terrains

Malaysia has diverse terrains that can be both a joy and a challenge to drive on. Driving on certain surfaces can strain your car and expose it to dirt or damaging contaminants. So, here are some tips on what to check on your car after your road trip on different terrains. 

Hilly Roads

When you drive on hilly roads, the brakes and gearbox are put under a lot of strain which is why it’s always important to check on them again once you’re back. Check the wear and tear on your brake pads and your brake and transmission fluids levels. Also, pay attention to the transmission warning light and the way your car feels when the gear shifts. If the gear shifts feel odd, immediately get your car checked.

Wet or Muddy Roads

When you drive on wet or muddy roads, your tires and suspension system can face increased resistance and shock causing them to be damaged and go out of alignment. Therefore, be sure to check the condition and pressure of your tires, and if necessary, take your car to the workshop to get your wheels realigned. You should also thoroughly clean all surfaces of your car as dried mud gets tougher to clean the longer you leave it on.

Sandy Roads

Having sand on your car after driving by the beach can cause some issues in the long term. The surface of your car and rims can get scratched and the paint can become dull due to the coarse sand. The best way to clean your car is to go to a professional car wash where they use a powerful water jet so they don’t scratch your car when getting rid of the sand on the exterior. 

Plus, the sand can get into the nooks and crannies of your car without you noticing. Fortunately, you can just use a vacuum cleaner to suck the sand out or a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the sand off.

Looking for a Road Trip-Worthy Car? Choose Carsome Certified

Checking your car before and after a long drive can ensure that you have a comfortable and safe drive, and we hope this checklist can help you prepare for your next road trip. That said, if you’re looking for a quality pre-owned car, do check out Carsome.

We put all our Carsome Certified cars through a 175-point inspection and professional refurbishing to ensure each car is a dream to drive. Plus, you can expect these promises when you get a Carsome Certified car.

  • Quality cars guaranteed: All Carsome cars go through a 175-point inspection to ensure it’s free from major accident and flood damage. Every Carsome Certified car also goes through the Carsome Certified Refurbishment Process which includes interior and exterior refurbishing to go beyond global standards, ensuring every car has safety beyond standards, complete comfort, and a refurbished aesthetic.
  • Five-day money-back guarantee: If you buy a car from Carsome and are not happy with it, You can return it within five days and get a full refund. No questions asked!
  • One-year warranty: All Carsome Certified cars also have a one-year extended warranty for your peace of mind.
  • Fixed price: The listing price you see on Carsome is the actual full price of the car with no hidden fees, so you know exactly how much you’re paying.

Check out Carsome today to find your dream car!