Budget Travel

How to Make Sure Your Car Is Ready for Your Next Road Trip

Millions of Americans will make some colossal mistakes when they hit the road this year. Here, an easy checklist for preventing breakdowns and other roadside emergencies.

Budget Travelers know that some of the best (and most affordable) vacations are road trips. With the chance to enjoy scenic highways, jaw-dropping national and state parks, cool small towns, and mid-size cities, the “great American road trip” is one of our favorite warm-weather rituals.  

Are you ready?

Not so fast. AAA sure got our attention last year when it announced that it expected to rescue 7 million American drivers during the summer months. According to AAA, more than 60 percent of American families hit the road on vacation, and an estimated four out of 10 drivers are unprepared for emergency breakdowns.

The top reasons for roadside emergencies are fairly predictable: Are you one of the two-thirds of American drivers who don’t test their car batteries? Are you the one in five who has no idea how to change a tire? Are you one of the four in 10 who don’t carry an emergency kit onboard?

Here, AAA's common-sense three-step road-trip preparation list:

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1. GIVE YOUR CAR A CHECKUP

You know the drill: Schedule a maintenance checkup in advance of your trip. Check the oil, fluid levels, battery, and tires. Sure, this seems obvious, but chances are you haven't done it yet, right?

2. CARRY AN EMERGENCY KIT

Auto science is not rocket science: Pack a mobile phone and charger that can plug into your car, flashlight (with fresh batteries and backups), a first-aid kit, basic tool kit (including tire-pressure gauge and adjustable wrench), windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks for both humans and pets. Assembling an emergency kit may seem like a hassle. You know what's an even bigger hassle? Being stuck on the side of the road without any of the things on this list.

3. DON'T GET LOCKED OUT

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Carry extra car keys, always take a moment to grab your keys before exiting the car, and check the batteries on keyless-entry remotes and smart keys and keep them protected from water and other hazards. Some drivers find that establishing consistent car-key habits (you might even call them rituals) helps them keep track of their keys. For instance: Always store keys in the same place, say the word "keys" out loud before leaving your vehicle, and change batteries on remotes at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time.

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