Post Road Trip Maintenance—What to Check After a Long Drive

blue fluid pouring into car engine resevoir

Road trips are a staple of summer vacay, but it's easy to forget about post road trip maintenance when real kicks in. Before you get too caught up in the groove of post vacation life, give your car a little TLC to keep it in shape until the next road trip comes along.

Top off Fluids

Depending on how long your road trip was, you may have had to do this at some point along the way. If not, pop the hood and check the fluid levels for your transmission, windshield wipers, coolant, power steering, oil, and brakes. Top them off accordingly to keep your vehicle running properly.

And Speaking of Fluids...

Now's the time to get an oil change, even if your car's not due for one. You've put on a lot of miles in a short span of time. And if you were towing a trailer or carrying a heavier load with luggage or more passengers, you've also put some serious strain on the engine. Your car carried you and your precious there and back safely. It deserves a little love for that!

hands checking car tire

Inspect the Tires

During the long haul over hundreds of miles, your tires have had to withstand various road and weather conditions during your journey. They are bound to get worn down eventually. Check the treads for wear with the "penny test." Place a penny upside down in the groove of the tire tread. A shallow groove will allow you to see all of Lincoln's head, which means it's time to replace the tires. Worn treads give you less traction especially during adverse weather conditions. They also impact a car's fuel economy since worn tires my not hold air pressure as effectively. Low pressure tires are also more likely to puncture and blowout, so stay safe with a simple tire inspection.

Dem's da Brakes

You gave your car a work out during that road trip. Pay attention to how it's performing after that long haul. Your shorter trips at slower speeds will give you the opportunity to hear any squealing when you step on the brakes. Any weird sounds coming from the wheels? Does the whole car shimmy when you brake at higher speeds? Take note of anything that seems off or different, and alert your mechanic when you bring your vehicle in for maintenance.

Replace Wiper Blades

Bug splatter happens. As a result, your windshield wipers may have experienced more action during that road trip than it normally does during the rest of the year. Experts recommend replacing the wiper blades biannually, so after a road trip is a good time to get that done. It's a simple enough task. The hardest part is finding the correct blades, but you've got associates at the friendly neighborhood auto parts store who will gladly help with that.

hands with painted nails replacing wiper blades

Give it a Thorough Cleaning

In addition to the bug splatter on the windshield, you'll also have a bug graveyard in the car's grill. And smashed up all along the car. And caked on the bumper. And the side mirrors. Get it? No part of the exterior is safe from the carnage.

Other than being kind of gruesome, those bug guts can do even more than ruin your appetite: they can ruin your car's paint job. Some bugs have acid-like substances that wreak havoc on a car's exterior. If you think you can just scrape them off instead of giving your car a proper wash, think again. It's more likely you'll only further damage the paint. Wash the car with an appropriate cleaning product made specifically for cars to avoid the damaging effects of smashed insects.

Might as well tackle the interior, too. Vacuum up the chip crumbs and stray french fries. Trash the fast-food wrappers. Remove the mats and hose them down to get at the spills that might have occurred during the trip. Air out the interior and thoroughly dry anything that was wet to prevent any future mold growth. Sound like a lot of work? Sure. But proper care will extend the life and looks of your vehicle.

Summer road trips are a treat, but only if you take care of your car so it's ready to take you on the next one!