Although Memorial Day was originally intended to honor fallen soldiers, it has become the unofficial kickoff to summer in the U.S. and tens of millions of Americans hit the road to get away.
If you’ll be one of those millions, make sure your car is ready for the road (and not for a wreck) with this quick checklist of seven tips:
One: Check the traffic report
Knowing millions of other Americans are hitting the road for the three-day weekend, plan accordingly. The Thursday before the weekend is typically congested because people leave work early to extend their time off to four days. And the Friday before brings a mix of travelers and those workers trying to get home to start their time off. If you’re traveling by car, just know you’re not alone and plan accordingly so you don’t spend precious hours stuck in traffic.
Two: Get an oil change
Get an oil change and tell them you’re going on a road trip and want them to check all of the fluids, etc., that should be checked prior to a trip. Although they might suggest maintenance you don’t think you really need yet, carefully consider suggestions they make in case something does require immediate attention before a long drive.
Three: Check your tires
Check all tire pressure, including your spare and the tires on your trailers or anything else you are hauling. Whether you’re pulling a camp trailer or boats or horses, you don’t want a flat tire with your vehicle or your trailer, especially on such a busy travel weekend.
Four: Check all the lights all over
Do a thorough light check, including brake lights, blinkers, reverse lights, and headlights along with the lights inside the vehicle and all your trailer lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs and buy spares to take with you. Also clean your headlights for the best brightness.
Five: Clean your windshield
Clean your windshield, replace old wipers and check the washer fluid. As winter ends, windshields need a good scrubbing and wiper blades need replacing, because you want excellent visibility when you’re driving somewhere new.
Six: Fill the tank and keep an eye on it
It’s easy to say you’ll get gas on the way, but you don’t always know where to find a gas station in unfamiliar territory. So fill up before you go, and try not to let the gas tank get more than half empty during the trip. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.
Seven: Pack provisions
Lastly, pack an emergency safety kit. Try to include all of the items listed here, but at the bare minimum, make sure your car is stocked with extra food and water, a change of clothes, a stash of cash, phone numbers on paper, and a map.
Enjoy your time away if you’re getting away—but do take a few minutes to remember the men and women who are the reason for the weekend. Because they gave everything.