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How to check your car after a long road trip

woman with mask in car

Travel for July Fourth weekend reached levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. 

If you were one of the millions of drivers who hit the road this past weekend, you’ll want to take a moment to inspect your car. If you have vehicle breakdown coverage (also referred to as an extended car warranty), remember that any expensive and unexpected repair that comes up will be covered.

Here are some steps you should take to check your car post-road trip.

Clean your car (inside and out)

Unless you’ve been diligently keeping your car clean throughout your adventure, your car is probably a mess after the long trip. The first thing you should do after getting home, and recovering your energy, is clean your car inside and out.

Use dedicated cleaning products to clean dirt, smashed insects and any other substances that you can find on the exterior. These substances can damage the paint and can lead to costly repairs later on. Clean your interior thoroughly too, removing the floor mats and cleaning the carpets and upholstery.

Read our recent blog to get some inside and outside car cleaning tips.

Check your tires

Road trips don’t just wear down your tires, they can also cause all sorts of damage. Be sure to do the following:

  • Check your tire tread
    • Safety and performance depends a lot on tire depth.
    • Use the ‘penny test’. Place a penny with Lincoln’s head upside down in your tread, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you should replace your tires.
  • Check your tire pressure
    • The air pressure of your tire supports the entire weight of your vehicle. Therefore, it influences various aspects of your car.
    • Be sure that your car has the proper inflation pressure as recommended in the owner’s manual or in the vehicle placard (label located on the driver’s side door, near the door jamb). You can check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge.
  • Check your tire condition and age
    • Inspect your tires for any other visible damage (bulges, bumps, cracks, cuts, punctures).
    • If you see something that looks odd, take your car to a tire service professional.

Check your fluids

Any road trip, whether long or short distance, will deplete your fluids. There are six fluids you should check. If they’re at lower levels than recommended, be sure to add more:

  1. Engine oil
  2. Transmission fluid
  3. Brake fluid
  4. Coolant
  5. Power steering fluid
  6. Windshield washer fluid

Consider an oil change

In general, you should do an oil and filter change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. You may not need to do one just yet, but keep in mind that the trip has made your engine work harder than usual. After a long trip, it may be a good idea to do an oil change.

Check your breaks

Now that you’re back in town and driving with more stops and at slower speeds, you have to take the time to test your brakes. 

  • Take a look at your brake pads through the spaces between the wheels. Check that there is at least ¼ inch of pad. 
  • Go for a short drive in a safe area and test your brakes. Are they just as responsive as before? Is there any pulling, grinding or vibration? Listen for any screeching sounds.

If you notice anything strange, be sure to go to a repair shop as soon as possible to have them inspect your brakes. Replace them if necessary. 

Run a car diagnostic test

If your check engine light has come on or you’re noticing strange noises, you can run a diagnostic test to try to determine where the problem is (the engine, transmission, exhaust, ignition, oil tank, etc.).

You can run a diagnostic test yourself using your own Diagnostic scanner, which you can purchase online or at a car parts store. It plugs into your car and provides you with Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) that indicate where the problem is located.

You can also go to an auto parts shop or a repair shop and have them use their scanner on your car. Be aware that there may be a fee.

Extended car warranty – what does it cover? Read our recent blog to find out if you can get coverage for check engine repairs.

Avoid expensive car repairs on your next road trip

Next time you take a trip, you can drive with a lot less worries with vehicle breakdown coverage. With a plan like Vehicle Repair Protection, big, unexpected repairs are covered just for a low monthly price. If any repairs come up, even during your trip, you’ll simply take your car to any repair shop of choice and begin the claim process quickly through the app. You also get perks like 24-hour roadside assistance and road trip protection. has created vehicle breakdown coverage that is simple, trustworthy and affordable. Transforming the extended car warranty marketplace through technology and transparency, offers a full suite of worry-free, no haggle car care plans through low-cost, 100% online, monthly subscriptions that drivers can sign up for in less than five minutes. Get an instant quote today!