"My mom said the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance" ~ Tim Allen
Nothing ruins a good road trip quicker that an unexpected “surprise”. At least that’s what my wife says (she thought it was very punny), though her first long road trip was from CA to KS in 2016. I have been doing the marathon road trips since 1999 (before I got old and decided 16 hour one way road trips was more hassle during a 4-day pass than it was worth) and I am happy to share some tips on getting your prized ride ready for a long trip
How does one determine whether their vehicle is ready for a 1K+ mile road trip? Where do I start? Should I take it in to the dealer? Can I do it myself? Well, I personally recommend that the readers of this blog to attempt this on their own, if anything to familiarize themselves with their vehicle. The official name (in DoD circles) for the vehicle checks is called Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS for Army) or Preventive Maintenance and Inspection (PMI for everyone else). We will use Preventive Maintenance (PM) for our purposes.
The very first thing one should do before opening the hood is to reach in the glovebox and retrieve the vehicle’s manual. This booklet will have all of the information that you need to make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape for the road. It will have items such as the type of fuel to use (you may be surprised by what is actually supposed to go in your tank), the type of motor oil and viscosity to include transmission fluid, a description of the vehicle controls and use of the said controls and more general information.
The tire size specifications and air pressures can be found on a sticker affixed to the driver’s or passenger’s door jamb.
For example, my vehicle is a 2009 Dodge Ram pickup. According to my manual, the truck uses diesel fuel, it has a built in exhaust brake, needs 15-40 SAE motor oil and ATF+4 transmission fluid, and the OEM tire size is 265/70R17LT, with air pressures of 60 psi for the front and 70 psi for the rear tires. Why is it important for me to know this information?
From the top:
It tells me what color fuel pumps to go to, but it doesn’t matter what pump I go to right? Gas is gas and the oil companies just want a profit! Well, let’s take a quick look at what is at the pumps: Regular, Mid-Grade, Premium, and Diesel. Do you have high compression or high performance 4 or 8 cylinder engine? Chances are your manual is going to require the use of Premium gas. How about a 6 cylinder engine? My wife’s manual for her Jeep Cherokee specifies the use of Mid-Grade for best performance. A normal compression 4, 6, or 8 cylinder engine? Regular is all you need. A huge honkin’ 6.6, 6.7, or 6.9 L engine that belong in YUGE pickups? Diesel all the way! The point is, check the manual for the correct type of fuel that your car or truck requires. Putting the wrong grade of fuel can not only affect the mileage, but the longevity of the engine and your pocketbook (from repeated fill-ups and emergency maintenance costs).
What about oil? These days the oil does more than lube your internals, it improves your mileage and plays a small part in your emissions system. Again, read your manual to determine what motor oil to use and how much. I personally use Amsoil brand oil, because it is manufactured differently and the oil lasts longer than conventional oil due to the base additives.
Make sure your oil is topped off before you leave.
I just need air in my tires, right? Not quite. WWHHHAAAA? You can lose up to 10 percent of your fuel mileage by having under inflated tires, not to mention poor handling and increased risk of a tire blowout. Anyhoo, check your tire pressure and the state of your tires. I use a tire tread gauge to make sure I have enough tread for the trip and I look for obvious tire damage that may need immediate attention. Learn how to change your tires as well. It may take AAA FOREVAAARRRR to get to your location.
Another thing I would suggest is to bring a small set of hand tools and emergency supplies just in case.
Recommended list of hand tools and emergency supplies
This is my recommended list, mileage may vary:
These are things you don’t need, but I recommend them anyway. These are good in case you are stranded in the middle of nowhere (hopefully for less than 48 hours):
Enjoy your trip and stay safe out there! Your loved ones want you home in one piece and alive.
"Man Corner" Author
My husband, Jon, is in the US Army and will be joining me from time to time on my various adventures. This section will be his view and perception of our travel adventures. For more about Jon, read our About Us section