You’re planning on leaving Colorado this Christmas, heading to your great-aunt Sally’s house in Washington state. You’ve wrapped the presents, packed your bags, set your GPS, and spoke to the post office about holding your mail until you return. But what about your car? You need it to get you an estimated 1,420 miles and back again, so you would be unwise to ignore servicing your vehicle prior to leaving.

Little Kid
(photo by stevendepolo via Flickr)

But what should a service of this kind entail? Should you entrust your local auto shop with the details, or would you feel better supplying an exact list of what you would like done to the car? You can really go either way, but if you rely on your auto technician, how do you know they addressed everything that should have been addressed? Simply check the work they’ve performed with this list, of course! (Or just provide them a list of what you’d like done to make it easier.)

Here’s what your technician should look at prior to setting out. Be sure you get your appointment in a few weeks ahead of your departure in case a problem is found. This way, there is enough time to fix it without delaying your trip.

Fluid levels. There are a lot of fluid levels to be checked! You’re probably already planning on getting an oil change, but it will be mentioned just the same. They should check your oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. You, personally, should check both the windshield washer fluid level and how much gas you have (but that is probably a given!) Ask your technician to check the fuel filter.

Tires. Without your tires, you won’t make it far. You need to make sure they are in good shape prior to such a long journey, with enough tread to keep you on the road no matter what the surface of the road is like. Tire pressure is another important factor, and cooler weather dictates you should be keeping your tires a bit less inflated than usual (summertime calls for maximum pressure). If you do put too much air in your tires, you risk a blowout. Check to see you have a spare tire, and make sure the tire pressure is checked as well. It is no fun changing a flat to discover the spare is flat, too!

Hoses/belts. Your technician should check to see if your belts and hoses are all sung and secure.

Windshield wipers. I don’t even have to tell you how important visibility is. Snow and rain lower visibility substantially, and good windshield wipers restore that visibility. You or your technician should check for cracks in your wipers, and make sure your defroster is working properly.

HeadlightsLights. Everyone should check that their lights are functioning properly each and every time they get behind the wheel. But not many actually perform this important safety check! Have your technician assure that all of your lights are working properly. This check should include headlamps in low and high beam, blinkers, dashboard lights (it’s hard to drive at night when you can’t see how fast you’re going!), and interior lights. You don’t need a defective equipment ticket for having a headlight out!

Air Filter. This important part ensures harmful particles can’t enter your engine. Over time, just as with a vacuum filter for example, the filter becomes dirty and less effective. You should check and change your air filter regularly.

Brakes. Arguably one of the most important parts of your car, so you should have this high on the list of items to check. Even if you don’t hear grinding or squealing, there may be signs of wear that are easily fixed by your mechanic that save you from more expensive repairs down the road.

Gauges. Request your technician take a look at your gauges to ensure they’re functioning properly. There’s nothing worse than running out of gas when your gauge tells you that there is a quarter-tank left!

Battery. Have your battery tested by your technician. Batteries all have a certain lifespan, and every time you start your car, you are one step closer to the end of that lifespan. To make sure you aren’t jumpstarting your car on a regular basis on your journey, have your battery tested. Don’t forget about a test of the electrical and ignition systems, too!

As long as your technician checks all of those things, you should be good to go. To be even more prepared, ensure you have an emergency kit in your car that contains a flashlight, extra fuses, a knife, jumper cables, a multipurpose tool, tire pressure gauge, tire sealant, and duct tape. Then you’re prepared to hit the road. Safe travels!