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Taking control of my car and it’s maintenance has been an incredibly empowering experience – and one that has kept my family safe through countless road trips and everyday school runs.
Today, I’m sharing with you how I prepare for a family road trip – from my “Car Check Up” to my printable packing checklist and my favorite hack to avoid hearing “are we there yet?” every kilometer!
Growing up, I wasn’t really into cars – that was something I left to my brothers, but as a mom I think one of the most important things for me to take charge of is understanding my car and being responsible for its regular maintenance.
Learning how to perform basic maintenance and knowing what things to check on a regular basis not only saves you money, but it can prevent some pretty scary situations.
For example, while preparing for this post I went about my typical pre-road trip check up on my car. My tire pressure was good, but then looking at the treads, I found cracks!
My tires were only a couple years old and this isn’t something you should expect after such a short period of time, but if I hadn’t checked it could have led to a tire blow-out on the highway.
That is exactly why it is so important to do a thorough check-up on your car at least a week before a road trip and then the morning of/night before.
Your first step to getting familiar with your car is to consult your owner’s manual. It doesn’t matter if you’re the type to always throw out a manual that comes with an appliance – your car is different.
Your owner’s manual will have specific advice for your car – for example, reading my manual I know how often my car needs an oil change, what kind of oil, etc.
Depending on the temperature I buy 10W30 or 5W30 – and for this oil change I partnered with Quaker State® Ultimate Durability™ Full Synthetic Motor Oil so I could bring you these awesome printables.
How to Perform a DIY Oil Change
You will need:
- The proper oil for your car (check your manual)
- Oil filter (check your manual)
- Oil filter wrench (check your manual)
- Container for used oil (we use a tray and then funnel into the empty container after)
- Engine oil
- Oil filter
- Oil filter gasket
- Rags or paper towel
- Safety glasses
- Plastic disposable gloves
- Plastic sheet or tarp
Run your car for about 5 minutes. Check the oil for cleanliness and level.
If you need an oil change, spread a plastic sheet on the driveway and drive your car over it. This will protect your driveway from spills.
Open your new oil and spread a bit of the oil on the gasket of your new oil filter.
Remove the drain plug and empty the old oil into your container. (Remember, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.)
Remove the old filter and add the new one. Re-secure the drain plug.
Top up with new oil.
Bring your old filter and oil to a oil recycling center – our local auto-wrecker is where I bring mine.
Other Things to do before a road trip include:
- Making our road trip paper chain (below)
- Check tire pressure and tread
- Check all brake lights and turn signals (you will need a buddy for this)
Check all fluid levels – windshield, oil, transmission, coolant, brake, power steering fluid
- Vacuum out the car and wipe it down – a clean car is so much more enjoyable
- Restock items like facial tissues, garbage bags, etc.
- Double-check that your first aid kid and safety gear is in the car – for us that includes a blanket, jumper cables, a portable cell phone battery, extra windshield wipers, gas card, etc.
The Best Mom Hack for Road Trips
I pack a few things for my daughter to do during road trips and usually she’s pretty good at self-entertaining, but this road trip paper chain helps when she’s “in a mood.”
For this road trip, I packed a few of our favorite printable road trip games as well as:
- pipe cleaners (make wands, tiaras, shapes, letters, etc)
- notebooks for drawing or writing
- coloring books and new sparkly crayon-markers
- a game of Old Maid
- new picture books
- an unbreakable mirror for making funny faces
- an old camera of mine for her to capture her favorite sights outside of the window
I purchased my Quaker State Oil at Canadian tire – I was sold by the fact that as your engine temperature increases, heat-activated viscosity improvers and anti-wear additives kick in to maintain oil thickness to help extend your engine life.
What that means is – during Canada’s humid summer and freezing winters, you experience more performance through superior lubrication flow and pumpability in below-freezing temperatures. (There’s a reason Canadian Tire’s tagline is “Made for life in Canada.” We need things made different!)
I also bought a great steering wheel cover to prevent sweaty palms while driving (and it feels a lot nicer than factory steering wheel) and my favorite cute air freshener. I’ve previously purchased organizers for my daughter’s road trip items that go over the back of the chair in front of her and extra booster seats for when friends join us on road trips.
(Also, everything that I use for my DIY oil changes, my tire pressure gauge, etc, all came from Canadian Tire.)
Grab your free printable Road Trip Packing List here:
What are your safety precautions before a road trip? Does car maintenance intimidate you? What do you wish you knew more about when it comes to your car?