Prep Your Car for Summer Travel

Prep Your Car for Summer Travel

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#FueltheLove #CollectiveBias

By now school is out all across the country, and if you’re like most families you’re about to embark on some type of summer travel. This year we have a number of trips planned to Chicago, Huntsville, Omaha and more – all by car. We try to make the vacations as much about the journey as the destination, but after a couple days cooped up inside of a vehicle with three other people, things can start becoming a little less-than-pleasant.

Thanks to these types of trips over the years, we’ve found that preparing your car, truck or van ahead of time for the long hours you’ll be inside can make the venture so much more bearable. We’ve put together a checklist of sorts that will hopefully give you some ideas of things you can do to your ride that you may have overlooked before you head out into the summer heat.


A beautiful car is a joy to drive. Fortunately making it look good from 20 feet isn’t a lot of work!

Wash & Wax – Whether you do it yourself in the driveway or take it to a local car wash, getting all that winter grime off your car (and from underneath) will have the biggest visual impact. Looking at your refreshed car will motivate you to make sure the rest of our list is adhered to!

Check Lights – When is the last time you checked to make sure ALL of your lights are working properly? You’re about to head out on a trip, maybe through states with not-so-friendly State Troopers. Don’t give them a reason to pad their coffers. Get a family member to help you make sure your brake lights, turn signals, headlights and backup lights are all in working order.

Check Wipers – After a long winter there’s a good chance there is damage to one or more of your wiper blades. Turn them on and activate the washers – if you see any streaking at all, it is time to replace them. Do it now before you hit the road and the eventual thunderstorm.


This is where you’ll spend the most time and you need to pay the most attention!

Clean Dash and Windows – We’re starting from the top and working down. Clean the insides of the windows and wipe all the dust off of the dash and console. I’ve found using the new wipes specifically made for autos quite convenient.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Clean Seats – If you have cloth seats, you’ll do this when you do the next step (vacuum). If you sprung for leather, now is the time to give them an annual treatment of conditioner so they stay soft and crack-free. We’ve highlighted a couple brands in the past, but our favorite by far is this one.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Vacuum – Now it’s time to recruit the kids. Let’s face it, the majority of the mess on the floors are from them. So, they should be responsible for cleaning it up! Show them how to get in the nooks and crannies, and don’t forget to remove the floor mats and get underneath!

Restock – Whether it is the box of tissues, empty garbage bags, first aid kits or DVD’s for the entertainment system, make sure they are all topped off for your trip. You never know what ailment will hit, so try to be prepared for any emergency.

Freshen – I don’t always recommend an air freshener in your car, but if you haven’t given it some attention in quite some time, some fragrance help may be necessary. Choose from the classic tree-from-mirror or splurge on one of the new sticks that go inside your air vent. Either way, they are sure to mask those months of fast food and dirty feet.

Under the Hood

The most overlooked section of the car, but the most important. Don’t have your trip ruined by breakdowns!

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Change Your Oil – Even if your car isn’t technically due for a change, with the miles you’ll put on it in one trip it is a good idea to start it off with a fresh oil change. Getting ready for your trip can be time-consuming, and we’ve found that letting Walmart’s Automotive Care Center take care of it while we’re stocking up on snacks and drinks (and the various supplies for the previous tasks), is a much better use of our time than trying to do it ourselves.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

In fact, Walmart also believes so, and from June 10 through September 9th, Pennzoil Oil changes will be on Rollback! We choose to use synthetic oil in our new minivan, and the sale price using Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic is nearly the same price as just buying the oil myself – and it includes the filter and labor!

Pennzoil at Walmart - ViperMany of you know that I have a Viper I love to race. Every new Viper from Dodge/SRT has Pennzoil in its high-performance engine. If it is good enough for SRT, it is more than great for my minivan! Pennzoil also offers a free warranty that covers 15 engine parts that could fail due to engine wear or which experience abnormal wear due to friction. And no other motor oil provides better protection from friction. Learn more about Pennzoil by checking our their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram timelines.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Get A/C Checked – There is nothing worse than travelling on the highway with the windows rolled down. The noise and smell from all the other cars will make the trip seem longer than necessary. Many mechanics offer a free A/C check this time of year to make sure you have enough refrigerant and it is operating at its best efficiency.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Check Water Level – Summer travel is hard on your engine, and just by the nature of warmer weather, you engine will operate at a higher temperature. Check the overflow reservoir to make sure your water level is safely between the MIN and MAX levels marked on the bottle. If you need to add a little, mix anti-freeze in a 50/50 mix with distilled water and pour it in. Do NOT pour it directly into the radiator, always use the overflow reservoir.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Check Wiper Fluid Level – While you have the hood open, make sure you haven’t used up all your wiper fluid. Those new wipers you just put on (above) won’t do much good if you can’t use the washer because it has dried up. Wiper fluid is cheap and you should always have a bottle handy in the garage. Now is the time to top it off.

If you're headed out for summer travel by car, utilize these maintenance and cleaning tips to make it more pleasant and event-free! #FueltheLove -

Rotate Tires / Air Pressure – If regular rotation isn’t part of your maintenance schedule, then shame on you. Rotation ensures even wear and vastly extends the life of your tires. Get them rotated before you head out and make sure the tire pressure is well within the manufacturer’s recommendation for your vehicle. You’ll save on gas by increasing your mileage and will be safer by having them inflated properly.

Implement our tips and your next summer vacation will be much more pleasant and event-free. Where are you planning to travel (by car) this summer?

Scott Brady

About Scott Brady

A former manufacturing executive, Scott now balances his family life with ownership and backend administration of websites such as, and a number of other online properties. He also is an award-winning board game designer with notable titles such as Hues and Cues and boop.

39 comments on «Prep Your Car for Summer Travel»

  1. Thank you for posting this- it’s a great reminder of all the things that we need to do for our cars! We’re headed out of town in a couple weeks to surprise my husband 🙂

  2. What a great article! When you read about getting ready for road trips it is usually about packing the inside. This is great information – especially for DIY! Good reminder especially for wiper fluid. I need to check mine!
    I’m going to pass along this great post!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  3. Dawn says:

    This is a great article. Now I know what my husband is doing ever spring.

  4. Danielle says:

    A clean and properly functioning car is definitely a happy car. I recently traveled a few hours by car to visit my mother and unknown to me, my back driver side break light was out. Of course I got pulled over and the ticket was $113! I definitely could have used that money for something else.

  5. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Car stuff is man land our family. All I know if my husband does stuff to the car sometimes and as long as it runs, I am happy 🙂

  6. The car is one place that I am not in charge of. My husband is the one who does just about anything there, but we do go for oil changes to Walmart, when they are not super busy

  7. Great tips! We are taking a long road trip in July and I’ll definitely be referring back to this list as we get our vehicle ready to go!

  8. susan says:

    These are some great tips… Getting the car clean out will be the first step for us, it sure could use a good cleaning!

  9. Amanda says:

    Great tips on keeping your car ready for traveling. I actually will be re-stocking my car with the must have emergency items today!

  10. My car couldn’t definitely use a good cleaning. While I’m good about keeping the mechanics taken care of, I’m terrible about vacuuming, dusting, windows, etc!

  11. Shauna says:

    My car could use all of this. I think there is probably a whole lot of dust and grossness, lol. Plus, a check up is probably in order, as well. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Nicole B says:

    Great reminders on getting the car prepped for our summer road trips. My kids can trash the car simply riding home from school — so you can imagine what it looks like after we have been on the road. I think it is time for me to get my oil changed…

  13. Great tips here… good to keep in mind as we go on road trips this Summer!

  14. Meagan says:

    Summer really is the perfect time for road trips! I’ll have to keep these tips in mind when we head to grandma and grandpas!

  15. Amy Desrosiers says:

    My husband loves to maintain his cars! Making sure all these things are in check is his specialty!

  16. I think car maintenance is crucial for any kind of travel. I make sure that my car has oil and other crucial items to make a safe trip.

  17. Liz Mays says:

    These are great ideas to do before you start traveling I’ll never forget to check my tires again after finding a huge rip in one.

  18. These are great tips! My husband does about half of these for me anytime Im about to take a road trip.

  19. I appreciate this tips! Luckily my hubby does all the mechanical work on all our vehicles and he is very safety concerned. Always checking EVERYTHING. We are going on a road trip soon, so I can just imagine everything he will be doing!

  20. ….or you can just trade in and get a new van. lol. Just kidding, but seriously our van died and we had to get a new one. Thankfully I didn’t have to do a lot of maintenance on the van this year because of getting a new one. But definitely we always check all fluids in the vehicles and check tire pressure before going on trips.

  21. Aubrey says:

    I could really use some new window wipers and probably an oil change. I think I’m about due for new tires also.

  22. Debra says:

    Such great tips – and I’m reminded I need to do several of these things ASAP! A trip to Walmart is in order!!

  23. It is always a struggle to keep my seats clean with two small children! I love taking my car to Walmart to get the oil changed!

  24. I so need to prep my car. It really needs a good wash and an engine check up

  25. dawn says:

    I love this post! Thanks for the awesome tips.

  26. These are awesome tips! We need to get our cards prepared to hit the road this summer.

  27. These are great tips for preparing for summer travel. I always have my car checked before i go on any trips. Better safe then sorry.

  28. Emily says:

    I really need to do this! My car is so dirty right now it’s kind of embarrassing!!

  29. Awesome! Thanks for sharing! We have a couple of long roadtrips coming up soon, and I’ll make sure our cars are in tip-top shape before we hit the open road! #client

  30. Kristin says:

    Better to get it all checked and taken care of then to have costly repairs and to get stranded. Not just for the short-term but also for the long life of your car as well as resale value.

  31. Jenn says:

    One more tip is to have your mechanic change your cabin air filters too! After spring pollen clears out, I always find that my filters are chock full of nasty dust and pollen and the air smells so much better with fresh filters.

  32. CCE says:

    I don’t drive but I’ll show this to my brother when he’s cleaning my dads car x

  33. William Wilson says:

    Good tips for just about any time of year. Especially if you tend to let things slide, as I do.

  34. You’ve given some great tips. They’d make a really helpful resource for the newer driver.

  35. Great tips for those looking to road trip! Thank you for sharing.

  36. Thanks for the reminders. I sometimes for get to do those little extra things before a road trip.

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