Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip this Summer

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This time of year always means planning a summer car trip in our family. With more than 25 moves in my rearview mirror, often moving meant a road trip across the country. As a military family, we’re always stationed far from family and friends, so summertime also means road trips to visit our loved ones. With two “babies” in college, twice it meant road trips to visit colleges over the summer. A-aaaand, sometimes we even take a road trip on a just-for-fun vacation trip. Whatever the reason for the travels, you know me, I’m planning now and preparing for a summer road trip early. I prefer to organize my car now and then I’m ready for all those summer car trips for kids’ sports and activities, trips to the pool and beach and oh, yeah, all those summer road trips. 

open car trunk with green suitcase, bag with supplies and open cooler bag

Just a few minutes spent now organizing and preparing your car for a road trip pays off all summer long. For three long, glorious months, I will be ready to face any type of adventure in my car with my family and I won’t have to think twice about it. 

Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip 

open car trunk filled with suitcase, umbrella and other items

The more organizing and planning I can do now,  will make the chaos of getting out the door with a family of five much easier in the future. Planning now means I won’t forget key items later. Has anyone else gotten 1 mile or more down the road and had to turn back for something they’ve forgotten? I really don’t like when that happens, so I like to prepare as much as I can ahead of time. 

Car Kit – I have a car kit that I keep in my trunk at all times. It contains:

    First Aid Kit 

    Jumper Cables

    Picnic Blanket – I actually have two because then my family of five can spread out and be comfortable.

    Beach Towel –  I keep a minimum of one in the car kit for those times when someone falls in a creek or mud puddle or what ever else my child may get dirty in. This helps me keep the car upholstery clean (and mama happy). 

large bag in car trunk with blankets and tool box

    Large Umbrella – I keep a large umbrella in the car kit for rain and sun. This huge umbrella has saved us from getting burnt to a crisp at many summer activities over the year.

I have a shelf near our garage door where I keep items that I want to take with me when I go out, but don’t want to leave in the car. I can quickly grab these items and throw them in the car as we run out the door.

Drink Bag – I keep reusable water bottles filled  in the fridge. A small cooler bag  is sitting on the shelf ready to go at all times in the summer. 

collage of 3 photos of cooler and box with sunscreen

Grab n’ Go Outdoors Kit – I used a repurposed puzzle tin to create a grab n’ go outdoors kit that I take whenever we’re going to be outside. I stock it with sunscreen, bug repellent and wipes for clean up. 

Check the Glove Box – Make sure you have your current vehicle registration and insurance information in your car. Check now before you head out on all your summer excursions.

car air filter box with details written on flap

Write Down your Roadside Assistance Service Phone Number – If you have a roadside assistance service that you use, put the phone number in your cell phone and also write it down and place it in your glove box. You don’t want to need roadside assistance and be caught with a dead cell phone battery or no cell phone service to look up the number. If you have the number written down, you can always walk to a gas station or house, if you must, to call for roadside assistance. 

Routine Car Maintenance – Check your vehicle now and take care of any routine maintenance that is due. You want to spend your time enjoying your summer activities and adventures, not sitting on the side of the road waiting for roadside assistance. 

Did you know that your air filter is your engine’s first line of defense and it is easy to change yourself in five minutes or less? A clean air filter improves airflow to your engine, prevents dirt and dust from damaging it and can improve your engine’s overall performance. 

collage of six photos showing how to change car's air filter

It really is easy to change yourself and will save you time and money. I’ve changed my car’s air filters myself from the very first car I owned.  FRAM  recommends changing your air filter annually or every 12,000 miles (**always check and follow the recommended change intervals noted in your vehicle’s owner’s manual).  Let me show you how easy it was to change my car’s air filter.  I checked to find the FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter that fits my car and purchased the correct size for my car.  

1   Locate your air filter – Check your car manual to determine where your air filter is located if you’re not sure. 

2   Open the compartment – On my car, I had to open these two clips on top of the compartment and there were also two more clips in the back of the compartment at the bottom. 

3   Remove the dirty air filter – On my car, I had to pull open the compartment (which was a bit awkward and I felt like I needed one more hand, but it wasn’t difficult to do) and then it was easy to pull out the dirty air filter. 

4   Replace with a new air filter – I chose a FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter.

5   Clean out the air filter compartment – Before you insert the new filter, remove any debris that is trapped in the compartment. I found leaves and other debris in mine that I removed. 

6   Insert new filter and close the compartment – On my car, the filter fits into the front part of the compartment and then the back of the compartment clicks onto the front. Finally, I clicked the four clips shut. 

It honestly took less than 5 minutes to do and saved me a trip to have someone else do it. Why waste my time, money and gas to have someone else do a task that I can do myself? I don’t even need any tools to change my air filter, but at most you’ll need simple tools that you probably already have. 

Tear the end of the box off that show the filter type. Write on the back the date you changed the filter, how many miles are on your car and the next date or miles that will identify when you need to change your air filter again. Keep this in your glove box and you’ll always know when to change your air filter and what type of filter you need. 

Since I had this information in my glove box, when I dropped by Walmart to pick up supplies for my road kit, I was able to pick up an air filter, too. It’s easy to find FRAM airfilters online to make sure which filter you need and which Walmart store carries it. I found FRAM Extra Guard Air Filters in the automotive section.

open car trunk with bags and suitcase

What fun plans do you have this summer? Take a few minutes now preparing for a summer road trip and you’ll be able to spend the rest of your summer creating happy memories. Check out more #SummerCarCare inspiration for ideas and tips for your next road trip. 

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  1. Great tips Susan. I’m more of a spontaneous person than a planner so having these items in the vehicle are perfect. I’d include the kids swimsuits too – you never know when it’s really hot and they’ll feel like cooling down at a park sprinkler or in a friends back yard. This has been very handy in the past. Thanks and see you Thursday.

    1. Great idea about keeping the swimsuits in the car, too, Darlene. They take up almost no room and then you’re ready for anything. šŸ™‚

  2. It looks super easy to change the air filter! I’m going to be picking one up soon, and it’s great to see that it only takes a few minutes! #client

    1. It really is amazingly easy to change the air filter on your car, Serena, and a great way to save money.

  3. Wow, I learned something today! I love that you shared information about the air filter – I really didn’t know any of that. Now I can feel more confident when someone tells me I need to change mine. I will be able to take care of it myself. Great post!

    1. I promise it really is easy to do yourself, Cynthia. It saves time and money (and can’t we all use more of both of those?)

  4. Thanks for the tips. This is a great list…I’ll remember this when I take my next road trip. I hope your picnic basket has a few wine glasses in it when you stop for an overnight!

  5. Have to admit I’ve never thought of changing my own air filter. Maybe I can actually do this and save a few $$! Smart idea to have your roadside assistance number handy. When things go wrong, who wants grief trying to find the number?

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