You want to thoroughly be sure your car is ready for a long trip before going. To have a major failure at some point along the way that could have been prevented by a few small fixes is just disastrous. Follow this little checklist in making sure your car is ready. If you have any major work prior to the trip, be sure to drive it around for a week or so to make sure the bus are all worked out rather than road test it on the trip. You will be glad you did.
1. Routine service
Have your oil changed, install new filters where applicable. Be sure to check levels of fluid in rear axle and transmission. During the trip, you may elect to have an oil change done at some point if you change every 3000 miles.
2. Common trouble spots
Go over car, looking for worn belts, leaky gaskets, worn bushings, and other items that could fail and leave you stranded. If you have a bearing that grumbles or a water pump that is squeaking, replace them. Rubber items often neglected like radiator hoses, fuel lines, and shock bushings are key areas to look for trouble. If you have a vintage car we always recommend you carry a spare rotor, coil, and points - and not the NOS repro type. They fail almost every time on a long road trip as for the most part they are made to be original, not reliable. Because we convoy with headlights all day, sometimes fuses and alternators show their true colors. Items that tend to fail most often on long road trips are:
• Water pumps, water hoses, thermostats
• Axle bearings or seals
• Fuel filters
3. Check Tires
Be on the look out for weather cracking that can lead to a blowout. Often on lower mileage show cars, this is an area of concern. Your tread should have a minimum depth of 1/8" as wet weather is a possibility.
4. Cooling system
On newer cars this is less of an issue, but be sure you cooling system is up to snuff. The convoy will be pulling some pretty substantial grades and potentially experiencing some hot weather. Your car will likely be loaded down with luggage and supplies. Your radiator could benefit from a flush if you have not done it in a while, and assure that the proper balance of coolant is used.
5. High performance engines.
If your car has engine modifications such as high lift cams, high valve spring rates, high energy ignition systems, multiple carburetors, or other mods that can enter the fray of long distance drivability or engine life take this into serious consideration. If you have certain parts that are known to fail you, be sure to bring spares if they are not readily available at mainstream auto parts stores.
6. Road Wear
The drive can be hard on a car if you are highly concerned about road wear. If we encounter bad weather, there could be sand on the road way. In any case there are ways to protect you car from potential issues. Use a bra to protect against chips or pitting. If you have a vintage car with expensive wheel covers you might keep them in the trunk.
7. Spare Tire
This is obvious, but make sure your spare is inflated. Also, if you have locking lugs, make sure you have the special key or lug along with you. Make sure your jack and wrench are on board.
See also what to bring.