Safety First News

Prepare for Holiday Road Trips Now

Safety First News
November 19, 2017

Proper trip planning and vehicle preventative maintenance are essential year-round, but especially when it comes to holiday driving. Use this checklist to help you prepare for your holiday trip.

Check for recalls

Owners may not always know if the vehicle they drive is subject to an open recall and is in need of repair. Preparing for holiday road trips is a great time to do an annual check to learn of any recalls that pertain to your vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a tool called “Recalls Look-up Tool” that allows you to enter your vehicle’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to easily learn if your vehicle has been recalled. Check for your vehicle recall status by visiting and ensure your dealer makes repairs at no charge.

Before going to the mechanic

It’s a good idea for you to conduct a basic check of your vehicle’s systems before going to the mechanic so you can see for yourself if something doesn’t look right and needs checking or repair. Keep a list items that don’t look right and make sure your mechanic checks each of them. Here are some basic items to check:

Check the battery

Battery power weakens when the temperature drops. For diesel and gasoline powered engines, more battery power is required to start your vehicle in cold weather. The range for driving is reduced for hybrid-electric and electric vehicles when the batteries get cold. Don’t touch the battery unless you are trained to safely do so.

  • Visually inspect the battery terminals and cables to see if corrosion is building up on them.
  • Ensure the battery is properly seated in its proper position.
  • Visually inspect charging belts (and all belts) to see if there are signs of wear, cracking, breakage, etc.
  • Item for mechanic: Conduct battery check for satisfactory voltage, amperage and reserve capacity. If the mechanic says the battery is on the verge of needing replacement, but is “probably okay,” consider replacing the battery now.

Check the lights

Walk around the vehicle and ensure all lights are in working order. Check headlights (high and low beam), brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. If a trailer or camper will be hauled, ensure the trailer or camper brake lights and turn signals are in working order.

Check the cooling system

  • Check the coolant level and add proper coolant as needed.
  • Check the vehicle’s owner’s manual to ensure the coolant added, if any, meets manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Item for mechanic: Check for leaks in the cooling system and replace the coolant in the vehicle if it is time to do so (as recommended by the manufacturer).

Check the windshield

  • Check windshield for cracks. Either repair the crack, if possible, or replace the windshield.
  • Ensure the windshield washer reservoir is full.
  • If the temperatures will be freezing during your journey, use a better quality “winter” wiper fluid with de-icer in it.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are operational and work smoothly.
  • Replace worn wiper blades. If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced them, go ahead and replace them.
  • Check the front and rear window defrosters are operational, and if not, make a note to get the mechanic to address the issue.

Check the floor mats

Loose or improperly-fitting floor mats may interfere with accelerator and/or brake pedal functions, making a very hazardous situation.

  • If purchasing new mats, remove the old mats first –never stack mats on top of each other.
  • Ensure the floor mats you use are the proper fit for the vehicle you are driving.
  • Check that the driver’s side mat is installed correctly and secured from moving around.

Check the tires

  • Even if you check your tires monthly, check them again before your trip. Use a penny to check the tire tread depth. When inserting an upside-down penny into the tread, the raised tread should cover the top of Lincoln’s head. If not, the tread may be too worn and the mechanic and/or the tire shop should take a look at your tires. Don’t forget to check the spare tire.
  • Check your tires for bulges.
  • Check that all wheel lugs are present and screwed on tight.
  • Try to find nails or screws that might have impaled the tires. You will likely only be able to see the head of the item that is inserted in the tire.
  • When the temperature outside drops, so does the air pressure in your tires. Ensure each tire is inflated to the pressure listed on your vehicle’s doorframe, NOT the air pressure listed on the tire itself. Check the pressure when the tires are “cold,” and not after they have been driven on for a while.

Visit the mechanic

  • Schedule an appointment with your mechanic for a tune up and regular maintenance and to address the items you found during your own inspection. Be mindful that appointments with the mechanic are typically scarce before holidays, so do your best to get in there early.
  • Ensure the mechanic checks for leaks, as well as worn hoses and parts. It’s obviously better to get items replaced now to be sure problems are avoided on the road.

Check your provisions

Double check to ensure emergency items and other necessities are on-board before departure.

  • If the weather will be sub-freezing, you will certainly need an ice scraper, but also consider bringing a snow shovel if snow is in the forecast. An extra blanket for each passenger is also a good idea.
  • Bring a bag of sand or kitty litter in case your vehicle loses traction and gets stuck. If the vehicle is rear-wheel drive, keep the bag in the rear of the vehicle to add weight to the rear wheels.
  • Bring jumper cables and read the vehicle’s owner’s manual to know how to use the cables before you need to use them.
  • Pack a flashlight with fresh batteries, a stocked first aid kit, extra water, and food.

Check your route

  • Check the forecasted weather conditions for the days you will be on your route.
  • Allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Rushing or attempting to keep a tight schedule on a long trip is a common factor in unfortunate incidents.
  • Even if you use your GPS, get an overview of your entire route and become familiar with it. Let others know about your route plan and expected departure and arrival dates and times, if possible.

Check your focus

Commit yourself to avoiding risky driving behaviors before you embark on your journey by doing the following:

  • Insist everyone wears a seatbelt. Youngsters need to be in an approved child safety seat approved for the child’s weight.
  • Avoid distracted driving, including talking on the phone, texting, eating, and even looking at the GPS or map. Just pull over when your focus on the road is not 100%.
  • Drive the speed limit, but be mindful that driving at speeds appropriate for weather conditions is required. Slow down. Let’s not make this holiday season one to remember because we spent it in the emergency room.
  • Always drive sober. To be safe, if an adult beverage was consumed, hand the keys over to a driver who was not consuming alcohol or find another ride home (taxi, Uber, etc.).
Safety First Consulting helps businesses identify OSHA compliance issues in their workplaces, manage their safety programs, and we become accountable for the results. In addition to offering custom written safety programs for companies, Safety First Consulting provides required safety training, industrial hygiene sampling, noise sampling, and workplace inspections. See our list of Services.
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