9 Auto Essentials to Keep Your Road Trips Running Smoothly

by Rich Finzer
Auto Essentials to Keep Your Road Trip Running Smoothly photo

Don’t get caught unprepared on your next long distance car trip. These road trip essentials can help keep your road trips running smoothly.

I’m generally not a fan of “list-type” articles, such as “22 Things Never to Ask on a First Date” or “Five Ways to Guarantee You’ll Never Get Hired.” But, there are times when a list of essentials is a good thing to keep in mind, like when planning an extended road trip.

So here’s my list of road trip essentials.

1. Oil

Carrying an extra quart or two of engine oil is always a good idea, especially if your dashboard gauge indicates your engine is running hot or the vehicle’s oil pressure begins dropping.

2. Coolant

For exactly the same reasons you should carry extra oil, a gallon jug of engine coolant is also an absolute must.

3. Power Steering Fluid

If you’ve ever listened to the grinding squeal of a vehicle making a turn, then you already know the warning sign of low power steering fluid.

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4. Windshield Washer Fluid

The “free” windshield cleaner reservoir and squeegee at most gas stations is filled with the cheapest windshield washer fluid available, which is then promptly diluted with extra water. Get smart and carry a jug of the “good stuff.”

5. Brake Fluid

I always check my brake fluid before driving out west or down to Florida. If the level seems a bit low, I add some before I leave, but I take the unused portion with me in case I have a problem.

6. Rags

Adding anything to fluid reservoirs under the hood is always dirty business, so having clean rags saves wear and tear on your digits. Carrying a few prepackaged “washy-wipes” is a good idea, too.

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7. Prepaid Credit Card

On a recent trip to Colorado, I ran dangerously low on gas near the town of Kimball, Nebraska. My prepaid card allowed me to fill my tank at an unattended self-service gas pump without adding another charge to my regular credit card and prevented me from sleeping in my truck in Kimball, Nebraska until other gas stations opened in the morning. For the record, Kimball is a cute little town, but everything closes up very early.

8. Cash

Not every gas station is equipped to handle credit or debit cards, so a stash of money is a good idea. Cash is nifty stuff. It’s accepted everywhere and you don’t need ID to use it.

9. Spare Automotive Fuses

The electrical system in your vehicle is protected by fuses. A fuse kit is inexpensive to acquire. Fuses are child’s play to replace, and it beats the daylights out of discovering your wipers won’t turn on or your power windows won’t function, especially if it begins raining.

When traveling, I prefer the “road less taken,” and my supply of automotive road trip essentials fits conveniently in a single cardboard box. As an Eagle Scout, I learned long ago to “Be Prepared” and to avoid being surprised.

Reviewed July 2021

About the Author

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 40+ years as a writer, he has published over 1,200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award-winning book Maple On Tap: Making Your Own Maple Syrup is available Amazon.

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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