34-point road trip checklist

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

Before hitting the open road for your next adventure, take the time to give your car a mechanical once-over. 

Brakes and Suspension

  • Hand brake works properly-can safely slow the car, hold the car on a hill, and release completely.
  • Pedal free play is properly adjusted.
  • Brake pedal has no sponginess and never requires any pumping.
  • No pulling in either direction.
  • No inappropriate lockup under hard braking.
  • Shock absorbers work correctly.
  • Ride height is correct.
  • No binding, especially the anti-roll bars.
  • Wheel bearings are lubed and adjusted properly; all split pins are installed.
  • Suspension and steering are lubed.


  • Panel gaps are appropriate.
  • Doors latch properly on primary and secondary latch points.
  • Hood and trunk releases are adjusted, tightened and lubed.
  • Door handles, bumpers and any other bolt-ons are tight and rattle-free.


  • Seat belts work properly and are new enough to be safe.
  • Seats slide freely.
  • Gauges and dash lights work.
  • Mirrors hold adjustment and don’t rattle.
  • Steering wheel is on straight.
  • No unplugged holes in dash.


  • Battery is tied down.
  • Horn is loud and works every time.
  • All lights and accessories are operational.
  • Charging system works and belt is tight.
  • Proper fuses everywhere.
  • No dangling or unterminated wires.

Engine and Drivetrain

  • Compression is within 10 percent on each cylinder.
  • Good oil pressure-minimal or no leaks.
  • Proper oil level in engine, gearbox and rear axle.
  • Engine idles well and at a consistent rpm.
  • Car accelerates smoothly.
  • Engine shuts off without dieseling.
  • No exhaust leaks.
  • Coolant is completely topped off and no air bubbles are present.
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300zxfreak Reader
9/3/23 11:20 a.m.

Very timely, I'm just about to embark on a backroads trip from Ohio down to South Carolina, good things to think about and check beforehand.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/6/23 2:09 p.m.

In reply to 300zxfreak :

A stitch in time and all that.

Safe travels!

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