Do Road Trips Damage Cars? The Facts Explained


If you’re preparing for a long road trip, you might be worried about the damage such a trip will inflict on your car. But will a road trip really damage your car? Is it worse than the driving you do on a daily basis?  

Road trips do not damage cars as long as you are up-to-date with maintenance and don’t get into an accident. Long road trips typically cause less damage than city driving, mostly because there are fewer instances of stopping and starting.

The rest of this article explains why road trips don’t damage cars, how to prepare your vehicle for a long trip, discusses whether or not you should rent a car, and what you should bring on a road trip. If you’re planning for an upcoming road trip and you’re concerned about the damage it may do to your vehicle, read on. 

Why Road Trips Don’t Damage Cars 

As long as your car is in proper working condition, a road trip will not damage your car. Here are signs that your car is not in working condition, and that you shouldn’t take it on a road trip: 

  • The car is low on oil. 
  • You haven’t had it serviced for a long time. 
  • The vehicle is making weird or unexplained noises. 
  • Something feels off when you’re driving it. 
  • The car is leaking fluid. 
  • You have flat or damaged tires. 

However, if your car is in good condition, going on a road trip will not damage your car. 

Highway miles, where you don’t need to stop or slow down frequently, are when your car’s engine is working at its prime. This kind of driving is better for your car than short trips when you are frequently stopping at red lights or stop signs, yielding to pedestrians, and accelerating at green lights. 

Additionally, highways are typically better maintained than city roads, so you’ll hit fewer potholes and bumps that could hurt your car. 

This kind of stopping and starting does more damage to your car than driving for many miles on a road trip. Of course, not driving your car at all will cause the least amount of damage and wear, but this is not realistic. 

Preparing for a Road Trip 

Before you set out for the open road, you should prepare your car and make sure it is ready for long-term travel. 

Here are some suggestions: 

  • Check your tires and tire pressure. Make sure that all four of your tires, and your spare tire, are in good condition. Check for any cuts and ensure that the tread isn’t worn down. Inflate all tires to the pressure your vehicle manufacturer recommends. The tire pressure label should be attached to the inside of the door jamb on the driver’s side. 
  • Check your transmission fluid. If your vehicle has a traditional dipstick, you should check the transmission fluid regularly and replace it according to your owner’s manual. If the transmission fluid is old, it can gather dirt and debris, which will limit your transmission’s performance and lifespan. 
  • Have a professional do a battery check. Ensuring your car battery is in good condition is essential when preparing for a long road trip. You can get a free battery check if you are an AAA member. 
  • Get an oil change. Having enough oil is essential for safe vehicle operation. If you haven’t had an oil change for a while, you should get it changed before your road trip. 
  • Replace your wiper blades and fill your windshield washer reservoir. Wiper blades deteriorate over time, so you should replace them semi-regularly. 
  • Replace your air filters. For your vehicle to run properly and the air coming into the passenger compartment to be debris-free, you’ll need to replace your air filters. 

Can You Rent a Car for a Road Trip? 

You can rent a car for a road trip, but as long as your car is in good condition, you can take it on a road trip without concern. If you don’t have a car or don’t want to use yours, you can consider renting a car, but the costs can add up. 

Rental cars have the advantage of being newer, so the features in rentals might be more advanced than the features in your own car. You may also consider renting a car if you’re going to be driving in weather conditions that your personal vehicle is not prepared for, like snow or sand. 

Renting a car can be expensive, though. Make sure that you do research and shop around for the best long-term rental deal. For road trips, it is essential that your rental includes unlimited mileage. 

What To Bring on a Road Trip 

If you’ve properly serviced your car or found a great rental, you’re almost ready to go on your road trip. However, there are a few more things you’ll need for a successful road trip: 

  • Flashlights: It’s best to always have a light source, so keeping a flashlight on hand is not a bad idea. Having a headlamp can be helpful as well. 
  • Food and water: Road trip snacks are essential, and if you get stuck in traffic or snow, you’ll need some calories to sustain yourself. If you’re road-tripping in cold weather conditions, I recommend getting non-perishable items that won’t freeze. You should also keep extra water and keep it warm so it doesn’t freeze. 
  • Jumper cables: This should go without saying, but you should always keep jumper cables in your car. This will save you the time, money, and inconvenience of getting a tow. 
  • First-aid kit: Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but if you or someone with you has a minor injury, a first-aid kit can help rectify the situation. 
  • Multitool or tool kit: You may need to make minor repairs to your car, so having a tool kit can help you get your car back into pristine conditions. 
  • Blankets and coats: If you are road-tripping in cold weather, having extra warm layers can save you from having an uncomfortable trip. 

Conclusion 

Now you can set off on your road trip without worrying about damaging your vehicle. As long as you take care of your car properly and do some sufficient preparation, your car will be just fine on your next trip. Happy driving!

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