A road trip can be exhilarating. It’s a chance to travel with friends, freedom to go wherever you like, and an opportunity to create memories that will bring a smile to your face for years to come. But a road trip can also be stressful if your vehicle is not adequately prepared. These simple tips will help prevent misfortune and allow you to enjoy the journey.

1. Look for the obvious

Before your trip, turn on your brake lights, headlights, blinkers, horn, and windshield wipers to make sure they all work. If your check-engine light is on, or your car is making sounds you’ve never heard before, take your car into a shop to have it looked at.

2. Check your tires

Make sure your tire treads have plenty of depth. In this area, a penny may become more valuable to you than it ever has before. One easy trick to check tread depth is to stick a penny with Lincoln’s head going down into a groove of the tire. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible when you check several grooves, the tire tread is too low, and it’s time to get new tires. (A tread of 2/32″ or lower is considered too low.)

Your tires also need to have sufficient pressure. Different cars require different tire pressures, so you should go by what the car manufacturer deems correct. The number, followed by “psi,” is often located inside the car on the driver’s door panel. Use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure.

3. Check your fluids

Fluids help your car parts run smoothly by reducing friction and heat, so it’s important to maintain correct fluid levels in your car. Be sure to check the radiator fluid, oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield wiper fluid.

4. Get an oil change if needed

Like a car’s tire pressure, there is no standard rule as to when a car should have its oil changed. Again, this depends on the manufacturer. To find out when you should get the oil changed on your car and the type of oil your car needs, check your owner’s manual or look online.  If all else fails, a good rule of thumb is to get an oil change if it’s been longer than three months or more than three thousand miles since your last oil change.

5. Have a professional check your battery, belts, and hoses

Unless your battery is brand new, it’s a good idea to get your battery tested, especially if you are traveling to a colder climate than the one you’re beginning in. Some auto shops check batteries for free, so do some research to see if any local auto shops offer this free service. Problems with belts and hoses can be serious and can lead to expensive problems. Visible cracks on the belts or hoses are a good indication that they need to be replaced, but these problems aren’t always visible. Because of this, taking your car into an auto shop is the surest way to make sure your car is set to go.

—Kaylene Morrill