The great American road trip has a vaunted place in this country's history, and rightfully so. After all, we've been hitting the open road since the days when the family wagon had "Conestoga" chiseled on the wood panels.
Every road trip is memorable in its own way. Many of those memories, though, include overheating engines, circling vultures and expensive stays at bed-lice-ridden motels in two-bit towns — moments most of us would have preferred to avoid.
In that spirit, here are our Top 10 Road Trip Tips.
May the remembrances of your next road trip bring a smile to your face, rather than inducing a bad case of post-traumatic stress.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers
1. Get Your Car Checked Out
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or, put another way, do you want to risk passing through the digestive system of wolves because of a loose hose clamp? We didn't think so.
Get your vehicle thoroughly serviced before you go. Wondering what to have checked? We shamelessly suggest the checklists in our Summer Driving Tips, Winter Driving Tips and our Service Advice area. If you need a good mechanic, you can check our humungous database of listener-recommended garages at the Mechanics Files.
2. Build In Rest Days
Are you going on a vacation — or a forced march? Give yourself a break!
When you're planning your itinerary, add in a few extra rest days. You'll enjoy the trip more, and since you'll be taxing your car less, it will be a bit less likely to break down. And you'll have time for that unplanned stop to see the World Famous Ear Wax Collection. (OK, there's not really a World Famous Ear Wax Collection. You weren't really looking forward to that, were you?)
3. Bring a Basic Repair Kit
Have a repair kit on hand for fixes you might be able to take care of yourself. At the very least, bring a few different sizes of regular and Phillips-head screwdrivers, vice grips, bailing wire to secure an errant muffler and a roll of duct tape. You can get a full list of suggestions over at our Roadside Survival Guide.
4. Grab Car Talk's Breakdown Lane App
Shameless Alert! We've got the perfect accessory for road trips, if we do say so ourselves: our Breakdown Lane application for iPhone users. No matter where you are in the country, Breakdown Lane will show you an instant map of the closest mechanics and their customer rankings, complete with reviews and ratings from Car Talk website visitors. It's bad enough to be broken down on the same road that the Joads took out of Oklahoma. Do you really need the extra hassle of Vern and the funny-looking old man he calls "Cousin Sue" charging you for repairs you don't need?
While you're considering apps, check out the full list of listener-recommended apps, right here.
Added bonus: Jump-starting and tire-changing instructions are "burned into" the Car Talk Breakdown Lane app, so even if you're miles from the nearest cell tower, Tom and Ray are still on your phone to help you get back on the road.
5. Join a Travel Club
If you're not already a member of a travel club, join one before you leave on your adventure. It will save you a hassle right at the moment that you least need another migraine. There's always AAA, which has affiliates almost everywhere. But if you don't agree with AAA's self-serving push for highways over public transportation, check out the Better World Club or an auto club offered by your car's manufacturer.