* Before you set out, have an automotive technician make sure the vehicle is travel-ready by checking the battery, fluid levels, windshield wipers, lights and exhaust system.
* Carefully examine the tread on your tires monthly and before every long trip. Your tires must have at least 2/32 inch of tread depth. More is better.
You can easily determine if your tires are due for replacement with the "penny test." Insert a penny in several spots on the tire's tread, with Lincoln's head down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head in any of those spots, the tread is worn and the tire probably needs to be replaced.
Have it checked by a tire professional. Also, be sure all of your tires are inflated to the air pressures specified on the decal located on your vehicle's door jamb.
* Prepare for thunderstorms and other inclement weather by storing emergency supplies in the trunk. Important items to have on hand are: a properly inflated spare tire, flashlight, blanket, extra clothing, candles and matches, bottled water, snacks, any necessary medication and a cell phone with a car charger.
* While you should carry emergency supplies, be careful not to overload your vehicle. Overloading creates excessive heat inside your tires and can cause tire failure that could result in vehicle damage and serious injury. Remember that you and your passengers count toward the total vehicle weight.
* Finally, if you'll be doing a lot of driving, try to keep the gas tank at least half full at all times. Keeping a fuel reserve is important to avoid being stranded in heavy traffic or between gas stations in rural areas, and the peace of mind will make the trip more enjoyable.
After ensuring that your vehicle is road trip ready, roll down the window, adjust the radio and enjoy the open road.
Trisha Hessinger, an automotive education specialist and former race car driver, is a national spokeswoman for Firestone Complete Auto Care's Car Care Academy program. For more information, visit www.FirestoneCompleteAutoCare.com.