Travel is as essential a part of the holiday season as eggnog, carols and ugly sweaters.

Traipsing off to the relatives’ house for the annual holiday dinner often means packing up into the car for that long road trip, a voyage that can carry its own perils in terms of road conditions, weather and wear/tear on an automobile. While a journey via automobile may be the safest, most convenient and most affordable way to travel this holiday season, it’s essential to take some simple steps before heading off to make sure that your vehicle is up for the trip.

We talked to Charles Patterson, owner of Steve’s Automotive in Longmont, about the most important and, often, easiest measures to take to ensure that your car can get you to and from your holiday destination safely.

Basic maintenance starts with oil changes.(Courtesy Steve’s Automotive)

Make sure you’re up to date on your oil change

Getting regular oil changes can add thousands of miles to your car. While the traditional wisdom was to change the oil every 3,000 miles, fuel efficiency and technology in most modern cars has stretched that interim out to anywhere from 7,500 to 10,000 miles. Whatever the specific recommendation for your vehicle, it’s critical to make sure to follow those guidelines regularly.

“Maintenance starts very simply, with oil changes,” Patterson said, citing the large amount of customers he sees who neglect this most basic step. “It’s a big factor. If you keep up on your oil change, these cars will last substantial miles.”

Check your fluids

“Winterizing” your car is critical step to withstanding the winter weather swings in Colorado. By ensuring that all of your fluid levels are at the proper levels to last through the cold months, you’re upping your chances of making it through one of those long treks without any issues.

“When we winterize a vehicle, we check to make sure the coolant can last, that the windshield fluids and blades are good, and we complete all the other inspections,” Patterson said. “Important to make sure your coolant can last to 30 degrees or below; it’s important to check you power steering fluid levels.”

Tires and brakes

Oil changes and fluid maintenance are important, but so are the parts of the vehicle that keep you moving on the road and that keep you stopping. Brakes and tires have to be maintained, and regular inspections are a key part of avoiding an emergency on the roadside. “Make sure your treads are OK,” Patterson said, “Make sure you get regular tire rotations and brake checks.”

Connections and power are key

Even with all the new-fangled technology in modern vehicles, it’s still important to monitor the basic connections that keep your headlights shining, your battery firing and even your radio pumping those tunes. It’s always worth getting an inspection to ensure that all of the wires are connected where they supposed to be, and to ensure that your current battery can survive frigid temperatures and long hauls.

All-in-one approach

While all of these issues can be tackled piecemeal, or as the need arises, it’s much wiser to approach upkeep in a comprehensive way. The crew at Steve’s Automotive prides themselves on an inspection designed to check on all of the fundamentals outlined above, so that any driver planning on a holiday getaway needn’t worry about their oil, their tires, their brakes or their connections.

“We do a 30-point inspection. We go over everything to make sure it’s good. It’s roughly $70,” Patterson said. “Customers can come in for an oil change, and we’ll go through that whole inspection.”