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The best way to make sure your much-anticipated road trip does not become the trip from — well, somewhere not pleasant — is to take time to prepare.

"Have your car checked by an ASC-certified technician, Blue Seal shop or at a dealership," advised car care expert Pam Oakes, owner of Pam's Motor City in Fort Myers, Fla. "We think we can do it ourselves, but the money is well spent. You don't want to find out halfway through your trip that your car has problems because you didn't take precautions beforehand."

Here are some things that Oakes, Consumer Reports and AAA recommend:

Tires: Inspect all of them, including the spare, if you have one, to make sure they are not worn or damaged and are properly inflated. Check the tires when they are cold, and use the pressures posted in the driver's door jamb. Do not rely on ratings molded into the tire.

As a take on the old penny trick, place a quarter into the tire tread with Washington's head facing you and down. If the area above his head is visible, replace the tires.

Many new cars do not have spare tires and instead rely on "fix-a-flat" cans to seal punctures. Grab a new can to have on hand.

Fluids: Check the coolant, oil and transmission fluid levels. Read the owner's manual for the location to check and how to determine "normal" levels. While you're under the hood, fill the windshield washer reservoir.

Your car will be working hard in the heat of summer. Low coolant levels can cause overheating and leave you stranded. If the oil is excessively dirty, change it, but oil can be added if it is only low. Check the owner's manual for type.

Brakes: If you detect vibrations, grinding or pulling to one side when applying the brakes, take the car to a service center and have them checked.

Batteries: The normal life for a battery is three to five years. Almost any auto center can check its charging capability. Also, thoroughly clean the terminals.

Belts/hoses: With the car off, inspect belts and hoses for cracks, blisters, soft spots and wear. Pay special attention to the big serpentine belt that runs through pulleys on the front of the engine and hoses going into the radiator. Either of those breaking will spell big trouble.

Wipers: Replace windshield wiper blades if they have been smearing rain.

Test drive: If your car has not been driven in a while, as is common with sports cars and RVs during the winter, take it out on a highway. Feel the steering for any unusual vibrations and pay attention to noises and shuddering from the brakes. These could be indications of impending issues.

Prepare for emergencies: Your car might have a clean bill of health, but it's still prudent to anticipate emergencies.

Start with the basics and buy a basic emergency kit with flashlight, flares and jumper cables. Get a first aid kit also.

Even if you plan to use your phone or vehicle's navigation system, take paper maps as a backup. If you want to be extra cautious, print out directions.

"The emergency kit is key," said Molly Hart, AAA Public Relations. "The kit should include a cellphone charger, car battery booster cables, flashlight and extra batteries. Also have first aid supplies, drinking water, nonperishable snacks for people and pets, blankets and emergency flares or reflectors. A rain poncho, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, basic tool kit, duct tape and paper towels are also important."

You don't have to spend much money on these basics. Duct tape is helpful if a hose pops off. LED road flares are compact to store and bright on the road should you need them. And what if you do become stranded?

"If a driver becomes stranded, they should pull away from traffic lanes and stay in the vehicle and keep seatbelts on as they wait for roadside assistance," Hart advised. "The car can provide shelter, allowing emergency responders or a tow truck operator to best locate you. If your car is too close to the road where another car could come in contact with it, safely get out of the car and locate a safe surrounding away from the road."

En route, do not let your fuel level go below one-quarter tank to maintain a safe reserve. And when packing, make sure you have plenty of music you like on your iPod or phone; tunes can break boredom when you're stuck in your car. Kids (and parents) also will like having video players.

Prepare your mind: "Summer is peak travel season and travelers should plan their trip in advance, including booking hotels and scheduling activities," Hart said. "If traveling to a remote area, it's also a good idea to plan for gas and food stops. Plan ahead and leave early."