Preparing Your Vehicle For a Mexico Road Trip
Preparing for a road trip to Mexico is much more than what you’re going to pack. Your vehicle needs prep work, too. Prepping for a long road trip in Mexico is typically quite similar to preparing it for a trip within the USA or Canada.
Though there are many similarities, there are also some different realities that require some particular attention.
For regular South of the border travelers, most of this information is well known, but for new travelers or those visiting overland for the first time, the information presented can mean the difference between a great trip and a miserable one.
7 Simple Preparation Tips For Your Vehicle
1. Make sure your car, RV, or motorcycle is in excellent functioning order
If you suspect that anything is awry, take it to a Honda auto repair shop. On the road, potentially in the middle of nowhere isn’t a smart place to have a timing belt break. Unless you’re particularly mechanically inclined, it may be worth the visit to your dealership to have them run a full safety check and have a technician thoroughly look over your particular vehicle. A factory service tech is preferred as they are keenly familiar with typical problems on all models and can check those out. Taking it to a dealership will also check for any factory recalls, campaigns, and advisories free of charge to you.
Roads in Mexico will grind down your tires much faster than typical US-based roads. If you are driving a vehicle more exotic, it may take some time to get a replacement tire or set of tires.
3. Have a basic toolkit for your vehicle
Specifically include sockets, wrenches, Allen keys, and any other specialty tools your car may likely need, for a repair. No need to go overkill and tow a Snap-On tool chest. A simple, compact toolkit will work fine. Make sure it’s SAE or Metric based on the brand of your car.
A little maintanence and preparation goes a long way on long trips.
4. If your battery is over two years old, get it load tested and possibly replaced
They don’t last forever and getting stuck with a dead one is entirely preventable. This can be done for free at many chain auto parts stores throughout the USA and Canada.5. If you are close to an oil change, get it before your trip
Also if you are close to the recommended time to replace brake pads, brake fluid, transmission fluid, or coolant, do it. Finding the correct filters, gaskets, or brake pads may delay you by a couple of days. It’s best to get it done before your journey.
6. Get your shocks and suspension evaluated
This essential element is something few consider. Proper suspension can mean the difference between confidently traveling a narrow mountain road and white-knuckling the steering wheel the entire time. If your vehicle is over four years old or has over 70,000 miles, get your suspension checked by a reliable technician. It’s relatively inexpensive to replace or rebuild shocks. The difference can be night and day. The car, RV, or motorcycle will feel like it was when brand new.7. Carry a T-handle tire plug kit and a 12v air compressor
The Slime brand repair kit with the rope-like plugs work very well. Typically, avoid the canisters with the sealant. It makes replacing the tire a mess and will likely incur an additional charge and lots of scorn from the shop. If you’ve never used a tire plug kit, ask a tire shop or your dealership if you can try it on a worn tire mounted on a rim. Usually, a tech will be delighted to instruct you on how to do it.
The key is to make sure your car is in top shape and can handle the additional stresses of high heat, altitude, heavy load, and occasional rough roads. Additionally, if something small happens, it’s best to know how to do simple repairs like check oil levels, fill coolant reservoirs, check tire pressure, and change a tire. On some cars, checking oil, coolant levels, and tire pressure is as simple as doing a systems check on your dash.
Specifically For Cars
Almost everything is covered for cars by the general checklist above. The big thing to be mindful of is if you have exotic tires. Exotic means anything for a luxury car or specialty rims. If you do, and your tires usually take a day or two to get in the USA, you may want to carry a spare, if you have the room. Tire punctures are somewhat common. If you drive a Honda, Nissan or Toyota, Ford or Chevy with standard tires, you’ll have no problems finding new tires South of the Border.
Specifically for RVs
RVs can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of parts that work independently to provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience. If you transport potable water, make sure you top off in the US.
Give your RV an end-to-end shakedown to make sure all is functioning as it should. Not only does this re-familiarize you with all of the functions of the RV, but it also will help confirm everything is working correctly and within specifications.
If you have an iffy part, buy its replacement in the US and carry it. RV parts are typically hard to get as Mexicans don’t usually own RVs.
Specifically for Motorcycles
Make sure your chain and sprockets, if your bike uses them, are not worn.
Since Motorcycle tires wear much faster than car and truck tires, make sure they are at 80% tread or better. Mexican roads eat up moto tires. Expect half the typical life you get out of them in the USA.
Big bikes are quite rare in Mexico, and if you are in need of a part along the way, it may be several weeks before you will get it.
If you’re going to need an oil change along your journey, it’s probably best to buy the oil filter for your bike ahead of time. Good motorcycle oil is available in moto shops. Perhaps not your favorite brand, but it’s good, nonetheless.
Taking your late model vehicle is not a problem. Mexicans own new and very nice cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Don’t choose a rickety or worn-out vehicle with the false assumption it will make you less noticeable. This fools wisdom has left countless Gringos stuck and vulnerable on the roadside.