The coming holiday season means time with friends and family, which can mean long stretches in the car. Before packing up and hitting the road, your first stop should be an appointment with a top-notch service department.

Regular maintenance is the best way to stay on top of issues that could build up, says Beau Jacobson, Service Director with Roger Beasley Mazda South. But even if you are conscientious about getting your vehicle serviced, a pre-trip check-up is a smart idea.

Start with an oil change, says Jacobson, even if you have had it changed in the past couple of months. "When you typically drive short distances, moisture collects in the oil," he said. "If you never drive long distances, it’s not a big deal because you will have the oil changed. But when you jump into the car to drive to grandma’s house, that moisture turns to steam and it causes a caustic reaction in the oil. That’s one of the things that causes sludge." And sludge in your oil is bad news for your engine.

Next up: Check your car’s tires. Jacobson says even if the treads look good, you might have a screw or nail in a tire that you don’t see, and that could cause a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.

Dead batteries also can leave you stranded. "Most places now, including us here at Beasley, have pretty sophisticated testers that can test the ‘potential life span’ of the battery," said Jacobson. "The machine can tell that yes, the battery is starting the car today but it’s on the downside so it needs to be replaced." Any significant temperature change will harm a car battery, turning one that started the car this evening to one that doesn’t work at all in the morning.

"Most batteries don’t last longer than three years in Texas," said Jacobson.

Rounding out must-check items on your travel list is a good set of wiper blades and a full wiper fluid tank. The holiday season in Texas means a good chance of rain, and if you are traveling farther north, snow is likely.

Here is a list of things Jacobson recommends you keep in your car when packing for a road trip.

Jumper cables

Fully aired spare tire

Water

Toolkit with basic tools

A can of Fix-a-Flat

If something does happen on the road, be sure that you have left your trip details with someone on both ends of your journey, he said. And here is something else that comes in handy: "On the back of your Texas driver’s license is a road service number. You aren’t just calling whoever in the middle of nowhere, you are calling the state," Jacobson said.

Roger Beasley Service Departments are open for service appointments from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Go online to rogerbeasleymazda.com and get scheduled today for your road-ready checkup at any of the Mazda dealerships.