1. Check your fluids! Including: Engine Oil, Coolant, Transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid.
Usually it will show what type of oil to use. For my car it is 5w-20. The oil dipstick will also most likely match the cap color, and will be within easy reach.
My oil is a bit dirty, and it's been awhile since I have changed it. You should always change your oil within the specifications of your car. You can find that in the cars manual.
This is what it looks like to have clean oil. It is basically clear, and it won't smell burnt. Fill your car with the specified amount of oil, and never surpass the hatch marks. Read comments below!
Now you need to check the transmission fluid. On my car it is the same color as the oil, but other cars the dipstick may be a completely different color. Check your manual or take it to a garage.
When you check your transmission fluid it also needs to reside within the hatch marks. CHECK YOUR TRANNY FLUID WHILE THE CAR IS RUNNING! Do not overfill the tranny fluid.
Top off your windshield washer fluid (upper left), it will usually have a picture of a window with spraying water. The coolant reservoir is on the bottom, and make sure the car is cool beforehand.
My water is a little below the coolant level at "cold" temperature. Use coolant (antifreeze) that is either pre-made 50/50 (half water/half coolant), or coolant you need to make 50/50 yourself.
Check your power steering fluid. It is usually by your belt at the top of the engine, and it will say power steering fluid. My fluid was just right, by the time I took the picture it kinda just spread
The brake fluid will be close to the firewall behind the engine in front of the driver side. It's mounted on top of the master brake cylinder. Check the side for a guideline of where to fill.
2. Check belts, hoses, and wipers. V belts, serpentine belts, coolant hoses, windshield washer hoses, vacuum hoses, and possibly your timing belt if your car is due. Replace the wipers if needed.
I have a serpentine belt to drive all my pulleys. I will replace it because I have about 60,000 miles on it. Just check for cracks, fraying, missing teeth, or anything that would make it fail.
Check for leaks from hoses, or sucking sounds that may point out vacuum leaks. Check under your car for any drippings that may be a source of a problem.
Check windshield wipers for cracks, an make sure it makes good contact with your window.
3. Check your tires, and wires!! Inflate your tires to your cars recommended pressure. Make sure you have plenty of tread and no unusual wear on the tire. Check the spark plug wires for wear.
Check your tires for uneven wear. Test the thickness of tread with a penny if you have to. Put the penny in upside down, and if the tread surpasses the top of Abe's head then you should be alright.
When you fill your tires with air make sure you use your manufactures air pressure rating. My tires say 34 psi, but if you look on the inside of your door you may see your suggested tire pressure (30)
The spark plug wires are at the top of the picture. I have a v6 engine with six spark plug wires. Check each wire for good contact, and no rub throughs. My wires were just changed, good to go!
4. Check your Electrics! Including: Daytime/bright lights, horns, turn signals, reverse light, and brake light. Don't forget to check your dash lights and interior lighting.
Turn on low beams, high beams, left/right turn signals, and hazard lights. To check your brake lights and reverse lights without a second person, back up to a wall and watch for a reflection.
Turn on all dash lights, and interior lighting to make sure they work. I would hate to not have lighting if you need to read a map at night.
5. Check your battery and air filter. Make sure the battery terminals are free from corrosion, and the cables are tight and snug to the battery. Replace your air filter for better gas mileage.
The terminals of the battery should be free and clear from each other. Check the terminals for corrosion, and check the wires for rub throughs. Sparks are no fun, and dead batteries aren't either!
Open up the air cleaner housing and check the filter. I just recently changed this so no need to take it out. If you pull it out, and it's all black and gunked up it's time for a new filter.
6. Have a spare tire and emergency kit. Make sure the spare tire is full of air, and the emergency kit has all the tools you might need for roadside repairs, especially jumper cables, and a jack.
Diehard Portable Power 950, great for your 12 volt accessories, USB power to charge cellphones and other electronic devices, and a jump start in case your battery dies in the middle of no where!
7. Here is a list of tips not related to a car checklist. Gps, Atlas/map, cellphone, phone charger, insurance/registration, flashlight, first aid kit, cooler, books, music and the wide open road!