Is My Car Too Old for a Road Trip?

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If you’re planning a long ride, you might wonder if your aging car is up to it. 

The last thing you want is to have a breakdown and get stuck. 

Knowing if your car is too old for a road trip is a good idea before you set out. 

Is My Car Too Old for a Road Trip?

Your car might not be up to the task of taking a road trip if it has more than 200,000 miles on it. But, a car’s age isn’t just down to how many miles are on the odometer. Instead, think about how roadworthy it might be. Have you put off repairs? Is it safe to drive on a long trip, far from home?

By following a few tips, taking a road trip with an older car is perfectly safe. 

Whatever you do, don’t set out on a long ride without going through the safety checklist below. 

Otherwise, you are asking for trouble.

If you have a major breakdown, you might get stuck out on the road, which will certainly ruin the fun of the trip. 

Keep reading to learn how to determine whether or not your car can handle a full roadtrip.

Can a Car Be Too Old for a Road Trip?

Newer cars seem like a better choice for a long trip than older cars.

But that’s not always the case. Instead of focusing on age instead, consider how reliable your car is. 

Of course, the older a car is, and the more miles you’ve driven it, the more likely it is that something will break. 

But routine maintenance, prompt repairs of minor issues, and periodic inspections go a long way. 

A high-mileage car that’s been well-cared for might be a better road trip cruiser than a newer car that’s overdue for an oil and air filter change, with bald tires and an emissions code showing on the onboard computer. 

When is a Car Too Old for a Road Trip?

Let’s look at an example. The Chevy Equinox is a relatively common and popular vehicle. 

On average, they last about 200,000 miles, and that’s a relatively representative number for most modern vehicles. 

So, provided your car has been well-maintained and you do a pre-trip checklist for safety, an average modern car can undoubtedly take a road trip with up to 200,000 miles on the odometer. 

Once your car exceeds that mark, the risks of a major breakdown increase, but since each car is quite different, there is no hard and fast rule that says you can’t drive a vehicle with more than 200,000 miles on it for a road trip. 

The Importance of Maintenance

Regardless of your car’s mileage, you should always perform any maintenance that’s due before a road trip.

For instance, if your car requires an oil change every 12,000 miles, and you’re more than halfway through the interval, have the oil changed before you take it on a long road trip.

This way, your motor has the benefit of a fresh oil filter and new, clean oil while out on the road away from home. 

Oil changes are simple but apply that same logic to other areas. 

Look to your owner’s manual and the service schedule for guidance. 

Also, be sure to address any issues that you might know of. 

For instance, is your exhaust rotting out a bit and leaking? Is there an oxygen sensor that needs to be replaced or another warning light on the dashboard? 

Stay ahead of the indicated service schedule and address all the maintenance items you may have put off.

If your car needs new tires, don’t wait until you’re on a road trip and hundreds of miles away from home. 

Or, you run the risk of sliding off the road in heavy rain or snow. 

Check Your Car Thoroughly

Is My Car Too Old for a Road Trip 1 Is My Car Too Old for a Road Trip?

If you’re planning a road trip, talk to your mechanic. 

They can give the car a look over before you set out to try and head off any issues. 

For instance, let’s say you have a newer car that you assume is perfectly fit for a road trip. 

But then, your mechanic puts it up on a lift and sees a small leak from a coolant hose.

Instead of having that small leak blow up on the highway during your trip, you change the hose and drain and refill the cooling system before you head out

That averts a disaster when your car overheats on the side of the road. 

You should also have your mechanic use a code reader to look for any issues registered on the computer. 

You can even read those codes yourself if you have the right scan tool. 

What Can Happen During a Road Trip?

Think about how your road trip will play out. If you’re going to drive a set distance every day, you can plan for stops along the way. 

This way, you can plan a routine for checking your car over as you go. 

Let’s say you’re going to drive about three hundred miles per day for three days. It’s a good idea to check your oil, tires, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid each day. 

That roughly coincides with each of your likely refueling stops. 

If you’re going to drive six hundred miles each day or longer, you might want to check everything over first thing in the morning instead. 

Also, ask yourself questions about how you will use your car during the trip.

If you’re carrying a thousand pounds of luggage, do you have the right tires with an appropriate load rating? Will you be sleeping in your car overnight? 

If so, you might want to bring along a portable battery jumper in case you accidentally leave some electronics on while you doze. 

Be realistic and plan for your trip and stop along the way to check your car over.

Road Trip Pre-Departure Checklist

Having a mechanic check your car over prior to a trip is a good idea, especially if you think it might be too old for a road trip. 

But, you can also improve your odds of a successful journey by doing a few things before you go.

  • Check your tires for uneven wear and the appropriate pressure
  • Inspect your windshield wipers for signs of wear and replace them if needed
  • Check and top off all the fluids under the hood
  • Inspect the lug connections on top of your battery for corrosion and consider checking the voltage in the system 
  • Prepare a mobility kit with likely service items like a quart or two of oil, extra coolant, dry gas, and windshield wiper fluid
  • Bring a set of jumper cables or a battery jumper just in case your battery runs down
  • Create a plan for possible breakdowns and know where you might tow the car to if needed
  • Drive your car at least thirty miles as a test to see how it performs when fully up to temperature

The Bottom Line

In the United States, more than a quarter of the cars on the road are at least sixteen years old

That means there are likely quite a few cars on road trips that have even more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.  

Set yourself up for success by performing all the routine and indicated maintenance for your car. 

Do all the pre-departure checklist items, and consider having a mechanic take a good look at your car with an eye out for potential issues. 

If you do all this, the age of your car won’t be an issue on your trip.

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