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3100 Mile Roadtrip and I am an idiot!

So let me preface this by saying I know absolutely nothing about cars. Any help I could get from you car masters would be super appreciative!! My father was a car mechanic his whole life and if I ever had an issue he would just fix it. Now I don’t have the luxury of his advise and could really use some help.

I’m moving from Florida to Oregon and taking my car, which is a Mazda 6 (4cyl). I have never taken this car further than 5 miles at a time! Before I got laid off I had a company car that I would drive, and so I only used my Mazda to get to work 1 mile away. I haven’t even done one maintenance to it since I bought it 2 years ago. Which is probably real bad right? When I bought it, it had 43000 miles on it. Now it has 45000. It was in excellent condition when I bought it and still seems to be.

What kind of maintenance should I get done to the vehicle before my trip? As I mentioned I got laid off recently and I am trying to make this trip as cheap as possible so I can actually afford a place to live when I get to Oregon (I hope). If I breakdown along the way I might have to stay there :stuck_out_tongue: Should I just get the oil changed or flush all the fluids? Is doing the planned 45k maintenance enough for travel?

Also should I buy any spare parts or oil or anything for such a long trip? What kind of supplies would you bring with you for 3000 mile trip?

Here’s some extra dumb questions I’m almost to embarrassed to ask:

  1. Is it safe to drive my car 18-20 hours straight so I could get there in 2.5 days or would this stress it/overheat it?
  2. Is going from hot weather to cold weather going to mess with the internals of the car? It sits in the hot florida sun a lot.
  3. Am I so hopelessly dumb that I should sell the car and get a plane ticket instead?
  4. Is the dream of the 90’s really alive in portland?
  5. Is it better to keep the tank over half full on a road trip like this at all times? Stopping every 175-200 miles instead of 325-350 miles? I think my car gets 432 miles per tank.
  6. What type of oil should I put in my car? Is there anything special for a long trip I should use instead? Should I oil change half way through the trip? Yes I am this dumb :frowning:

Any help would be appreciated, thank you gentleman and ladies!

My advice is, oil change, radiator flush and fill with new antifreeze, trans pan drop and fill, have the tires checked for dry rot/cracking, also check the belts and hoses, make sure your spair has air in it. That’s it, don’t worry about driving it too long in a day, don’t worry about fuel levels, just let it do it’s think. I would also invest in AAA (I would get plus so any tow would be free) just incase As a ps I would try to drive it locally a bit before your trip, see if anything breaks.

What kind of maintenance at 45,000 miles? You don’t say the year of the Mazda. Assuming it is more than 3 years old; get the coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and oil changed out for new fluids. Don’t use a quick change oil place, the proper transmission fluid is most critical and I’d prefer to use Mazda brand fluid in the transmission. Get a new air filter, new spark plugs, and new wiper blades. Drive belts and radiator hoses should be checked and replaced if questionable. Tires should hold air without leaking and have good tread, 4/32ns of an inche at the start of a long trip like this. On your other questions:

  1. Is it safe to drive my car 18-20 hours straight so I could get there in 2.5 days or would this stress it/overheat it? – If the car is in good shape and running properly you can drive it 24/7. It is more important to pay attention to the condition of the driver - don’t drive if you are tired.

  2. Is going from hot weather to cold weather going to mess with the internals of the car? It sits in the hot florida sun a lot. – No

  3. Am I so hopelessly dumb that I should sell the car and get a plane ticket instead? – No, but you need to have some confidence in your car and yourself as a driver. If you don’t have the confidence, then go by plane. You should have a cell phone and AAA or some other roadside assistance plan.

  4. Is the dream of the 90’s really alive in portland? – Your answer is really based in your expectations, what are they? Reality is rarely as good as the dream.

  5. Is it better to keep the tank over half full on a road trip like this at all times? Stopping every 175-200 miles instead of 325-350 miles? I think my car gets 432 miles per tank.-- No, but you might want to refill when you get around the 1/4 tank mark.

  6. What type of oil should I put in my car? Is there anything special for a long trip I should use instead? Should I oil change half way through the trip? Yes I am this dumb :frowning:Use regular oil and get the weight recommended by Mazda, likely 5W-20 or 5W-30. No need for a mid trip oil change on a 3,100 mile trip. Oil changes every 5000 miles or every 6 months whichever comes first is good for this car.

On supplies, a quart of oil and jumper cables are a good idea. Take plenty of bottled water. Get the oil and water at WalMart, the same stuff will cost 4X the amount at gas and rest stops along the road.

Thank you very very much guys! BTW it is a 2008 Mazda if that makes a difference. There is a Tuffy down the road I’m going to goto in a couple hours and get this all done. How much money do you think this should all run me? Think I can do it for less than $500?

In addition to Uncle Turbo’s good advice, I want to mention a few other vital points:

Every time that the OP stops to fill up with gas on this trip, he/she should lift the hood and check the engine’s oil dipstick.
Why do I recommend this? Because the OP likely has no idea about the rate of oil consumption of this sadly neglected engine. NEVER allow the oil level to fall below the “add oil” mark on the dipstick. While it is important that the engine’s crankcase not be overfilled, it is also vital that the engine never be run when the oil level is more than 1 qt low. Only by frequent monitoring of the dipstick can the OP have some confidence that the engine is not being further damaged by running it with a low oil level.

Because the car’s maintenance for the first 43k miles is probably a mystery, because of the OP’s total lack of maintenance over the past two years, and especially because the car has been typically driven for 1 mile trips where the engine never got to warm-up, it is very likely that the engine is now filled with damaging sludge.

As a result of the sludge that likely lies inside that engine, just doing the necessary maintenance based on odometer mileage at this point is probably not enough. The OP should follow the car mfr’s guidelines for the 60k maintenance (which is a “major” service), in order to bring things up to snuff as much as possible prior to that trip.

In addition, the OP should have the oil changed immediately upon arrival at his/her destination. And, then, have the oil changed again in about a month. Hopefully, this regimen will rid the engine of some of the goo that has built up in there. If you don’t get rid of that sludge, the result will be an early demise for the engine, as a result of an inability for the oil to get to all of the parts of the engine that need a steady flow of oil.

And, then, resolve to keep up-to-date with the car’s maintenance. Bear in mind that virtually all maintenance has an elapsed time value in addition to an odometer mileage value. (“Every six months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first” might be one example) Short trips are the absolute worst type of use to which a car can be subjected, and this is called “severe service” by most manufacturers. Refer to the Severe Service Maintenance Schedule in the Owner’s Manual for guidance on this issue.

I can understand being in bad financial straits, but if the OP wants to keep from being even further behind the proverbial “8 ball”, he/she needs to resolve to keep the car properly maintained. If he/she thinks that things are bad currently, just imagine how much worse they will be if and when the engine or transmission need to be overhauled or replaced. Rather than being in a situation where he/she has to suddenly come up with…maybe $2k–$3k…for major repair, it is far better to budget/save $15 per month for regular maintenance, and then to have that maintenance done on schedule, rather than ignoring it. Regular maintenance is invariably cheaper than the repairs that result from a lack of maintenance.

As to what you are likely to find in Portland, I strongly suggest that you register for the City Data website, and then post your question(s) about Oregon in the following forum:

The folks who live in that area will likely have a wealth of good advice for you.

Good luck with the trip and with the move to Portland!

I would strongly advise against 18-20 hour days, that’s a recipe for disaster for the driver (not the car). 12 hours is the max I’d want to do, unless I have another driver in the car. Do you?

I would go on a 1-2 hour trip on the highway a few days before the big trip.
I often don’t go on the highway for weeks at a time and then I feel “rusty” when I do.

And to top it all off,
You’re not an idiot and they’re not dumb questions.
— why ? —
because you recognized the need to know,
analized your relative knowledge,
realised you should ask,
and found a great place to get good advice.

Definitely change the oil and filter. All those short trips where it never gets fully warmed up are bad on an engine. All the moisture and unburned gas never get hot enough to vaporize and stay in the oil. The oil may not be due for a change in terms of miles but it is definitely due to the nature of your short trips and time.

I would also suggest checking the air filter and changing/flushing all the fluids like transmission and coolant. This still a is a low mileage and you will get a LOT more use from it if you take care of it. Inspect belts/hoses for cracking/wear and replace if needed.

A long trip will not hurt the car and is probably better than all the short trips you have taken. Once a car gets warmed up (5-10 minutes usually), it will get no warmer than usual due to the thermostat controlling coolant circulation. Also, the car will be fine at different temps and elevations during and after the move. Cars, especially modern ones like this, will have no issues with this. There are many sensors that feed air temp, air density, humidity, etc. into the computer which makes adjustments on the fly so the car runs well, efficiently, and minimizes pollution under all conditions.

If you are really worried about breakdown or will be driving through remote/desolate locations, you can buy extra radiatior hoses and belts at a parts store. Make sure it is national chain where you will have one at your new location. I did this before a long trip where I was going to be in some very isolated and desolate locations where I wouldn’t have wanted to be stranded. I had pretty new belts/hoses on my truck but just wanted to be safe. I packed the new and unopened ones away in the back just in case. I returned the parts new and unused with all packaging intact once I got home as the total was well over $100.

There is no need for extra oil if the car isn’t burning or leaking any but carrying an extra quart can’t hurt. This is something I wouldn’t return and would carry with me at all times. Get the viscosity specified by Mazda for this car. I don’t know what it is but would suspect either 5W20 or 5W30. The manual will tell you what kind of oil you need. Definitely check the level along the way. You could also get premixed coolant for the car if it would make you feel better. Again, you could simply return the unopened jug if you have no need for it. Make sure you get coolant that is specified/compatible with your car. It is dyed various colors to signify the type. Some use red, pink, blue, green, yellow, etc. Make sure this matches.

Check the spare and fill to proper pressure. Make sure your normal tires are also good and have proper inflation.

Mazda makes a good car and you should have no problems on this trip or for a very long time if you maintain and prepare the car for this trip and beyond. As someone else indicated, driver fatigue/falling asleep at the wheel are much greater concerns than car issues.


I agree on the oil change. I disagree on the cooling system flush, you only need to do a drain and refill. A flush is not only an unnecessary expense, it is an unnecessary risk. I agree on the transmission drain and refill. In this case it would be a good idea to drop the pan and clean or replace the filter, but if your transmission has a drain plug, you could get by with just the drain and fill at this time. DO NOT allow anyone to flush the transmission.

Get your brakes checked and if you need new pads, then make sure the brake fluid is flushed at that time.

Do all of that at least a week before the trip, that way if anything was done wrong, you will be close to home and not half way across country when the symptoms show.

The day before the trip, check tire pressure, make it at least 3 psi above the recommendation on the placard on the door or in the glove box. This will help the tires run cooler during sustained highway driving. Check that spare as well.

For the trip, bring food that you can eat along the way such as cookies, fruit, energy bars and maybe some Ensure or similar product to insure that you are getting all your nutrients. Bring one gallon of distilled water for emergencies. You can drink it or use it to cool the car, which ever need might arise. Bring plenty of bottled water and bottled fruit juices for drinking as well. One quart of oil should be enough.

I’m not a big fan of Walmart, but for this case, go to Walmart and get a large edition of the Rand-McNally atlas. The Walmart edition has the locations of all the Walmart’s and a notation of all the stores that are within two miles of a freeway exit. If you intend to sleep in the car, you will find that a lot of RV’ers stay in Walmart parking lots at night so there is a degree of safety, just bring something to cover your eyes as the parking lots are well lit. The Walmarts are usually open 24 hours so you have access to bathrooms as well as supplies.

Do gas up frequently, you will find that in the northwest, there are stretches of roads where the gas stations can be far apart, especially if you want to stick with one or two brands. 200 miles translates to about 3 hours of driving so you may need a break anyway. I often put 1000 miles a day while on a trip, about 14-15 hours, I would not recommend pushing past that, at least not on the first two days.

Good luck. If you are making this trip on speculation and don’t have some family support there already, or a job already lined up, then you will need it.

You’ve been given great advice and I will only add a few things.
One is that I concur you are by no means an idiot. The fact that you’re thinking ahead shows plenty of foresight and being ignorant of car mechanicals only means that you do not know. It does not mean that you’re stupid.

If it were me I would allow more time for the drive and try to make an adventure out of it. Peruse a road atlas and make a few stops along the way to see things that you may never have the chance to see again. I’m not talking about visiting overpriced tourist traps like the Royal Gorge in Colorado and so on but there are plenty of interesting places to see and visit along the way for free or on the dirt cheap. Enjoy the trip rather than suffer through it.
This can go a long way towards easing road boredom and will keep the legs stretched out a bit.

My son has a Mazda 3, 2004, and this summer took a trip from Seattle down the West coast and though Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. The car already had over 100,000 miles on it, but it behaved perfectly. It did not even use oil.

To travel with some kind of confidence, check the car out well before you leave, take your AAA membership and a cell phone with you, as well as credit crds.

In 1977 I took a 7000 miles trip through Canada and the Northern states with a 1966 Buick station wagon (and trailer) with 110,000 miles on it. The only problem was having a burnt out spark plug wire which was replaced by Walmart for $15!

Enjoy your trip and stop worrying.

The only thing I will add is the weather at this time of year. You can run into heavy snow/ice on the way. The HWY can be closed at times ( they put gates across them). If you have a smart phone get a weather app for your phone.

Good point, already snowing in Colorado. Maybe take a southern route to I-5?

For safety on your trip, prepare for the unexpected. Be sure to pack a couple gallons of water, non-perishable food and eating utensils, sleeping bag, warm clothes, gloves, warm hat, a couple quarts of oil, window glass cleaner, spare car keys in a few locations. In the very very unlikely event you somehow get stranded, you’ll be in serious trouble without emergency supplies. Besides the car prep mentioned above, spring a few extra bucks for new wiper blades unless you’ve just done that. Maybe bring a spare headlight bulb.

Take your time too. You will be passing magnificent landscape. Don’t rush past it all. Have a great trip and report back on how it went!

Florida to Oregon in 2.5 days is really pushing it and odds are that your enthusiasm will wane quite a bit after the first 600 miles.

I drove straight through from the Los Angeles area to central Oklahoma once (about 1500 miles) and I was absolutely barbecued after being behind the wheel for 28 hours straight.
This was done with no chemical aids other than soda pop, coffee, and candy bars. Chock full of sugar rush and caffeine…

Me and cars were like oil and water for a solid week. :wink:

Heck man, you won’t afford to make the trip if you do all the things suggested here.

If your car has 45k miles and you plan on driving 3k more, it’s really less of a problem driving it all in one trip and easier on the car. If you have been doing a regular maintence program suggested in the owners manul, do no more then that and have a safe trip. If you haven’t check it out, just up date your maintenance and then have a safe trip.

Tuffy’s? What is Tuffy’s?? If its a fast lube place, I would forget that and go to a regular place. Change the oil, have them check the rest like belt and hoses etc. An 08 with 43K on it really doesn’t need much else. You’ll drive 10-14 hours a day max or about 5-700 miles and be plenty stiff when you get there. Also when stopping for the night its a good time to check the oil, check the tires, and look for any leaks.

If you don’t plan to bring along a laptop computer or a smart phone but will have an ordinary cell phone, you might want to make arrangements with a friend, neighbor or other person to look up on the internet whatever you might need along the way.

A list of Mazda dealers along your route will bring a little peace of mind.

The possibility of a sludged engine due to prior conditions was mentioned and for that, after a fresh oil and filter change before leaving, I would bring along a spare oil filter for your car and ask someone along the way to remove the old filter and install the new one for you. It takes only a few minutes and it seems to me that anyone should not charge you more than 5 bucks for doing it. Bringing along a spare oil filter removes the chase for one along the way. Then add a little fresh engine oil to make up for what was in the oil filter. Bring a quart or two of that along too.

Do not leave home without a contingency plan if you should have a vehicle breakdown. You should also have a new or newer GPS to find a variety of things along the way, motels, gas stations, restaurants, tourist attractions, shopping, rest areas, police, hospitals and more.