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Cross Country Drive

I have a 2001 Chevy Prizm, with 58,000 miles. In 2 months, I’m loading everything I owe (which is not a lot) into the backseat and trunk and moving myself from NC to CA, approximately 3,000 miles. Obviously, I plan on changing my oil and rotating my tires before hand.

However, is there any maintenance I should do on my car beforehand? Any must haves for a very long car trip, besides jump cables, maps, charged cell phone, food and a lot of cds?

If you are up on 30/60/90K service requirements, then there is no problem going the distance. I would consider doing the 60K service before I left. Read your owner’s manual and see what is involved. I don’t remember if 60K=new timing belt or not. These cars are very durable, so proper maintenance goes a long way to trouble-free service. I would take a jug of water or antifreeze, extra quart of oil, some basic tools and make sure my AC works well. Take a cooler for soda, etc. The midwest is starting to get to the hot summer season, so personal comfort is as important as good maintenance on the car. A car club membership might be useful, to avoid the hassle of a tow fee if you do break down.

I’m loading everything I owe (which is not a lot)

Now that’s funny right there!
If you plan to load up everything you own, then a lot will depend on how much weight you plan to put in that econobox. Assuming it’s not overloaded and you’ve kept up on the normal maintenance, I’d top off the fluids and have at it.

Fortunately, I don’t owe too much, but that may change after I pay for gas across the country.

As for what I own, it’s mostly clothes, linens and a few kitchen things. I’m shipping all my books, and selling all furniture. I hadn’t considered the effect of weight on anything except gas mileage and the likely of me bottoming out on speed bumps and pot holes.

I did the same thing, sort of. I went from Eastern Ontario to the west coast of BC and back in an 02 Hyundai Accent. You seem to be well prepared. I’d add you should check your tire pressure and definitely transmission fluid before you leave, and frequently during the trip, as well as checking oil frequently, too. Also, you should check and if necessary replace the air filter.

I’d suggest you bring with you a jug of oil, jug of pre-mixed coolant, and a small gas can with gas in it - there are some places where there is no gas stations for a few hundred kilometers (at least in the Canadian prairies.) Plus, it’s nice to have the extra gas if you’re stuck somewhere, or want to sleep min your car overnight.

And if you’re planning on sightseeing (and who wouldn’t - you’ll be going through the Rockies), bring a good, high capacity digital camera. I got a 6.1mp Kodak camera with a 2GB memory card - it could hold over 2000 pictures (I ‘only’ took about 1100.)

And definitely join the AAA. Not only do you get free tows (hopefully you won’t need them) but you get free maps, guidebooks, trip planning assistance, as well as cheap health insurance. My CAA membership cost about $70/year, and on my trip, I got about $200 worth of maps and books for free.

One thing I would mention is have you checked into what it will take to register your car in CA? On an '01 model it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it can be difficult or in some cases even impossible to import a car from another state into California due to the different emissions requirements.

Other than that, I see no problems. Enjoy the drive!

Do not know from where you start to where going-- north Ca or south Ca. My suggestions is to be aware of weather conditions–a lot of water is going to be coming down the Mississippi River very shortly. A roll of good duct tape is a good asset to have on the rode. A car cell phone charger is an asset. Several dollars in travelers check is an asset.

When you change your oil/rotate tires go to a decent independent shop. They can poke around(good ones do for safety related potential work) and make sure your car is up for the trip.

If you usually run the tire pressure indicated on the placard I would put at least a couple of pound extra in for the extra load. Do any work at least a couple of weeks before your departure in case something goes wrong with the repairs. It is pretty easy to knock a vacuum hose off or something trivial that can be a real problem after you leave your shop behind.

OK, now that the car is ready are you ? Try to take a liesurely drive and not play “beat the clock”. Your car will like you for it and you won’t feel so beat. Don’t be afraid to “stop and smell the roses” once in a while. The truckers call it “white line fever” when you get in this mental fog from just watching the road come at you all day. Do more than just stop to pee. See the sights, read brochures, take the business rought through towns, find the worlds biggest ball of yarn, and if you’re on I40 out here in the west stop for breaks at the indian casinos. Even if you don’t gamble it’s a nice break. Have family or friends call you once in a while and tell them stories, where you’ve been, what you’ve seen as this will break the monotany. It’s hard for you to realize for yourself that you’re getting foggy, the mind’s logic fades along with your eyes so these incomming phone calls bring you back to reality. In march my brother drove a “route 66” trip form Ohio here to New Mexico and back stopping at all the old roadside attractions he could still find and he, a professional trucker, said that it was definately the best way to make a long trip safely.

No, California got slapped down for making it hard to register out-of-state used cars. It’s not a problem any more.

Speaking of stopping along the way, in two months, August 6 thru 10, is the Inter-Tribal Indian Cerimonial in Gallup NM. Held annually for the past 75 years it’s something to see if your schedule brings you here then. Indian dances nightly, parades friday and saturday, the best tuquoise jewelry, and more. Look me up at the Ford dealer.

Do a MapQuest see if the reccommended route differs from your choice. See if you can avoid major city interstate interchanges at morning and evening rush hours.Look ahead at the weather (Weather Channel) These things all helped me out when I drove my 65 GMC pick-up from Tucson To Milwauke in early March snow in Amarillo (on 40) nightmare in St Louis and I did have everything I owned in back. Big Snap-on box etc.

Traditionally, the most common causes of breakdowns on the highway have been::

belts, hoses, and tires. Anything can break, of course, but check them out and your chances of success go up.