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Cross Country Preparedness


I have a 1987 BMW 325 with about 210K miles. I’m moving cross country in early October and will most likely be driving the car as opposed to putting it on a carrier. It’s mechanically sound and has recently had new steering belts, struts, brakes and tie rods replaced. My mechanic says the timing belt shows minimal wear but doesn’t need to be replaced. What else should I make sure is in tip-top condition before embarking on this adventure?

A cell-phone and a AAA membership…

I would replace every belt, hose and pump on the car. Pack the front wheel bearings.

visual inspection of timing belt is not a predictor of its life… check the manual for recommended replacement mileage or years whichever comes first…

The trip is, what, 3,000 miles?

If you weren’t driving cross country, would you expect the car to last another 3,000 miles?

Of course you would. Highway driving is not hard on a car. Drive and enjoy the trip.

Having said that, timing belts usually look perfect right up until they break. You can’t judge their condition by looking. Timing belts should be replaced at the interval specified in the car’s maintenance schedule, regardless of how they look.

Cooling system is critical, when was the last time the coolant was replaced? The radiator? The pump?

thanks. The timing belt isn’t due for a change but I asked the mechanic to take a look around and it was just mentioned as a note- the belt doesn’t need to be replaced prematurely. Thanks!

Right. That’s my first thought, too, that the car’s going to go another 50K why would driving 3000 in one week make any difference? Thanks for the reality check.

Thanks! I’ll look at the maintenance records. They were replaced before I bought the car 5 years ago but not sure how soon before I bought it.

The cooling system’s about the only thing that’s stressed more by highway driving in summer. BMWs have the reputation for requiring radiators every 10 years or so, so that’s also worth a look.

Here’s an extensive discussion of BMW radiator issues by a BMW tech:

Your '87 may actually be old enough to have escaped the plastic tank issues, but it’s certainly worth a careful look.

Early October? Not a problem. Temperatures may be uncomfortably hot or cold, but nothing life or vehicle threatening. Throw a blanket, and jacket or a couple of sweaters in the car. AAA card, cell phone, and a credit card that isn’t maxed out, you should be fine. If you have any mechanical skills at all throw a roll of duct tape, a small roll of steel wire and some basic tools into the car plus a couple of gallons of water from the grocery store.

Rather than trying to make the trip in four days of hard driving, I’d suggest taking six or seven and stopping at some national parks and monuments along the way.

When is the last time you checked the air pressure in your spare tire? How old is your spare tire?