Drive to Fairbanks AK from NY

Im not sure if this belongs in Repair and Maintenance or general discussion, but here it is

So I was have a job for the summer in Fairbanks Alaska, I am from upstate NY. The job will be starting in mid to late may and i would like to drive there, partially for the adventure of it, and partially because I would like to have my car while I am in Alaska. I drive a 2000 dodge neon with about 130,000 miles on it, I have had a few minor problems with it in the 5 years I have owned it like fixing the wheel bearings and doing brake work, and replacing tie rods, but I almost always fix the problem, myself so I have a pretty good knowledge of the potential problems I might have with my car. Currently the car runs pretty good, besides a little rust around the rocker panels, anyways I am fairly confident my car would make it.
So when I told my grandfather of my plans he tells me it is a horrible idea, and my engine, or transition will probably blow along the way, and i will be stuck in the middle of Canada. He is a bit of a car guy, but I feel like his experiences with cars all pre-date the 80’s. So tell me, is my grandfather full of it, or is my car really a ticking time bomb. Are there things I can look for in the engine and transition for signs of impending doom?

Well? I’m a grandpa. And if one of my grandkids told me they were going to attempt to drive from Minnesota to Alaska in a 2000 Neon with 130K on it, I’d look at them and say, “Whatya, nuts?”


I think your car will make the trip. But, conditions in Alaska can be tricky. You might have to deal with some difficult mountain passes with significant snow along the way. Putting winter tires on the car might be a good idea. I have Michelin X-ice 2’s on a Honda Civic and I can go in very bad conditions. These tires are quiet on the road, and seem to be good on mpg too. Consider good winter tires for the car and I think you’ll be OK.

I’ve lived in Alaska; and I’ve driven the ALCan. I drove a very old car from Seattle to Anchorage - no problem.

However, I didn’t go fast. A person zipped by me… and later I saw them in a small town; with their rear axle gone…

A significant portion of the AlCan is not paved. (I understand a lot more is paved now…) VAST areas exist where NO towns of ANY sort are around… So - carry a 5 gallon extra gas can; note the cities and distances; and purchase fuel when necessary. Also, since unpaved sections exist - (hard packed gravel) - and ruts from FREEZING temp’s heave the road - do NOT drive 60 or 65, etc. Plan on a nice 50 or so… At this time of year - some of the roads will have a lot of slush…


Get Head-Lamp protectors installed before you leave. Fuel is WAY expensive in Canada. So, note that… Plenty of cars you could purchase in Anchorage and sell later… But, yes - probably no problem with your car… All the roads in Alaska have major humps and ruts… Just do from the frost heaving. If you are gong to be their in the winter - get yourself a engine block heater as well… Fairbanks is the land of the 24hour sun and dark. Some great mountain trails, fishing, and glaciers exist. You can still even HOMESTEAD up there; pick some land, get it approved by the state; and go live on it… But it can get REALLY cold. I was outside in -60F (not fun.)

Good advice from @DS777! Your car will likely make it if you drive carefully, have it checked out completely by a competent mechanic well before you leave. Roads in Canada are very good for most of the way; I’ve driven them in all seasons in a regular automobile.

The part through the Yukon and into Alaska is difficult in the winter, and can be bumpy in the spring due to frost heave.

Your car does not have a reputation for being rugged, so take it easy, and watch for large objects, like boulders, on the road; you don’t have much road clearance!

Gas prices in Canada range from $4.30 per gallon up; the further you go North the higher they get.

The AAA can get you a Trip-Tique map, but I would cross the border at the Thousand Islands Bridge and then head North West, avoid Toronto, pick up Highway 17 to North bay and from there West on the Trans Canada Highway to Portage la Prairie West of Winnipeg, then North West on the Yellowhead Route into British Columbia where you pick up the Alaska Highway. That’s the most scenic route and the least crowded.

If you want to stay in the US as long as possible, pick up I-94 in Detroit and proceed NW through Minneapolis, then head North towards Winnipeg where you pick up the Trans Canada.

I would have Michelin X-ICE tires if you are only using one set, and carry 2 spares, Jumper cables or spare battery booster, extra headlight bulbs, plastic headlamp guards, and other items the other posters recommend.

If you take it easy in the Yukon and Alaska sections, you’ll have a great trip. In Northern canada you will routinely see wildlife like wolves, bears, coyotes, and moose cross the road. DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DARK!!!

Good luck!

A Dodge Neon with a 130K on it? I wouldn’t trust it to get me from Minneapolis to Duluth.


I live in Alaska and I think your plan will work okay if you are cautious. You are looking at around a 5,500 mile trip I would guess. If your engine uses a timing belt then when was it replaced last? Replacing the water hoses would be good to do along with all the fluids. Battery, alternator, fan belts, and plugs, should be in great shape or be replaced. If the tires have less than half tread left on them I would get new ones installed along with the spare. It may even pay to have some spare lug nuts with you along with a headlamp bulb and bulbs for the rear lights. Have a good jack and assortment of tools in case they are needed and a voltmeter. Anything you can think of that might come in handy on the road in case you do have a break down. A tent and sleeping bag, flashlight, and extra water. You may need a roof carrier in order to fit all the things you might need to have with you. Red Green would demand you have duct tape, mechanics wire, and a blue tarp with you.

There are travel guides like the Milepost you can get to give you helpful information along the way. Hopefully you have a smart phone to keep in contact while on the road and for information. You will need a passport and possibly an enhanced driver’s license your state offers. Carrying firearms can be tricky so if you plan on taking one you should check out the procedures carefully. There are lot of places on the way you could easily spend some extra time at, especially in Canada, to visit so you may want to plan on doing some of that.

Here is a link for some guidence to enter Canada.

This seems like a bad idea to me. But you might get away with it, and have no problem at all. It’s a gamble. If you decide to try it, one way to improve your odds is to have all the routine maintenance suggested in the owner’s manual for the car’s age and mileage done before you leave. And start with the best tires you can afford.

@Cougar Good advice. Also, do not try to enter Canada with any type of firearm!! It will be confiscated and you will lose a lot of time in delays. If you want to go hunting in Alaska, buy a gun there and sell it when you come back.

Booze-wise, you can take 1 quart of liquor or one case of beer over the border. Canada is very protective of its farming industry (dairy products) as well. If you bring in several blocks of cheese or butter, it may be confiscated as well. All items have to be packaged, and sealed. Sort of like bringing oranges into California.

You’ll also need a passport these days, I think.

With LOTS of preparation, the ability to keep warm if you get stranded for a while in COLD weather, and slow driving, you might do OK. But that Neon has to be checked out from bumper to bumper, all fluids changed, etc, etc…

Thanks for all the input everyone.

Bring the title for the car with you…

Since you are going to be crossing some lonely (and magnificent) terrain, you might want to consider pre-emptively rebuilding your starter and alternator. That way you can be a lot less likely to have a problem with those components. Most people just replace those, but I tend to rebuild instead - have a local service that does this for a fair price.

You might also think about replacing cooling system components - radiator cap, thermostat, and as someone else mentioned, hoses, again as prevention against a problem. I’d probably replace the water pump too if it’s the original. The most important maintenance would be the timing belt, if this car has a belt as opposed to a chain - someone already mentioned that.

I always travel with a small hydraulic jack in addition to the factory jack, and a few small pieces of 2x6 to use as a base under the jack if I need to raise a vehicle on uneven or soft ground. Two spare tires for sure. A small shovel could be a big help on a trip through rougher country.

We’re assuming your engine is in good shape, isn’t too bad on oil consumption, doesn’t lose coolant, or leak brake fluid. If that’s not correct, you should definitely solve those problems or rethink the plan. You might spend a little money on a compression test to assure yourself that your engine isn’t on its last legs. I’d also check wheel bearings and service or replace as necessary.

I would LOVE to do that trip, I was about ten when my dad started saying we’d do it together some day (starting from Long Island). He never made it, I still have a chance. My main advice: take your time, and stop OFTEN to absorb the feeling of the places you’re in! Enjoy! Hope you’ll report while enroute…


One piece of important advice is missing, you need a 70% antifreeze/30% water concentration in your cooling system. The 50/50 may not protect your system when going over the mountains in Canada.

any dwi? you cannot enter canada if so? they dont like criminals.

@Cavell He’s right! US Border Service now shares computerized crime data with its Canadian counterparts. There was a program on TV recently about border services, and several were apprehended at the border when the computer shows past criminal activities or illegal entry attemps.

As said, a passport, valid driver’s license, and car documents with car insurance proof is required.

P.S. Your AAA membership will be honored by the local Canadian provincial Auto Clubs who are members of the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association), and your US car insurance is vallid as well, but just check with your agent!

Can’t enter Canada from the USA w/a gun in your car? I guess they’ve changed the rules. It seems like I recall years ago entering Canada from Montana and they allowed the gun in but they disabled it first. They strung a cable through the barrel and clipped the ends together with a tag that said “do not remove while in Canada”.

All I remember being asked about when entering Canada were bear repellant and oranges. I had neither. Check this out.

As for the car, I’d do it, especially since you can work on it yourself. I agree that you should have it checked over before leaving. The timing belt is a big item. Take spares with you. Fuel pump, fuel filter, starter, alterntor, coil pack, spark plugs and wires, hoses, serpentine belt, maybe a COUPLE of good spare tires. These things will be very expensive if you have to buy them in (or have them shipped to) the middle of nowhere. If you wind up bringing them back unused, the store may give you a refund. Ask them when you buy them. Try a mom and pop shop, not a chain store.

Consider selling the car in AK and flying home. I understand that good cars bring a premium price up there. You may get enough to pay for the ticket home and a better car on your return.

During my brief times in AK I found that there were A LOT of people who only worked and lived up there in the summer. You will not be alone.

Don’t forget to make sure your car insurance company gives you coverage that is acceptable in Canada (they generally have much higher coverage requirements than New York State) and that you have a card to prove it. Speak to your agent. He or she should know what to do. There is no reason why any car can’t make a long trip if it has been properly maintained HOWEVER I am with Tester. I am not wild about an old, high mileage Dodge Neon making this trip. Call me biased but I would not be as worried if you said you were taking an old Honda Civic or Ford Focus. I live in Western NY and Neon owners around here can frequently be found on the side of the road with dead cars.