Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Driving 1990 vw jetta across country

I have a 1990 vw jetta in okay shape with 115,000 miles on it, just put about 600 dollars in it. It runs very good now. I want to drive it from ohio to montana. Should I risk making the trip? Please help

I have had questionable cars, and for a road trip I was like can this car run for 24 more hours (ie driving time), what did you do for $600? What other maintenance recomennded in the manual does it need?

new battery, tires, plugs, power steering pump, coolant flush, relay kit, new computer. this car will run for awhile. should i risk the trip

Well the alternatives are rent a car, take a train plane or bus, buy a new car or go for it. The Jetta is not high on the reliability list, I hope oil air and gas filters are up to date also. If I was 18 I would do it, if I was 35 I would think about it, If I was 65 I would not go. We are not psychic, cannot guarantee you will have no problems, but I say go for it. If you have to toast the car or loose a couple days travel time for repairs if needed that is the down side, then there are the alternate modes of travel. Up side you make it to and from with no worries! Let us know what you do!

Bring along a cell phone and a list of VW dealers along your way for a little extra comfort. You could also find a few VW part vendors on the Internet and have their phone numbers handy for parts that a local mechanic could install. I have an even older VW and would not fear such a trip if it was my only car but would bring a few spares. Your trip looks to be about 1500 miles. You would probably make that without trouble driving locally. Highway miles are easier on a car than local miles.

Bring fanbelt(s) too!

We took a trip in an old orphan car with over 100,000 miles from the midwest to the northeast. I brought along a few small spare parts. Some such parts could be an alternator, a water pump, and radiator hoses. I even brought a rear wheel bearing as I recently had one fail; (the car had rear wheel drive). Our old car had a separate voltage regulator and as it happened, I needed my spare near downtown Boston.

I honestly…if it really only has 115000 on it and is NOT a rust bucket, go for it, hell I have driven 25 year old cars with 285000 miles on it on similar trips…no problem.

Last year I took my subaru with 173000 on it out to california and back and all over new mwxico arizona and texas, totalling over 8000 miles…and it was packed to the gills with camping gear, two bikes on the back one of those cargo topper things, and two dogs (plus all their needed items)

But then again when I had my only new car ever (an 02 golf tdi) it managed to strand me somewhere when it had yet to reach 24000 miles…its a toss up really.

Only you can decide…but having driven those highways…bring extra food and water, keep your eye on gauges, and realize that there is very little traffic out there wyoming nebraska montana way…could be a while till someone passses by, but they are much more likely to stop and help than in a lot of parts of the country.

Oh and usually in an older car, not a great idea to do 75 or 80, even though that’s the speed of traffic.

I don't see anything that would worry me on that trip.  However ?.   you did not tell us anything about how the car has been maintained, nor much about possible indicators of possible problems. 

I consider 115,000 miles a young car.  But a car with 30,000 miles that has not had proper maintenance could be a poor choice for a trip to the grocery store.

I am amazed that nobody has raised the issue of the timing belt!

If this Jetta has the 1.8 liter engine, the timing belt is supposed to be changed every 60k miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. Additionally, the 1.8 liter engine is of the interference design.

So–this engine should have had the timing belt replaced 4 times so far.
The extremely low odometer mileage is not a factor in this case, and the OP needs to be guided by by the elapsed time factor.

Kazmontana–Unless you know for sure that the timing belt was replaced within the past 5 years, you are risking catastrophic engine damage when the belt snaps. And, since the cost of those repairs would be several times the book value of this aged car, this type of breakdown would logically result in ditching the car–no matter how far from home you might be when it happens.

Are you prepared for car-shopping in the middle of nowhere, in the event of a broken timing belt?

You stand a better chance running a car on a trip trouble free, then the same number of miles spread out over time going to work each day, the problem is that you"re in familiar territory if it breaks down at home. I’d get my ducks in line with AAA, cell phone and as suggested, GPS scan on trip for vw service. That all costs you nothing.

I dropped 600 bucks into it right before i put it in storage 1yr ago, been driving it around the last month and no trouble with it, runs better then before i bought it!

As VDC asked, timing belt? That WILL leave you stranded with a damaged motor. It’s an interference motor, I believe. When was it last done?

It depends on your age and whether you have to be back at work at a certain time. I have driven cross country and back (7000 miles in total) in a 1966 Buick with over 100,000 miles on it, and had only to replace one spark plug wire, but the car was throroughly checked out beforehand.

An 11 year old Jetta can develop problems which the local mechanic in Twisted Scalp, Tennessee, cannot fix.

In summary, if you have to be back at a certain time, don’t do it; rent car instead. Or take the bus or train. If you are retired or on a long summer holiday, sure, by all means. But do all the things recommended here, especially the timing belt!

On a trip like this, your cell phone and AAA membership will be your best friends!

I have done 7 trips across the country, and had some mechanical problems on two of them, one car was 11 years old (Buick)and the other was a 6 year old Ford with only 50,000 miles on it!