Driving Cross-Country

I have a 2008 Hyundai Elantra with 134,000 miles on it. My friends and I are planning a road trip across the country from Buffalo to California and back. Assuming the car will have roughly 145,000 miles on it at the time of the trip, and we plan to drive about 7,000 miles, is my car fit to drive this far? If so, what preventative care should i take before i start the trip? The brakes have been replaced around 10,000 miles ago and I would change all oils and fluids before the trip. Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated!

Has the car been maintained at least as well as is specified in Hyundai’s maintenance schedule?
(maintenance includes a lot more than just oil & fluid changes!)

Are the hoses and serpentine belt the original ones?
(After 7 years, it is likely that both the cooling system’s hoses and the serpentine belt are due for replacement)

Does this engine have a timing belt, and–if so–has it been changed?
(If not, it is already overdue, and when it snaps you will likely destroy the engine)

If the car has been well-maintained, if the aforementioned rubber parts are replaced prior to the trip, and if you check the oil and other fluids daily and replenish as necessary, the car should make it.

Check the tread depth of the tires. If a tire(s) is down to 4/32" then consider some new tires before the trip. On the road break downs are often due to tire problems, broken belts, hoses that split, and overheating. Since belts and hoses are rubber and now 7 years old some might be due for replacement. The top radiator hose is a most likely problem area, but the bottom hose can go if it gets soft, as can one of the heater hoses.

This sounds like a summer trip, meaning the AC will be on and the car is likely to be heavily loaded with people, luggage, and gear. The cooling system will be stressed on hills and the AC will be working hard too. Make sure the cooling system is good, no coolant leaks, and a radiator that is clear of debris and working properly. Have the AC checked if it is only doing a so/so job of cooling before the trip. You will need max AC performance and a recharge might be needed before the heavy load on the AC.

How old is your battery? If by some miracle it’s still the original one, I’d replace that for sure. I’d probably replace any original belts and maybe hoses at this point, as already mentioned. As for the tire tread depth, I disagree with the advice above. If you won’t finish your trip at 4/32, then replace them before you go. Don’t forget to adjust your tire pressures along the way if temperatures change.

Don’t do any maintenance work too close to your trip. If anything was done wrong, you want to find that out at home.

If you get your car properly prepared, you’ll probably make it with no issues. However, given the age and mileage, it wouldn’t be too surprising for something to go wrong, so make sure you’ve planned out what you’ll do if that happens.

Belts, maybe, but hoses? I’ve not had, nor had friends/relatives, that have replaced hoses on a car that new. I think hose failures on modern cars are rare, and in Dallas I’d expect to see them if it was a problem.

I agree with texases on the hoses. The materials used to make hoses nowadays seem to last forever. I think the most crucial item would be the timing belt. When was it last replaced?

I agree that hose failures are fairly rare, but a failure on this trip (maybe in Death Valley) would be a major hassle.

Hoses do last a lot longer today than 20 years ago, but they still need replacing at some point. My '03 Civic need an upper radiator hose on a trip to FL and that was in 2009.

Get a Triple-A membership as insurance. If you wind up with trouble on the road, they can be a major help. And not just with the car. And make sure all the maintenance is up to date. 145,000 miles is not all that much with modern cars. I feel confident enough to do this trip with my 27 year old '88 Toyota right now. It has 297,000 miles on it.

AAA is good, but for long trips you have to buy the more expensive coverage. Base coverage if for towing only a short distance (7 miles).

All good advice and I’ll include one more tip: Take a cellphone with excellent coverage and reception. Just remember to keep it charged.

A regular multi point inspection will cover off anything else. Many places do this free since it is lead into more work.

Make sure your tires have reasonable ( >=6/32") tread. Lastly check your tire pressure in spare as these things never get checked or realized till you need it.

I like going to Ca. on Rt. 40. You may not be going that way but there are two OK attractions. Lava that looks like it just came out of the ground yesterday but has been there for a long time and, also in Az. is the petrified forest. You don’t see much from the road but that tree trunk on the ground is rock. There are lots of stops where you might be able to buy a chip or a big piece. My grandfather had a great two inch thick part of an eight inch thick branch. Nature’s door stop. You can’t get that at Donner Pass.

Count the mesas in N.M. but don’t ask the Albuquerque cops for directions. If everything around you is brown, don’t smoke.

Your exhaust system can start a fire too. Watch where you park.

This car does have a timing belt and Gates says it is an interference engine and should be changed every 60,000 miles. Just to be clear, if it breaks while driving it will not only strand you, you will need a different engine.

Make sure all the suggested maintenance in the owner’s manual is up to date before leaving. Bring along parts that you may be hard to find if you break down in a small town, like a spare timing belt, accessory drive belt, spark plugs, water pump. It’s like bring an umbrella, if you bring it, it won’t rain. And that’s the objective. Plus eventually you’ll be able to use those parts anyway, so it isn’t a waste of money.

It is not necessary to carry spare parts you might not need anymore. That is why FEDX overnight exists.

+1 don’t carry extra junk in a car you likely never need(spare parts). An elantra for a few friends is a tiny place to be that will be working to get you those 7k miles.

Use of an umbrella is quite likely, risk of break down as likely as winning $100 on a scratch ticket and in a small town with terrible access to parts maybe winning the $10,000 scratch ticket. Sorry math stat was minor in college!

Don't forget to adjust your tire pressures along the way if temperatures change.

That is bad advice. Your tires will get hotter as you drive at sustained speeds, if you adjust the tire pressure, you will end up with under inflated tires and that will make them run even hotter and risk serious failure.

Adjust your tire pressure to about 3 psi above the recommended tire pressure listed on the plaque in your car and do not adjust during the trip unless you see a low tire. The reason for the 3 extra psi is that you will be carrying a load and driving at sustained higher speeds. The additional pressure will help your tires keep cooler, and reduce the risk of failure.

Make sure the maintenance called for in your owners manual is up to date. Carry plenty of water and a cell phone. Since you have a friend with you, cell phones with different carriers is better. Carry a good atlas or road map, don’t rely on GPS.

keith wrote:
That is bad advice.

Tire pressures are set based on the coldest temperature expected that day, which is usually the morning. I don’t know when this trip is or what the route is, but it’s unlikely that Buffalo’s morning temperature will match the morning temperatures all along the route. The tires are likely to be underinflated in the northern Rocky Mountains and overinflated in the Desert Southwest, if either of those are part of the route.