How long could you drive the car continuously?

I have had this question for a long time but now I need a qualified answer to my question. And, I am relying on my fellow Car Talk listeners for an answer.

It seems that in coming months, I will be driving approximately 1200 miles during the course of a weekend - 600 miles on Fridays and then 600 miles on Sundays. This will continue for many months to come. The car in question is a 2008 Honda Civic with approximately 20,000 miles on it. Assuming I take care of the car - regular oil change, coolant check etc and only considering the mechanical well-being of the car, how long can I drive the car at a time - 200 miles, 300 miles, 500 miles, without causing any damage to the car? Please also assume that I will be mindful of the guages on the dashboard.

Thank you!


Assuming those are highway miles, they should be easy miles for the car. As for how far you can drive at a time is a human limit not an mechanical limit. The best thing for the car would be all highway at no more than the speed limit with no stops. With my car it can go about 800 miles non-stop, but I need some stops. I don’t do well at over 10 hours without a rest stop.

Heating up and cooling off is hard on a car.  Running at normal operating temperatures is easy on the car.   You get to terminal conditions after about 10 - 20 minutes.

I hope you are not running drugs.

As a former truck driver, I think you should limit yourself to 10 hours of driving per day. After that, your ability to react diminishes quickly. When you factor in stops, most people end up averaging about 60 MPH. So if you don’t encounter heavy traffic, you should be able to do 600 miles per day. Just make sure you get plenty of rest before you drive.

Regarding the car, highway miles cause less wear to the car than stop and go traffic. I own a 1998 Civic with 183,000 miles, and I would feel fine making these types of trips in my car. Just make sure you keep up with the maintenance, and if your owner’s manual has two maintenance schedules (one regular and one for severe conditions), follow the maintenance schedule for severe conditions.

I once took my Civic on a 3,000 mile trip where I had another driver to trade off. We drove straight though with no problems. It was 1,500 miles there and 1,500 miles back with no stops in between except for fuel and food.

Agree with Whitey; highway miles are easy on the car, and only the driver’s endurance wlimits how far you can drive.

Some years ago our family did a 7000 mile holiday trip in 3 weeks in a Buick station wagon, and often averaged 800 miles a day across the plains. If you observe the speed limits, such driving is good for the car, unless you are overloaded.

The world record for continuous fast driving was a Packard experiment where they averaged 100 mph for 100,000 miles around the factory test track! These cars had their oil changed and fluids checked when they changed drivers. All this in the mid 1950s! Engines were claimed to have no excessive wear athe the end of the trip.

The car will be fine. I’m not sure about you, though. That’s a lot of driving on one day.

I haven’t done anything like this in a while but back in college, two years running, my girlfriend & I drove from NY to FL & back for spring break (camping at the beach, not the party scenes believe it or not). We drove in shifts stopping only for gas & food & such. The whole trip was about 1200 miles, and this was a little Mercury Lynx (Ford Escort). No trouble whatsoever.

As others have noted - especially if these are highway miles I wouldn’t worry about the car at all. You will break down long before it does. Just check the fluids everytime you stop (e.g. for gas) & give the car a once over.

Back in '67 I and my son, with 9 people in the station wagon. drove from Kansas City thru Albecurky, to Los Alamos New Mexico, in a new Dodge wagon, 1100 miles, in one day. We never thot about the car.

 I can remember a few high school and college trips with three drivers rotating, and we made a couple thousand miles when one time I woke up to find the driver doing 60 mph though a parking lot.  We decided it was time for all of us to take a sleep break.

About 440 miles is the limit for my car unless I install a larger gas tank and wear a diaper.

Diaper? Remember that astro-nut a year or two ago driving cross-country with a diaper? Sheesh! I think that I’d limit my driving to normal work hours . . have a nice breakfast, drive for 4 hours, stop for lunch, then drive another 4 hours. Don’t try to set any records . . . you might fall asleep or get punchy behind the wheel. Rocketman

I agree, a 400-500 mile day is about all I care to do. I often vacation in Taos NM and drive there from Austin, TX. I once did the whole 800 miles in one stretch but today I prefer to break it up into two days. It’s way less stressful and I consider the road trip as a part of the vacation.

Now these guys are the real pros, or lunatics, I can’t figure out which.

While there are no special problems - other than driver fatigue - presented by driving a long way continuously, there are never any guarantees. Of course, that applies whether you are driving 6 miles from home or 600.

Given that you will be on the road a lot, it would be wise to have a handy kit around to deal with contingencies. Have some AAA (or similar) protection, and check out this recent thread for some wise ideas:

To the OP:

Going to see your girl/boyfriend every weekend? The long distance romance will be tougher on you than the car!

Thank you all for taking the time to post your replies. Since there seems to be a lot of speculations about why would I be driving such a long distance every weekend, ranging from drug-running to having a long distance relationship, I should mention that its for a job. But, thanks to Whitey for suggesting drug-running an alternative career. I am sure that you are speaking from experience. I sure will come to you for tips in future once I start my operation :-).

But, thanks to Whitey for suggesting

Stick around VR, you sound like you belong here.

Don’t let the waitress refill your coffee a whole bunch of times at breakfast or you will be stopping every 100 miles to pee and that really eats time and lowers your average speed.
Eat light, stuffing yourself with a Texas size chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes amd gravy at the local truck stop cafe makes it real hard to stay awake for the next few hours. Better to drive a little hungry.
Get a full night of sleep. Don’t stay up for David Letterman or Jay Leno. Lately, they haven’t been that funny anyway.

But, thanks to Whitey for suggesting drug-running an alternative career. I am sure that you are speaking from experience.

If I had a more reliable car in my younger foolish days, perhaps. But thankfully, the quality of my cars kept me out of trouble. Anyway, I will be happy to share some insights I learned as a professional driver when the time comes. Just let me know.

I once bought a used Honda CRX with 270,000 miles on it. A previous owner had a girlfriend in another state and he did what you are talking about, driving 500 or 600 miles each way on weekends to go see her. That car was kind of ragged on the interior, but it still ran great and had no mechanical problems.

As others have said, long distance highway mileage is the easiest life a car can have. Your limits will be the car’s gas tank and your bladder. Brief pit stops for either won’t harm the car because it will still be fully warmed up when you get back on the road.

The best known record for cross-coutry driving was the famous “Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash” organized by Car and Driver magazine as a protest against silly speed limits.

The cars were driven by teams that only stopped for gas and, food and calls of nature on the illegal dash fron New York to L.A. There were no rules of any sort; just get from NY to LA without flying. The Polish Racing Drivers Association took a souped up van complete with fridge and porta-potty to minimize stops!

The winner averaged over 100 mph and a sedate Cadillac owned by a banker who just wanted it delivered in L.A. averaged about 100 mph.

There were no reports of engines burning out; just exhausted drivers putting in 2450 miles in less than 2 days.

Two movies with Burt Reynolds were made on this theme.

Until you reach your destination. Even if that were 3,000 miles away. Unless, of course, your back gives out.