Long distance Driving

Hello all,

I have a 2000 VW bug that has had very few problems, it has about 90,000 miles on it. I am driving it from Iowa to Austin Texas and this is my first long road trip. Should I get it checked out by a mechanic before I leave? What should I do before I go to make sure the car is going to be reliable the whole trip?

Any advice is helpful!


Is all of your scheduled maintenance up to date? If not, start there (but not too close to your trip, in case anything is done wrong).

+1 to Lion9car’s comments.
A properly-maintained car should have few if any problems on a highway trip, but if you have any suspicions of problems that are building, it would be best to have a known mechanic check the car before you depart from Iowa. That is far better than playing mechanic-roulette on your trip.

Also–Pay careful attention to your tires:
Is the tread evenly-worn across the width of the tread?
Is there sufficient tread remaining?
Is the inflation pressure set correctly?

+2 to Lion9car’s comments. Keep all maintenance up to date about two weeks before the trip. Check the tire pressure early in the morning the day before you leave, before the sun hits the tires. Add 3 psi to the tire placard recommendation (but not over 36psi) for the trip to keep tire temperature down.

Yep, thats only about a thousand miles. The things that fail the most are batteries, belts, tires, radiator hoses, etc. All the simple stuff. The other stuff not much you can do about it except have a cell phone and credit card. Just have it checked out first.

Good advice above. Also, charge up your cell phone & check the tire pressure in your spare. You migbht surf the internet to find towing companies along your route and store those numbers in your cell phone in the unlikely event you’ll need a tow.

Whenever I go on a long trip, I take some basic tools with me just in case, along with a canvas tarp to lay on if the situation requires. This has gotten me out of an otherwise expensive and time consuming jam on a few occassions.

Surely you’ve had the timing belt/water pump service done? If this is the 2.0 engine your water pump impellers (the part that moves the coolant) are plastic and prone to breakage under hot conditions.

The only thing I will add to the comments you’ve received is that you should not assume things will remain constant over the entire trip.
Check the oil and coolant levels on occasion and top them off if necessary.

VW’s used to be pretty easy to push and by following the Mississippi, the route will be downhill. Once you get to the Gulf follow it around to Texas then you will have a slight rise to Austin.

Perform any routine maintenance yourself or have it done and inspect the tires, hoses, belts, etc. Make sure everything suggested in the manual has been done. I don’t know if this is a timing belt engine but you might look at that if it hasn’t been done.

50 years ago, when you saw someone on the side of the road, it was most often due to overheating. That has gotten so rare that I noticed that the State of California has removed the water station that used to be located near the top of the Baker grade. Back then very few vehicles made that grade without stopping to cool off before the top. Today, you hardly ever see anyone stopped there.

Today, it seems that the biggest source of problems that put a vehicle on the side of the road are tires, and invariably either the tires were simply too worn out or too old, or the drive neglected to check the air pressure before starting out on the trip. Low air pressure causes extra heat to build up in the tire, weakening its sidewalls. That is why I recommend an extra 3 psi for any road trip.

Off Topic: I remember back in 1954 we took our 54 Ford, straight stick, V8, Sky Haze green, 4 door on a road trip to Mt. Rushmore in SD. The last climb was tough on cars and 90% of the cars in the parking lot at the top had their hoods up (Chevys etc.) but our Ford never broke a sweat. Of course I was only 6 years old so my memory might be a little foggy.

“50 years ago, when you saw someone on the side of the road, it was most often due to overheating.”

That is my recollection also.
And, while I can’t explain it, I also recall from my childhood years that most of the overheated cars on the side of the road were Buicks, although all makes were represented to some extent.