OK to take old car on long drive?

My 1994 Mazda Protege has 216,000 miles on it. The radiator, clutch, timing belt (all belts actually), and water pump are relatively low-mileage. The car runs well except for either burning or leaking oil. I don’t put in oil every week, but I do have to be watchful.

This October I need to travel from central Virginia to lower NH. I’d like to be able to bring my dogs with me. Would it be terribly risky to drive the Protege on a trip that is about 1,000 miles each way?

Just check the fluids and tires (pressure and wear) before you go and have a nice trip! Long road trips are generally pretty easy on cars compared to the kind of driving most people do around town.

The only thing I would look out for is if you don’t have a clear idea of how many miles/quart your oil consumption issue is, you should note where the oil level is when you leave (it would be a good idea to have it near full) and then stop 100 or 200 miles into the trip and check it just to make sure you’re not burning so much that it’ll run low between fill ups.

This is low-risk traveling…If you haven’t changed the coolant hoses, do that…

Wow, I thought people would say it was a nutty idea! Thanks for the reassurance, and for the advice. Will get a car checkup on hoses, tires, brakes ahead of time and be careful about checking the oil during the trip. Thank you both!

This is probably one of the more reasonable “is it okay to take a long trip in this old car?” questions we’ve had-- it seems like most of the ones we get are either some hypochondriac with a 2006 Honda with 50k on it (or something) asking if it’s okay to drive over to the next town, or else some nut asking if they’ll have any problems driving some pre-war jalopie they found in a barn cross-country!

I wouldn’t consider a '94 an “old” car. If you’ve taken care of it, it’s more middle-aged.

I drive a car built in '89 and add 1 quart of oil every 900 miles. Keep track of how many miles you can drive between having to add oil.

Your trip is not a nutty idea. Someone who wants to take a vehicle like yours to Alaska and tow a 25ft travel trailer is an example of a “nutty” idea. Those type questions do pop up now and then and worse. Just follow the good advice that’s been given to you and enjoy the trip.

I don’t see any reason to worry. Enjoy the trip!

Check your oil, coolant level and tire pressure pretrip and enjoy.

I would check the oil level at first or 2nd fuel stop.

buy a bulk box of oil for the car(~5 quart bottles in a box usually), make sure you keep your cell phone charged, CDs/tapes handy, a book or 2 in case you need to wait for a tow, and a camera in case you see something cool that you don’t normally see everyday during your road trip(or even if you get in an accident, you got pictures of the wreck).
The way you describe your vehicle, I’d say you’ve kept it in pretty good shape maintenance wise, so the most I think you’ll hafta worry about is the other people on the road.

In general the car’s age and mileage don’t rule out “long trips”. If the car is maintained well and is running properly it should be able to handle a long trip anytime with no problems. Long trips are more stressful on the drivers than the car.

In your case you know there is some oil usage, so I’d suggest checking the oil every gas stop and in the morning before you start for the day. If you buy a quart of oil and keep it in the trunk you can add a bit if needed.

Your car is older so a wheel bearing or something might just decide to fail while you are on the trip. The truth is you can’t protect yourself against a part failing in any car, even newer ones. AAA or some other auto club membership can give you some comfort if you need a tow while away from home.

I just wanted to add and maybe someone else can verify but when the car is hot (been driving a little bit) if you check the oil it will be a little lower than it normally is when cold. So take that in consideration when checking the oil on the trip!

Happy and safe travels!

It’s not the temperature of the oil, it’s that the oil is circulating through the engine and is in places other than the oil pan, so the level you measure seems a little lower. This is why it’s not a bad idea to check the oil last, after you’ve filled up, washed the windows, bought snacks, flipped through the magazines, etc, so it gives the oil a chance to run back into the pan.

What he said!

Compare it to this trip with an 86 Honda CRX and an 85 Toyota Tercel 4WD, bought in non running condition along the way, in January.

In college (Finally graduated) I took my old '87 Accord (RIP) on a 1500 mile trip and didn’t have any issues with the car whatsoever. It had 190,000 miles with Rust and a Carburetor. Enjoy the trip.

Just my 2 cents worth: Like every vehicle, your 1994 Mazda came with an owner’s manual. Within the owner’s manual you will find a maintenance schedule. Unfortunately the majority of vehicle owners do not even look at that maintenance schedule. If you will follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule you will find that 9 times out of 10 your Mazda will not let you down. I currently drive a 2004 Mercury Monterey. It currently has just over 267,000 miles on it. I take it in to my Ford service center every 5000 miles and have the listed items serviced. I can honestly say that in all my years of driving I have never had a break down or even a flat tire on the road. My Mercury has been well maintained and I am 100% confident that it will take me anywhere I need to go, even in a moment’s notice. In December of 2019 I drove from Kansas City MO to Jacksonville FL. I drove back to Kansas City in January, then on to Denver CO and back to Kansas City. In February of 2020 I drove back to Jacksonville, then returned to Kansas City in March. Not a hiccup, sneeze or cough from the Mercury. Upon returning I had the car completely checked over. It was declared defect free and ready to hit the road again. I bought my first car brand new in 1970 at the age of 19 and learned to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Each of the vehicles I have owned throughout the years has been driven over 200,000 before being replaced and went on to serve the next owner reliably. My dad was a mechanic in the Army motor pool stationed in Georgia during the Korean conflict. He was taught that every vehicle on the post was just as important as every soldier. So just as a soldier must be ready for deployment, so must a vehicle. No such thing as “not fit for duty”. In order to be ready for deployment it must be properly maintained ona regular basis. Over the years this has been my personal experience…and it’s worked without fail.

That 1994 is now 26 years old even it is still in running order . And the question was asked 10 years ago.

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Hey! By golly! You are right! Just realized that. Duh. Wasn’t paying attention to the year. Oh well…26 years old or not…not afraid of age or mileage. Thanks for the correction and happy motoring.

No problem, it’s easy to read " May '10 " as " May 10 ". Many folks here have made that same kind of mistake, including me.