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Old car long trip

Was planning on taking our old alero on a trip a couple states over. Eight hours one way.

Car only has 115k miles on it.

However, it’s 16 years old.

Would you be apprehensive about taking a car this old on such a long trip? I was thinking that potential breakdown issues would be more related to the miles and abuse you put on the car, versus age. As far as existing issues, had a problem where there was a leak in the head that was causing us to loose coolant and reeking havoc with the sensors, but that I believe I got. Otherwise, seems to run fine.

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What exactly happened, and what did you do to fix it?

Had a leak around one of the bolts. Was able to get my fingers down to it and saw that it was so loose could turn it with my fingers. Tightened it. Seemed to fix that where wasn’t leaking anymore in that vicinity. I have a little bit of leaking else where where a little coolant will pool on the engine block…however, I had a Cavalier that did the exact same thing, in the exact same location, and so I was assuming this was one of the joys of owning a gm product.

That is exciting! The leak would freak me out, though. If you can’t have a trusted mechanic look at it before the trip, a container of pre-mixed coolant compatible with that engine would be a wise thing to have along. As would a roll of electrical tape to patch any pinholes in a hose that open up. If I were going on a long trip in an older car, I would also make sure all four tires were inflated perfectly, and that my spare was operational. Last, I would have a AAA Premium membership. It’s only a few bucks to upgrade the AAA basic membership to one that will tow you long distance. You have to do this trip and report back how it goes!

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OK, sounds like you fixed it. Any way you could have a shop do a pressure test on your cooling system before you go? It’ shouldn’t cost too much, and I’d want to make sure it was OK.

I’d also want them to do whatever maintenance is needed, and give it an inspection to see if tires, brakes, suspension, etc. are in good shape.


Agree! The age of the car is not an issue here. If the repair was properly done and the rest of the car checks out I would not worry 115,000 miles is no very high,

The Alero is a cookie cutter GM intermediate and repairs should be easy anywhere in the USA.

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Okay. Great. Think I will take it into a shop to have them look it over just to make sure there’s nothing obvious, but otherwise will give it a try.

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Assuming you have enough oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc, that your tires are good, and that nothing is falling off before you even start, a trip like yours is easier on the car than short trips around town doing errands. Steady running really doesn’t stress an engine like stop and go short rides do.

That’s interesting. Had never thought of it that way, the longer trips ironically being less abusive on the car.

I’ve made quite a few cross country trips in cars much older and with many more miles than yours without a second thought. And I mean cross country, not just a couple of states over.

If you are still leaking coolant, then you will need to check the coolant at every gas stop. Same if you use oil. You should do both anyway when you are on a road trip.

But the biggest issue is always the tires. You will see more cars on the side of the road for tire problems than anything else. If you need new tires, get them but at least a week before the trip. Just before the trip, when the tires are cool and in the shade, check the tire pressures and bring them up 3 psi over the recommendations on the placard.

The extra 3psi will keep the tires running cooler, and heat is the enemy of tires.

If the shop gives you a list of recommended repairs . . .

Ask them to please show you the problems, while the car is still on the rack, and print them out, with prices

I’d be glad to give you my opinion, as to the proposed repairs

Outside of having that leak checked, most break downs are battery, hoses, belts, tires-the normal maintenance stuff. Keep that up to snuff along with other maintenance items like coolant, brakes, oil, and the odds are in your favor. I used to drive a car with 300+ all around the state in all weather conditions. I like new cars now though.

I remember back in 1955 when I was about 7, we had a 54 Ford and we were downtown. I saw about a 48 Chevy with Florida plates (in Minnesota), and commented to my Mom how they could drive such an old car so far. She said it wasn’t unusual at all and not everyone drove new cars. It stuck with me that its not the age of the car but the condition.

I just last month took a trip with my wife. 7 days, 2200 miles, towing a camper using a 22 y.o. Ford with 208,000 miles on it. The age/miles of your car would not concern me. The potential head gasket breach would. Check to see if your engine is holding pressure with a compression test. Check to se if there’s any coolant in the oil on the dipstick (looks like disgusting mucus). Heck, go ahead and change the oil on general principles.

If you get a clean bill of health, go for it!

Someone mentioned belts and hoses. How old are they? What about the transmission, has it ever been serviced? You need new, quality wiper blades.

You are travelling a long distance in November. You need to prevent breakdowns, nothing worse than looking for a problem at the side of a cold, dark road.

Plan for, but don’t fret over possible problems.

Thanks everyone for the replies and will check over/have everything checked over here.

It’s the rubber and plastic parts that can break down & cause problems on cars of this vintage with fairly low mileage such as yours. Ask you shop to check

  • tires for signs of side-wall cracking or bulging or out of round
  • all the rubber &plastic hoses, cooling system, vacuum system, brake system, fuel system
  • bring along a spare accessory belt
  • if your car sports a timing belt over 7 years old it should be replaced probably
  • steering and suspension for play and any rubber bushing degradation

Had the car checked over by a mechanic.

They came back with outer tie rod ends. Needed replacing. They also had gas filler neck, which was setting my check engine light off, which I’ll probably hold off on for the time being.

Not fun to break a tie rod end. My Moog was only 1 year old when it snapped on the freeway so buy quality parts-don’t skimp.

Good for you for being pro-active. Yes, you want to fix tie rod problems now , locally, and on your schedule. I think your money for the inspection and the repair is very well spent. Best of luck for a fun, successful, and safe trip!

Wow . . . !

I always thought Moog was high quality, compared to some of the garbage being sold :slight_frown: