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Road trip and car preparations

So I’m planning on doing a road trip during the summer. Currently it’s set at Austin, Texas to Denver, Colorado to Seattle, Washington to Atlanta, Georgia and then back (around 6.5k miles in total). I plan on driving my manual 2010 Nissan Sentra with about 65k miles on it. I was just wondering if I would have any trouble mechanically with driving all this distance in 2 weeks and any advice on preparations for the car and during the trip.

As long as the car has been kept current on its maintenance schedule, and the tires are good, I wouldn’t be worried.


Yep, just go through the manual and make sure all maintenance is up to date, the tires and brakes are good, and you’ll be fine.

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+1 to Shadowfax’s and texases’ posts, but I want to add the following suggestions:

Even if the car is up-to-date with ALL of the manufacturer’s maintenance items, it is good idea to pop the hood every morning–before you get back on the highway–in order to check your oil and other fluids, and checking the tire pressure at that time is also a good idea.

Carry at least one qt of oil with you so that you don’t have to pay exorbitant prices at a highway gas station if you do need to add oil. When you use-up that first qt of oil, schedule a stop at a Wal-Mart the next day so that you have the next qt on hand. Carrying an electric tire inflator that you can plug into the cigarette lighter socket is also a good idea.

When I take a road trip, I also make sure that I carry a roll of paper towels and some window cleaner, in order to keep the windshield, headlights, and tail lights clean and visible.
Additionally, if your wiper blades are getting old, it would be a good idea to change them before this journey.

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I take a trip from Redmond,Wa to Tucson, AZ every year. Depending if you’re handy with tools or not makes a difference. If you are, here’s what I usually bring. 1. a jug of water. 2. Qt of oil. 3. Some rags. 4. Tire repair plugs 5. Hand tire pump 6. Wheel.tire block for if you’re on a hill. 7. Small hand tool kit 8. Most of all “Gorilla tape”. What for? Lift the hood at times and inspect your belts and hoses. This tape does wonders if needed. If you’re close to population, no sweat otherwise you’ll be glad you have this stuff.

Here’s my roadtrip tool kit:

I keep up on the maintenance on my car, which means I’m not setting off with bald tires or may-pop radiator hoses. I can’t predict what might go wrong because everything that should go wrong has already been taken care of, which means a tool kit is fairly useless because I’d still need to figure out how to get the replacement parts back to the car, and then I’d be working on the side of the highway with drunk drivers barreling past me at 75mph.

No thanks. I do a lot of my own car work when I’m at home, but if I’m on the road and something breaks, it’s going on a tow truck and at minimum towed to a parts store parking lot if not a mechanic.

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AAA is good, but the ‘standard’ version will only tow for a very limited number of miles. Make sure the AAA benefits are consistent with the planned trip. The more expensive version may be needed.

Highway driving is very easy on a car. We once did a family vacation of 7000 miles through the US and Canada with a 10 year old Buick with 100,000 miles on it and towing a small camper. No problems, but we checked out the vehicle beforehand, especially the drive belts which cars had plenty of then. As others say carry a spare can of oil, and a quart of engine coolant.

In my bag I also carry a few basic tools, a roll of duct tape, a roll of black iron wire, and of course I carry my cell phone and AAA membership card.

I take a road trip every summer that is at least that long. I watch the oil change schedule so I do an oil change a week or two before the trip. I want a week or so after the oil change just so there aren’t any surprises.

The big thing to check is the tires. Almost all cars and trucks you see on the shoulder are because the driver/passenger is peeing or they have a flat tire. I add about 3 psi to the recommendation on the placard. This keeps the tire running cooler which is important and I carry a 12v inflator and plugs. Once underway, I DO NOT check the pressure with a gauge again. I look at all the tires on each stop and as long as they all look good, I leave them alone. I don’t believe in asking for trouble.

My current car is pretty new, but my previous car had over 267k on it before its last trip. Just keep up the regular maintenance. Do this just to get the maximum life from your vehicle. You should think in terms that your car will always be ready for a trip should it become necessary without notice.

Take a cell phone and plenty of water. The water is for you and your passengers. This can be a survivable issue. I do also carry one qt of oil, but if I had to pay $12 for a qt of oil at a gas station, I would pay it, its cheaper than an engine.

Out of a million or so miles, I have very seldom needed to make a repair on the road or very seldom change a tire. Yeah I have the basics and oil along but its not healthy anymore to try and do much on the road.

One thing I would say is that 6500 miles in two weeks is averaging over 450 miles a day. That’s a heavy workload for two weeks. You really need a day or two down time someone in there so I’d either cut a leg off the trip or extend the time. Why try to do everything in one trip? Plus you have some serious hills to deal with on that route.

Make sure all the routine maintenance is up to date and all the known issues w/the car have been addressed, spare tire is inflated, you know how to work the jack, etc. Other than that, with a 2010 model, you should be good to go. Whenever I take a long trip I gen-up a tool-case with stuff I think I might need. Especially a flashlight, socket set, and a 1/2 inch breaker bar and correct size socket for the wheel lugs. I always keep a big piece of still cardboard as a trunk-liner, which I can use to crawl under the car for an emergency fix without getting too grungy if I need to. I will usually pre-program my cell phone w/ telephone numbers of tow services along the way too.

btw, if you want to read about a fellow who drove a restored 1961 Corvair about the same number of miles across the USA this past summer, the article is in last month’s issue of Practical Classics magazine. Try this link, might work.

Alright. Appreciating all the help, will take this all into consideration. Thanks!

Hey VDCdriver, this is completely unrelated to this thread, and has to do with your following comment on a previous thread a couple months ago. You said:

“Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that believes–erroneously–that everyone is driving around with their CEL constantly lit-up. I would be willing to bet a cup of coffee that the CEL is flashing/blinking, after having been lit up on a steady basis for an extended period of time.”

This is not all you said. I was wondering what you were implying here. Because Im having the same problems as the OP of that thread, but unlike him I DID have my check engine light on, and now its blinking. I would appreciate any help

Please, do your wallet a favor, and drive directly to a qualified mechanic’s shop (NOT a chain operation, such as Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, AAMCO, etc) and have them determine the exact cause of the flashing/blinking CEL. I say that because a flashing/blinking CEL is an indication that the engine is misfiring, and every hour that you continue to drive the car simply increases the probability of destroying the very expensive catalytic converter and possibly doing expensive damage to the engine, as well.

When a CEL is lit-up steadily (not flashing/blinking) it can mean almost anything, from a trivial thing to something that is potentially more serious. A steadily-lit CEL should be interpreted as…“as soon as it is convenient, have the stored trouble codes read, and have the problem corrected”. On the other hand, when it gets to the stage of a flashing/blinking CEL, this should be your signal of a major problem that needs to be fixed immediately, lest you multiply the repair costs substantially.

Please make it your business to get your car to a qualified mechanic today.

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Please start a new thread for this discussion. However, VDCdriver is absolutely correct. You’re risking thousands of dollars in damage here (and maybe it’s too late by now).

ok thanks, wil do

I concur with the good advice you got here.
I would emphasize getting an oil change right before the trip, whether the
time has come for it or not.
It used to be true that Castrol conventional oil had superior viscosity behavior
at high temperatures. I have no idea whether this is still true.

Yup. I’ve got the “Plus” program which gives me a 100 mile tow. I couldn’t find a picture of the gold card that didn’t have a real name on it, though. :wink: