Road trip with an old car?

I drive a 1999 Toyota Tercel with 115 000 miles and no major problems . I’m planning a road trip across the U.S.A and Canada (for 2/3 months /16 500 miles) . I’ll be travelling alone for the most part of it and I would like to know if it’s possible to do such a long road trip with a 14 years old car. I understand that I’ll have to do some repair on the car to make sure it’s ready for it but what do I need to do, what do I need to change on the car? Is it better if I rent a car( Which would cost me at least 3 500$)
So, what do you think?
(My first language isn’t english so sorry if I made any mistakes)

No apology necessary. Thanks for writing in.

What you suggest is not at all unrealistic. Most properly maintained Toyotas (and other cars) commonly surpass 132,000 miles with no major problems. Simply be sure all the maintenance is freshly done, get the brakes checked and throw on some new pads, carry an auto club card (I use AAA), carry a cell phone and some change for a payphone (some of the midwest states have spotty cellphone service), and be sure your spare tire is in good shape. I’d carry a bottle of window wash and a roll of paper towels too. I do that anyway. Some places can have bug swarms that’ll make a godawful mess. If you go through one, stop at a self wash and spray the bugs off the radiator. Spare wiper blades might be a lifesaver too.

Don’t overload the car, drive responsibly, and enjoy the trip.

Check your manual and make sure you are up to date on maintenance as advised in the manual, esp timing belt if applicable. Have a once over as if you were buying a used car, looking for needed repairs, ball joints cracked cv boots etc.

Agree with @Barkydog and @mountainbike Make sure you have the car serviced at least 3 weeks before you go on the trip. That way you will know it’s working OK. Many people, including myself in the past, had the car serviced and then immediately left on holidays. Bad idea!

You have a mechanic near your home you use regularly and trust? Things that go wrong on long trips are usually minor. Before your trip have your car checked over, ask for a “safety check”. This will mean all your lights will be checked, and the brakes will be checked for function and pad wear. You should have your radiator and heater hoses checked, any soft hoses should be replaced. The serpentine belt should be replaced if it is over 5 years old. Have your oil changed and transmission fluid changed before you start the trip. Any tire(s) more than 1/2 worn might be replaced before the trip when you can get a good deal on tires from a known shop. Getting tires replace mid-trip can cause you to pay a lot more for tires in an emergency situation.

You will be covering a lot of miles in a few months. Figure to have one or two oil changes along the way as you are on the road. With a lot of highway miles you could go 7000 to 8000 between oil changes. Every morning check your oil level before you hit the road for the day. Long trips in hot climates might cause some oil to burn off and you might need to add oil, so I’d carry a quart of oil in the trunk with some towels or rags.

A AAA card for roadside assistance is a good idea, as is a cell phone. The miles on this kind of trip are easy “highway” miles and if you car is in good shape and maintained well it should be good to go for the trip.

BRAVO!! Go for it!

I’d add a few things to the excellent advice already given.

As far as the vehicle goes, Barky’s advice is spot on. To that I’ll add these maintenance items. Transmission: If you have an automatic transmission, and if the fluid has not been changed in 30,000 miles, NOW is the time. Cooling system: If you have not changed the coolant in the past 3 years, that’s a good start - some parts of the coolant wear out over time. You’d be wise to have a new thermostat installed, and get yourself a new radiator cap too. Both are probably ok, but these do fail and this is a good time to replace them, along with - maybe - radiator hoses if they are looking old (ask your mechanic). Electrical: have your battery load tested, and replace if it’s run down. Others here may disagree, but you might consider having the starter and alternator rebuilt (most people replace them, I get them rebuilt) so that you can be sure neither will be a problem on the road. Before I learned about this, I have had failures in inconvenient locations, far off the beaten track. Carry a few quarts of oil, a quart of automatic transmission fluid, small bottle of brake fluid, power steering fluid…just in case. If you don’t have a tire pressure gauge, get one and check tires when they are cool.

Even if you are not camping, you’ll be MUCH safer if you carry a good sleeping bag, a smallish tarp, a couple gallons of water, some emergency food, plastic eating utensils, small plastic dishpan, a few resealable containers like Tupperware, first aid supplies, light but strong rope, compact shovel (snow, mud). I carry much more than this, my vehicle is equipped with a compact kitchen-in-a-drawer, other drawers for clothing, camping gear, extra warm clothes, etc, but I rarely stay in motels.

Of course bring a full set of maps for the areas you’re visiting, and have pre-marked national parks and other points of interest. AAA tourbooks are great for mentioning places you might miss…but you probably already know many of the places you want to go.

Don’t be afraid to get off the interstate and just wander around! Have a great time!!


BTW, my last long trip was in a well loved vehicle with 290,000 miles, had no issues. I retired it soon after that trip, use it only around town. I consider a Toyota with 115k as low mileage.

I have to agree with @WesternRoadtripper. After all, look at his online handle. He must be a pro at this sort of thing.

A good friend of mine left on a similar trip in a Dodge Caravan with 275K miles on it a few years ago. He came back too, only the van had 282K. No problems or issues whatsoever.

In 2000, I picked up an 86 Tercel (14 years old then, same as yours now) out west with 188k miles on it and immediately drove it across country, so I say go for it.

Great advice up there. Be careful, enjoy the trip.