To drive or fly?

My wife and I will be volunteering two weeks this summer with the National Park Service in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.We will be staying in a cabin with a kitchen, bath and bedroom. We live in Dallas, Texas, approximately 3,200 miles roundtrip. Here’s the problem. My car is a 1997 Toyota Carolla with a current mileage of 108,000 miles. It’s running great. If we take the car (instead of flying and renting a car) we will be able to take whatever clothing, household supplies, and

recreational gear (photography & fishing)we want. Not so if we fly.

On one hand, there’s the expense of air fare and car rental fee, speed of travel, no fear of car breakdown. On the other hand, going by car allows us to carry what we want and not having the expenses of air fare and car rental, but taking longer with additional wear and tear on the car.

If we opt for the car, we need to consider the fact that the timing belt is scheduled to be replaced at 120,000 miles (every 60,000 miles. Should we change the timing bet, tensioner, perhaps water pump, before we leave for Yellowstone?

We would appreciate all the good advice you may have, as long as we don’t have to pay for it.

I’d totally drive-- it’s an incredibly beautiful trip to get there. It would be a good idea to do the timing belt service before you go (since you’re going to do it at some point anyways, right?) but if you don’t, it’s not like the thing is going to snap right exactly at 120,000 miles-- another few thousand miles of highway driving isn’t going to make a big difference.

The maintenance you are thinking would not be a bad idea, as well as any other items that might be on the list. A couple hour pretest drive on the interstate might not be a bad idea just to see how the car likes a long drive, and how you feel about 3 days on the road in the car. Another option might be the railroad, I believe they still do a car and passenger combo.

Agree with first two posters, go by car and thoroughly enjoy the trip. Also have the belt changed, etc. and the car inspected by your mechanic for such things as belts and hoses, etc. I’ve learned to always have this done 2 weeks BEFORE leaving, since any problems will crop up during that time and not during the trip. Years ago I had the cooling system done and left right after for a holiday in Eastern Canada in my 3 year old car. On an expressway in Montreal a rad hose blew and I barely made it to the next exit which luckily had a service station. The clamp on the hose was not tightened enough!

My sister and her husband took a holiday trip across the country to the West coast with their 7 year old Corolla. These are tough little cars and your mileage is quite low. I’ve driven across the country 7 times in cars ranging from 2 years to 11 years old, and never had a problem. The secret is preparation.

Your cooling system is most critical.

Enjoy your trip and summer!

Thanks. I checked Amtrack. The only rail/car route they have is VA to FL

Thanks, but Dallas to New Mexico takes all day (lousy scenery). We’ll need to make time, which means staying on the Interstates and major highways which makes for blah scenery until (depending on the route) one gets west of Denver or north of Salt Lake City.

On these cross country trips my wife and I alternate driving every 2 hours. We load up with great music, cooler in the back and also have things to talk about which we often did not have time for. We can cover 700-800 miles easily without getting too tired. You just need one overnight stop.

That is too bad, because that will not help a bit. I remember taking some questionable cars on road trips with the philosophy of after all these years it only has to run another 15 hours. My own mixed reviews on that comment!

If the car is in good condition and maintained up to date, take the car. No need to do service early but if the timing belt is due at 120K and you are at 115K prior to the trip go ahead and change it.

A mechanic check over prior to the trip is a good idea. At this point an oil change and other fresh fluids (coolant, transmission, etc.) will ease the wear and tear on your car. The most common reasons for on road breakdowns are tires, belts and hoses, and overheating. The check out should include a good look at the radiator, hoses, belts, and a wheels off check of the brakes. I don’t know the service interval for your Corolla but new plugs, ignition wires, and air filter will likely save you some gas. Highway driving is not taxing on the car. Keep your speeds moderate and don’t over pack and the car will handle it fine.

If your tires are more than 1/2 worn perhaps new tires in case you hit some rain. Put the money you save on airfare into the car and all will be fine.

There are a lot of people who ask about the timing belt and they are way over the suggested change interval. I’d drive and wait until I return to do the long interval standard maintenance items. The timing belt could pop during your trip, but that is highly unlikely. If you are near 120,000 miles before the trip, you could do it. And replace the belts and water pump at the same time (whenever you change the belt).

In all honesty, I’m surprised the belt hasn’t snapped yet. The car is 12 years old, and unless it’s been changed once already, is WAY overdue to be changed out due to time elapsed.