Preparing for a Road Trip
February 10, 2004 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Road trip help please! Can my car survive a 7 hour drive? And what I can do to improve survivability? (more inside)

I drive a '92 Ford Thunderbird with about 130k miles on it. the only problem I've ever had with it is that once it needed a new alternator on account of my inability to remember to deactivate the headlights. but that could mean I'm due for a serious problem, right? so far nothing in its performance stands out other than sometimes the steering wheel wiggles when I brake (no idea what that could indicate).

would a fresh oil change be worth the trouble? should I take a break every x-number of hours? advice please!
posted by mcsweetie to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
You can easily drive 8 hours through... I've done 16 before, although I was dead for two days afterwards, and on the third had to be revived with alcohol and sex, in that order.

Cars can easily survive 100,000 plus miles. However, the head shake worries me. That could be one of a few things -- an alignment problem that only shows up when your suspension is compressed under braking. It could also be a brake problem, most likely a warped brake rotor. At the worst, it's a problem with the suspension or front steering. Doubtful on the latter.

If you're really worried about driving ~500 miles (Based on 7 hours at 65mph), get your car checked out by a competent mechanic. 500 miles is nothing to a car of that vintage, and I wouldn't be too worried... but that being said, I would at least get the oil changed if it's been more than 3,000 miles since your last change. Also, even though it's winter, you might think about a coolant flush -- those big Ford engines have a tendency to get a mite warm after constant running.

As for your sanity on the trip, stop for food when you're hungry. I would suggest company if you can bring it ... otherwise, lots of variety in music. Definitely bring a cell phone, even if it's one of those pre-paid jobbies. If a family member is a member of AAA, you might think about getting a membership -- having someone to call in an emergency can be worth a lot in gremlin-scaring problems.

Other than that, good luck! Where are you going from & to?
posted by SpecialK at 5:21 PM on February 16, 2004

Response by poster: thanks for the tips. I'm drivin' some ruffians from ringgold, ga to someplace in florida to see modest mouse. I don't even like modest mouse! actually I like their version of sleepwalk all right but the original santo and farina version is untoppable!
posted by mcsweetie at 5:28 PM on February 16, 2004

Oil changes are always worth the trouble and in older cars getting them every 3000 miles can really make a difference. A seven hour trip is what, 700 miles total? If your car has been in good shape so far, I would assume it will be fine [IANAM]. To increase your chances, you could get it a tune-up and casually ask your mechanic, or assume if it's been fine it will continue to be fine. If the steering wheel wiggle is new and getting worse quickly, I'd get it looked at, otherwise I'd wait til you get back.

Things to bring for long trips include: extra water, a blanket [if you're anyplace where it's cold], spare oil, some rags to wipe up oil, jumper cables, AAA card [might be worth a membership if you're worried, or that newish non-AAA outfit that does the same stuff], tire gauge, spare winshield fluid, a good road atlas and maps of where you're going, fix-a-flat, WD-40, duct tape, cel phone if you have one, maybe a small toolkit [screwdriver, adjustable wrench, crowbar type thing], insurance and registration papers, drivers license. Make sure your spare is in good working condition and that you know how to change a tire if you need to. Beyond that, just make sure you're comfortable driving, you don't have to fish under the seat for anything, you have music and liquids for the drive. Stay hydrated and bathroom breaks will pretty much take care of the "take a break" thing. Some people drive better in the morning and some people like it better at night. Try to gauge how you fit in and don't drive during a part of the day that you hate. That said, seven hours is not too terribly long, one solid day, and road trips can be a good way to really get away from it all and get some new perspective, have fun.
posted by jessamyn at 5:29 PM on February 16, 2004

7-hour trip = 700 miles. Huh? Heh.

Also: if you feel your head bobbing, or notice your eyelids getting even a bit droopy -- PULL OVER. Do NOT risk falling asleep at the wheel -- it is much more common than many realize, and as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Get out, stretch, drink some coffee, and - most important - splash ice-cold water on your face a few times.

Good luck.
posted by davidmsc at 6:43 PM on February 16, 2004

7-hour trip = 700 miles. Huh? Heh.

assuming a round trip.... there and back. 14 hrs total, averaging 50mph. If this is seven hours total, meaning you'lll never be more than two hours from either your destination or your home, no problem at all.

Also, bring sunglasses if you are driving during the day, driving staring into the sun for five hours is not fun.
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on February 16, 2004

The wobbling, in my case (I had the same thing), turned out to be warped rotors... The OEM ones they use nowadays are such CRAP.
posted by shepd at 7:03 AM on February 17, 2004

Change the oil. Period. I can't mention it enough, but my ex-g/f ahd a Festiva with 252k miles on it (last I checked). The oil-change interval is still divisible by 3000, and damn if that thing isn't still running very strong!
posted by notsnot at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2004

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