Skip to Content

Will My Car Make It on a Road Trip?

Will My Car Make It on a Road Trip?

It’s that time of the year again, and you’re psyched up for your annual road trip across the country.

However, unlike other times, you’ve started questioning the state of your car. How good and reliable is it? 

No one likes an unreliable and unpredictable vehicle while on a road trip, as it might break down, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Well, if you’re questioning the state of your car, and aren’t sure whether it can make a long trip, here’s all you need to know!

Your car will comfortably make it on a road trip if it passes all state inspections and you always do regular maintenance according to the owner’s manual. If it does have any issues, make sure to take it to a mechanic well before you have to leave on your road trip.

Also make sure to avoid cars that constantly break down or untested second-hand vehicles on your long trips. 

Some previous owners might withhold crucial information about the state of their vehicle and hence visit a garage before completing its purchase and driving off. 

In today’s article, we’ll be looking at cars, the effects of long trips, and how to prepare for one. Let’s get started. 

When to Know That Your Car Isn’t Suited for a Road Trip

It can be scary when driving an old car for a long trip, as you’ll be questioning its strength and reliability.

However, you need not worry about its age but rather the state of its engine, drivetrain parts, wheels, wipers, etc. 

Car engines get weaker over time due to the wear and tear that comes with age. As engines age, their seals harden and brittle, the valve train and piston rings degenerate, and the throttle cable may overstretch and break.

The result is that it will lose a fraction of its horsepower and compression. 

Another challenge with older cars is worn-out pistons that can cause hot spots, leading to spontaneous combustion or knocks.

Spontaneous combustion is undesirable and causes the engine to adjust the ignition timing, resulting in a power loss.

Furthermore, having an overstretched throttle cable and clogged air filters inhibit air from flowing through the mass airflow sensor.

The result is that it might fail to trigger the fuel injectors, hence limiting your car’s performance.

If the injectors direct less-than-desirable amounts of fuel into the engine, your car won’t start. 

Long road trips

Do Cars Need Rest On Long Road Trips?

No. Cars are mechanical and shouldn’t need rest on long road trips. 

If your car is well-maintained, has the right tire pressure, and has sufficient oil, coolant, and water, you can drive or leave it running for as long as you want.

Challenges of Driving Non-Stop for Long Distances

Also, as tempting as driving for a few extra miles to save time, staying behind the wheel for extended periods is dangerous.

As a rule of the thumb, stop for at least 15-20 minutes every 2 hours to ensure you don’t suffer from highway hypnosis and fatigue. 

Highway hypnosis is very dangerous and affects most long-distance drivers, especially when they’re not used to driving for long distances.

Other causes include driving on monotonous roads, brain inattention, and sleepiness. 

And, it would be best if you didn’t confuse it with fatigued driving, as highway hypnosis puts you in a trance-like state; you’ll still be subconsciously in control of your vehicle.

Here Are Some Signs of Highway Hypnosis

  • Frequent blinking and slow breathing
  • You don’t recall some sections of your drive
  • You’re unintentionally driving faster
  • You have reduced attention span
  • You’re feeling sleepy when you shouldn’t

How You Can Prevent Highway Hypnosis

In as much as cars don’t need rest, you do. You need to refresh your body, especially if you’re not used to long-distance drives.

If you feel overwhelmed, drive off to a safe place, such as a motel, and resume your journey when you’re refreshed. 

Here are some tips to help you stop highway hypnosis:

  • Take a 15-minute break every two hours
  • Have coffee or tea to remain alert
  • Drive most of your journey during the day
  • Change your environment every once in a while
  • Roll down the windows when it’s hot
  • Keep checking the side view mirrors
  • Listen to different songs or podcasts
  • Drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration
  • Turn off the cruise control or adaptive cruise control
  • Talk or sing when driving
  • Eat lightly before driving or during stop-overs

Driving on monotonous roads will either directly or indirectly lead to brain inattention.

For example, driving through a road with hundreds of miles of pine trees on either side leads to brain inattention. Your brain zones off and will rely more on mental predictability over what you’re seeing. 

Therefore, take a break every two to three hours for your safety and those around you, depending on the road conditions and fatigue.

And some may argue that having a 20-minute break is a waste of time, but it might just save your life. 

Does Driving Long Distances Damage My Car?

Long-distance drives won’t damage your car, but will significantly increase its wear and tear levels.

If you’re planning on driving for long distances, ensure that your car is well maintained and insured.

It’s scary when your car starts sputtering or stalling just because you didn’t check the coolant level, and now you’re stranded. 

Also, having a spare set of wheels will save you if your wheels get punctured while on the road. 

However, driving for long distances will cause significant damage to cars that generally overheat.

Common causes of overheating include a non-functioning cooling system, a broken drive belt or water pump, plugged radiator, a faulty thermostat, and clogged hoses.

Other causes include:

  • Leaking engine head gasket.
  • Debris in front of the radiator.
  • Using cheaper fuels in a premium-fuel-only car.
  • A poorly maintained drivetrain.

Furthermore, driving long distances will expose certain faults that you wouldn’t normally recognize on shorter trips.

For example, if your radiator’s heat exchanger has mineral deposits on its inside wall, it will reduce the heat exchange surface. Consequently, heat builds up in the radiator, causing more damage.  

Preparing car

How to Prepare Your Car for a Long-Distance Travel

Here are a few tips to prepare your car for a long trip.

  • Wash your car or just the windows to improve visibility.
  • Check your battery and replace it if it’s old.
  • Inspect the interior of your car to ensure that the radio, power outlets, and navigation systems are working.
  • Inspect your vehicle to ensure it has the right water levels, lubricants, coolants (antifreeze), and fuel. Check the windshield washer, brake, power steering, and transmission fluids.
  • Ensure all the signals and lights are working on your car and trailer if you’re towing something.
  • Check your tire tread and replace the tires to suit the road conditions. Some tires are all-rounded, others favor off-road, while others suit driving on snow.
  • Align your tires to ensure that they’re worn out uniformly. Alternatively, you can rotate them before commencing your drive.
  • Train on how to do basic maintenance such as fixing or changing a flat tire and battery etc.
  • Have a roadside emergency kit with you.

Final Remarks on Getting Your Car Ready for a Road Trip

Long trips with friends and family are enjoyable and a great time to bond and admire what our beautiful country offers.

But, you wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself when your car stalls in the middle of a forest or some deserted place. 

Be smart, employ what we’ve discussed above, and you’ll be good to go.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!