Are Long Road Trips Bad for Cars? The Truth You Need to Know

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Taking a long drive during a summer road trip or during the holidays offers an exhilarating taste of freedom and adventure, but are long road trips bad for cars?

Experience the vast landscapes and open roads—there is so much to see! You will most likely need to hop in the car to get to where you want to go.

I thrive on getting outside my everyday “bubble,” exploring new areas, and revisiting some of the places I love the most—like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Still, before setting out, it's crucial to consider the potential issues of using older cars or even new cars for such journeys.

Cars driving along asphalt road in a wooded area in the spring season.

The Impact of Long Road Trips on Car Health

Engine Wear and Tear: Long-distance drives can overheat engine parts, which may impact internal components over a long time. 

As a responsible car owner, your role is crucial, especially when it comes to older cars. Regular oil changes and monitoring engine oil levels using dashboard lights are vital for keeping your car's engine in top shape.

Tire Degradation: Constant use on interstate highways can lead to flat tires if not monitored for correct pressure, which is a crucial step to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.

Note: If you are traveling with a trailer, tire degradation is a major concern. While your trailer tires might not have many miles on them, that doesn't mean they are road-worthy.

It's a good idea to replace them every 3-5 years, regardless of the miles. Trust me when I say it's no fun when the tire tread is flying off the wheels as you drive down the highway!

Boondocking camper in desert. Black truck and fifth wheel campsite at Goblin Valley State Park.
Boondocking camper in desert. Black truck and fifth wheel campsite at Goblin Valley State Park.” by Evan Mullins is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

Key Preventive Measures for Long-Distance Driving

Preparation is Key: Frequent oil level checks are necessary, but don't forget the importance of ensuring correct tire pressure. This is especially crucial before a long journey or frequent short trips.

And remember, it's equally important to check these things while on your adventure! Also, check your washer fluid level!

Spare Tire and Tools: Always carry a spare tire and tools, which are essential when dealing with typical car troubles like flat tires and other mechanical issues.

Person bent over car engine checking oil level.
Checking the oil” by bradleyolin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Benefits and Risks of Long-Distance Journeys

Benefits for Your Vehicle: Contrary to common belief, taking vehicles on a long-distance journey can be beneficial.

It helps keep the battery charged and maintains the health of your vehicle's performance, giving you the confidence to embark on your adventure. 

It helps keep the battery charged and maintains the health of your vehicle's performance. 

Taking an older vehicle? If so, they often have simpler mechanical systems, making them easier to repair in case of a breakdown.

Mitigating Risks: Check the car's engine temperature to prevent overheating, especially in high temperatures or heavy rain.

person on the ground changing a car tire
Car maintenance” by Mr_Hutz is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Alternatives to Driving Your Own Car

Considering fuel costs and potential damage, renting a vehicle can be a wiser choice for those concerned about their car's wear and tear.

Tips for Fuel Efficiency and Safety on Long Road Trips

Maintain Steady Speeds: Adhering to the speed limit using cruise control can help maintain consistent speeds and improve fuel efficiency.

Minimize Heavy Loads: Lighten your load to reduce fuel consumption and improve your car's performance.

Plan Your Route: Choosing the best route with optimal road conditions can save fuel and time and ensure a smoother long-distance drive.

Regular Breaks: Taking regular breaks is just one part of road trip safety.

Breaks can prevent driver fatigue and the risk of blood clots—a critical aspect often highlighted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This is a great reference if you need some ways to cope with being tired while driving.

Graphic showing pages to a Free 'Boredom Buster' Ebook - Tips for Turning Long Drives into Fun, Engaging Journeys.

Final Thoughts: Are Long Road Trips Bad for Cars

While long road trips can be challenging for your vehicle, they offer a chance to explore destinations that are off the beaten path and create memorable experiences.

The daily commute and city driving typically pose more frequent short-term challenges than a properly managed long journey. 

With the right preparation and maintenance, you can confidently mitigate most risks associated with long hours on the road. This includes regular oil changes and checking windshield wipers for clear visibility in all weather conditions. 

This includes regular oil changes and checking windshield wipers for clear visibility in all weather conditions. 

Don't forget that the air quality inside your vehicle is crucial to prevent driver fatigue.

Ultimately, whether it's a quick drive, short distance, or round trip, the key to a successful long-distance journey is enjoying the ride safely and economically.

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This image features a black SUV driving on a dirt road with lush greenery and mountainous terrain in the background. The top part of the image contains the text "How Long Road Trips Effect your Car," and the bottom part includes the website "ANACREINTHECITY.COM" on a green banner.
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