Are Road Trips Bad for Your Car? What You Need To Know

Road trips involve open roads, new cities, and crazy experiences, making it the ultimate must-have travel experience. But being so far from home on unfamiliar roads can create a lot of anxiety, especially around your car. So are road trips bad for cars?

If you have been providing routine maintenance to your vehicle, road trips are not bad for your car. They can be better for your car than city miles. Highway miles are gentle on your engine, as the transmission gets a break from the gear shifting, and you’re not using the brakes as much.

In this article, I will be talking about why road trips can be good for your vehicle as well as the different issues you might face while on your trip so you can be prepared for anything.

Why Road Trips Aren’t Bad For Your Car

Before you get ready to go on your trip, you should get your car checked out by a mechanic. They will inspect all the components of the engine, transmission, brakes, tires, and fluids to make sure that your car is safe for the road.

Does Your Car Need To Rest on Road Trips?

People use to think that running your car for long periods of time is bad for your engine, which is the idea around the belief that road trips are bad for your car. This simply isn’t true.

Your car does not need to rest on road trips, because, mechanically, your vehicle’s engine can run forever without causing damage. If you had an infinite supply of fuel and drivers, then a vehicle could run without damage for as long as it has adequate lubrication, in the form of oil.

Therefore, oil and lubrication is the main determinant for engine health, which is why it is always recommended to get a fresh oil change before starting a long road trip.

Your vehicle can run for a long time without mechanical issues, so you don’t need to rest for the car’s sake. Stopping is still necessary for safety reasons, however, because humans don’t have unlimited energy. It’s recommended to stop every 2-4 hours to make sure that you’re staying refreshed and alert.

These stops can be short if you have multiple drivers, mainly used to refuel and switch drivers.

Are City Miles or Highway Miles Better for Your Car?

At first glance, highway miles may seem like they are worse for your vehicle. You are driving at higher speeds—occasionally in excess of 80 mph (128.74 kph)—and racking up the miles on your engine.

Highway miles are better for your car for many reasons:

  • The car can get up to its ideal operating temp so all components are functioning at their best.
  • There is less stopping and starting so the brakes and transmission get a break.
  • Highways are typically better maintained than off-highway roads.

City miles are the opposite. They may seem like they’re easy on your car but they actually produce a lot of wear and tear on your engine.

The biggest damage comes from the slowing down and speeding up that is common in city traffic. This leads to constant braking, gear shifting, and an inability for your engine to maintain its ideal temperature.

City miles do more damage to your vehicle. In theory, those short 15-minute trips to the grocery store are worse for your vehicle than a road trip may be.

Three Things That Can Cause Issues on Road Trips

Even though road trips are generally safe for your vehicle, there are still things that can go wrong. Remember that if you get your car examined by a mechanic before your trip, you can avoid these issues.

1. Brake Wear and Tear

Depending on your destination, you may have to drive through some mountain ranges during your trip. These mountain overpasses have steep grades which will wear your brakes more than normal driving. Use the next two strategies to stop that from happening.

Use Engine Braking To Save On Your Brakes

Engine braking is when you shift your car into a lower gear to do the braking for you. When in this lower gear, the RPMs of your car will go up and you won’t have to rely on your brakes to keep your speed down. This is not harmful to your engine at all and is a safe way to reduce overall wear and tear on your brakes.

Use The Brake Pumping Method

Brake pumping allows you to keep your brakes from wearing down too quickly.

For example, if you’re going down a hill and are picking up speed too quickly, instead of pressing down on the brakes continuously, you will hold the brakes for a couple of seconds, then release them.

Before you start to pick up speed, apply the brakes again. This method stops the brakes from overheating and burning as fast as they would if you were to sustain your braking down the entire hill. Engine braking is preferred over brake pumping whenever possible because you wouldn’t be using your brakes at all.

Of course, you could coast down the hill if you know the terrain well enough and can navigate it safely.

2. Engine Overheating

If you’re driving in an area with really high temperatures or your car wasn’t recently serviced, an overheated engine is a possible issue. There are a couple of potential causes of an overheated engine.

Low Fluids

If your vehicle is running low on fluids like coolant or oil, the engine will start heating up quickly. You can avoid this ahead of time by stocking your vehicle with extra motor oil and radiator coolant before your trip. If you don’t have any on hand, you can stop at the first gas station you see.

Damaged Parts

If the fluid levels are normal and your vehicle is still overheating, you may have bigger issues. It might be a malfunction of the radiator as a whole or damage to the seals throughout the engine. If you believe this to be the case, you should locate the nearest rest stop and take a thorough look at your car.

3. Flat Or Shredded Tires

As mentioned previously, a routine maintenance schedule is important to eliminate the risk of issues on road trips, which is especially important with your tires. Nothing can kill the joy of a road trip more than a flat tire or worse, a shredded tire on the side of the road.

There are a few precautions you must take to ensure your tires last the entire trip.

Check Your Tire Pressure Every Stop

It’s important to check your tire pressure after several hours of driving, which is especially important in hot temperatures on asphalt. When the tires get hot, air expands and the tire pressure will go up, which increases the risk of a blowout and can lead to unnecessary tire wear.

Don’t Forget Your Spare

Before you leave for your trip, you need to triple-check that you have a working spare tire. If you lose a tire and don’t have a spare, you may have to take an expensive tow truck ride to the nearest auto shop.

You should also brush up on your tire-changing skills before you leave to make sure that you can change a tire if you have to.

Conclusion

Road trips aren’t bad for your cars at all. The most important thing is to make sure that you keep a routine maintenance schedule and get your car looked at prior to going on your trip. If you have those two things down, you are well on your way to a beautiful, driving experience.

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