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  1. Default Dallas to Albuquerque to San Francisco: Late August/Early September

    I am graduating this Summer and will be going to the Bay Area for my first job. I will start from Dallas in early September and want to reach the Bay Area in 2-3 days. I plan to travel from Dallas to Lubbock to Albuquerque, rest there for the night, then from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, rest there for the night and then onward to San Francisco. I will have all my clothes, books and kitchenware with me (that will fill the trunk and the back seats of the car.

    I drive a Toyota Camry that is really old (1991). But it runs very well. It has a V6 engine, runs very well, has new tires and is generally pretty well maintained other than some rust at the bottom (the car was in the East Coast before I got it).

    It gives around 25 miles to the gallon on highways and has a 12 gallon gas tank.

    1. What precautions should I take about the car? What are the points of inspection I should get done on the car before I embark on the trip? What parts typically fail in such an old car on such a long trip?

    2. Where should I plan to get gas along the way?

    3. Which AAA membership would you guys suggest (normal/premier)?

    4. I have never driven for more than 3 hours at a single go? What precautions should I take so that I dont fall asleep at the wheel, dont get bored?

    5. Where along the way should I be careful about safety? Highway Patrols pulling people up for going 5 miles over the limit? California checking every car?

    6. The car has Texas license plates and has Inspection sticker till May 2010. How soon after reaching California do I have to get new vehicle emission stickers? What documents should I carry about the car, in case I get pulled over by the highway patrol?
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 07-16-2009 at 01:24 AM. Reason: Deleted Duplicate Post - Don't create multiple threads about the same trip

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default starting

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Before we start with your questions, first a couple things about your plan. The trip you are looking at is 1800 miles, and 3 very full days is the absolute minimum amount of time you need for this trip. The route that you'd need to use would either go through Albquerque or Los Angeles, but not both. Albq is a logical place to stop for the first night, but the second you'd probably be looking at Needles CA. Once you get to Barstow, you'll want to continue on CA-58 to I-5 via Bakersfield.

    In answer to your questions:
    1 - Tell your mechanic that you are about to leave on a trip and they should be able to give you a good inspection. There are no specific parts that are at risk because of a roadtrip, but there are parts that simply wear out (and likely a lot of them on a car that's 18 years old) like belts and brakes that you'll want to have fixed before you get on the road.

    2 - Get gas whenever you get down to the 1/4 tank mark. With the exception of where you cross the Mojave, you'll really never go more than about 50 miles without having a gas station available. I would recommend filling up around Kingman before you get into California just to save some money.

    3 - I'm not a AAA member so I don't know the price difference. Service wise, paying for a higher tier of service will get you a lot more towing coverage, which could be worthwhile.

    4 - The biggest things to stay awake are pretty simple. One, don't try to drive too much in one day. 500-600 miles is generally the limit of what how far you can safely drive in a day. That requires 8-10 hours on the road in real world travel times. Second, stop early and often. Every couple of hours you should get out of your car and walk around a bit. A little excersize goes a long way towards keeping your energy up.

    5 - Yes, California does agriculture checks near the state line to look for fruits and veggies that could bring pests into the state. Otherwise, anytime you are going over the speed limit or breaking any traffic law, you're at risk of being pulled over. Certainly, in practice, going 5 over is unlikely to get you stopped, but its not impossible.

    6 - You'll want your registration and proof of insurance while on the road. You'll have to check with the California DMV to see how long you have before you register your vehicle at your new address. Its usually about 30 days, but each state is different and I don't remember the details for California. As part of your registration in California, you'll have about 2 months to get a California Smog Inspection and make any needed repairs before you get your plates.

  3. Default


    Thank you for the detailed replies. I will definitely keep in mind what you suggested about staying awake while driving long hours, making frequent stops to stretch out and about keeping the gas tank full.

    I will get an inspection done before my trip. (engine/timing belt, wheel bearings, cooling systems, gaskets, etc). My brakes were changed (drums and soles and hoses etc...) and they are pretty good, but will get them double-checked nonetheless. Also, I had an oil change done yesterday (!!!), so that base is covered. I will also top it up with fluids(brake/power steering). The car has a new battery as well (I have jumper cables also). I have not had the transmission fluid checked in a while, should I get that done?

    Thanks again for the wealth of information in your post.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default standard

    I have not had the transmission fluid checked in a while, should I get that done?
    Yes, but checking that and all of the other fluids should be a standard part of a pre-inspection trip by a mechanic.

  5. Default

    Michael, A few more questions:

    1. What are the signs of a worn out timing belt that needs to be replaced soon. I will get mine replaced if I have to before leaving TX (because I dont want to get stranded in the middle of the desert in Arizona!

    2. How do I know if my brake (drums/calipers) are in good shape? Is there anything I can do to check or do I have to go to a shop to get that done?

    3. How do I check if all gaskets/valves are in order under the hood? Visual inspection shows nothing major (only tiny amounts of oil/grease/grime on the engine body)

    4. How do I check integrity of the brake linings?

    5. Do I need to check the vacuum manifold? (one of my friends told me to!) Is this even important?

    6. Wheel bearings? Wheel balance/alignment?

    My mechanic situation is complicated by the fact that my trusted mechanic passed away this Spring! He was a really nice old guy, very honest and pretty much everyone from my school went to him to get their vehicles fixed. Now, we have a Meineke and everytime I have been there, this fellow tries to get me to change this or that! I dont trust him. I am sure this guy (or most other mechanics) will rip me off if I walk in and tell them I am embarking on a road trip and need to get the car in order! Thanks again for your help Michael (and anyone else who wants to take a swipe at the questions....)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default consult an expert

    I think everything that you've asked comes down to the fact that you need to find a mechanic that you can trust, who can not only answer those questions but actually check all of those things. Talk to your friends and see where they go, especially since they've probably had to be shopping for a new mechanic too.

    With some of the things you are talking about you can check your car's manual and see what the recommend service interval is. For example, a timing belt's life is usually about 60,000 miles, but its different for every car. Many of the things you can look at and tell visually roughly if they need work, but if you don't know how to do it or what to look for, there really isn't anyway you can learn that level of knowledge by looking for answers on an internet message board.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Memories

    This thread brings back memories of 2007. I was driving a 1994 Toyota Camry which had been completely checked over before I set off. It too had spent some of its most recent years on the east coast.

    It was in Albuquerque that my radiator sprung a leak. Fortunately this was just two blocks from a recommended mechanic. Four hours and more than $400 later I was on my way again. But.....

    it could have happened in the desert... it could have happened on the highway... it could have happened miles from anywhere and the towing costs would have been horrendous.

    May I suggest you get the radiator checked... or even replaced, for peace of mind.

    To find a reliable mechanic, contact your local office of the AAA, and ask for the name of one of their recommendations. Actually, for the little it costs, I would take out a AAA membership. That way you will be covered in the case of breakdown, etc. Go, have a chat to them.

    Lifey who has had great help from the AAA

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