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9 Common Problems That Can Occur on a Long Road Trip

car driving along desert highway in Nevada

Drive enough, and the questions go from "if" to "when"...

Meandering through the country (or world) is a great way to explore. But if you're road-tripping, make sure to have these basics down first.

By The Editors

Tue, Nov 15, 2022 07:53 PM PST

Featured Image by Alex Azabache on Unsplash.

A road trip, especially a long one, is one of those stimulating experiences that everyone looks forward to. It takes weeks, if not months, of prior preps and planning to be able to curate a perfect road trip. This might include churning the best route, arranging foods, drinks, any overnight stays, and the right vehicle, and preapring every essential document needed for the trip, especially if it's a trip through different states or even countries.

Even then, a long road trip might come with an abundance of 'out of the blue' and without-notice incidents that can put your long-planned trip on a sudden pause. This is why one must be acquainted with all those common problems that can occur on a long road trip. Here's a list of some of these common problems, so you can better plan your ultimate long road trip:

Engine Failure

It is only common knowledge that the engine is the heart of a car! As your body will devastatingly stop functioning if something happens to your beating heart, in the very same way, a well-functioning engine is required to propel a well-working vehicle. Often on a long road trip, seomtimes due to the continuous loads and speeds, the engine gets effected. In this case, having insurance with roadside assistance can be a lifesaver.

Before even starting on your road trip, you should get an engine tune-up. This should resolve all mechanical issues that might hinder your trip. Even during your trip, you can carry out check-ups and enhancements, for instance, replacing the PCV valve.

Health Issues

Ah! This might be the most common of all the troubles that can strike you on a long road trip - various health problems. This includes a cough, cold, nausea, fever, diarrhea, Meningococcal disease, and yellow fever. Dengue, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and various others ailments. OK, some of these might be a stretch, but you get the point.

You have to be ready and familiar with the medicine required to cure the most common of these problems. If you'll be away from home for a long time, it's recommended to visit your doctor before you kick off your road trip, and get prescribed the medicines you might need. Obviously, you should also make sure that are physically fit enough to carry out a long road trip.

Flat Tires

Getting a flat tire is not a problem that 'MIGHT occur' - it's more of a 'WILL occur' issue. The question is if it'll be on this road trip or the next..? Even if your insureance covers it, or if you have AAA, you should still be prepared to deal with it yourself. Maybe you're a long way away from helop, and/or you don't want to hang around waiting for someone to show up. You should definitely carry: 

- Tire wrench
- Jack
- Compact air compressor
- Tire gauge

Even a novice would know better than not carrying spare tires along with them. Apart from that, knowing how to change tires is the most crucial and requisite thing that will help you along.

mechanic checking on the tires at a tire shop
Photo by Jimmy Nilsson Masth on Unsplash

No Cell Reception

If your whole trip relies on where your GPS is taking you, be prepared to freak out every now and then. Even though we have officially entered the 'Technological Advanced' generation, there are many, many places you will encounter on your road trip where you will lose your cell reception.

A Car Can Run Out of Gas at a Random Place

This is the easiest and most invigorating problem that you can avoid by being smart and thinking ahead of time, way before the problem is highlighted.

Oftentimes, drivers who are not experienced in carrying out a long road trip will think of refilling their gas after the dashboard starts to scream that the tank needs it as soon as possible. This pushes your luck, and could result in the vehicle running out of gas in a place far from an actual gas station. Check if the fuel gauge is working properly or not, before you leave your mecahnic's shop. Also while palanning, check your map and find the gas stations along your route, and where they are far apart from each other.

Getting Lost

There's always a chance of you finding yourself on a road that you are not accustomed to. This can create some panic in the car, even in these technical and modern times when GPS is often within reach. If you're traveling with your family, this can actually become quite a struggle for everyone, so being best prepared is crucial to have a successful family trip.

Therefore, carrying a trusted and up-to-date hardcopy map is well advised. Make sure it covers the entire trip, and do your research before even commencing your road trip.

luggage seen in the foreground, looking out through the windshield of a car traveling down a road.
Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

Overheating Problems

On hot days your car might have a hard time keeping cool. Maybe you're continually driving uphill for an hour or two in the desert sun with your A/C on full blast. Most new cars can handle it, but if you see the temperature gauge start moving towards the red pull over immediately. If you catch it kreeping up slowly, you can help the engine keep cool by turning on the heater in the car. If you indeed are in the desert, in the summer, you'll also need to open the windows. Even so, you won't last long in the extreme heat that'll build up in your car, so this is just a fix to help you get a little further before pulling over.

Streaky Wipers

You can't possibly have a safe trip if you can't see through your windshield... Since you can't be sure of the weather throughout your trip - banking on SoCal sun on a multi-state journey is foolish - you'll want to make sure your wipers are good to go. Sitting in the California sun is not good for them, so even if they've never been used, they still aren't new.

looking through the windshield while driving in the rain.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A Crappy Playlist

Let's discuss the indisputably most common and prevalent problem that can actually spoil the vibe of the whole road trip - THE RIGHT MUSIC! So be well-prepared and take turns (if it is a group trip) playing music.


A road trip is full of surprises, unexpected events and incidents, problems you saw coming as well as issues that you least anticipated, and a million tales to tell. The only way you can make sure your journey is not a guilt trip rather than one that stays worth remembering is by planning and expecting anything and everything.

This article was compiled by the editors of LACar.

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