Preparing for a long drive - reliability improvements | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

Preparing for a long drive - reliability improvements


Explorer Addict
October 22, 2006
Reaction score
City, State
Huntington Beach, CA
Year, Model & Trim Level
98 XLT, OHV, 4D, 4x4, 5M
I'm considering a long drive later this year (about 1,200 miles each way) to visit some family and see some sights. Other than typical maintenance items, what stuff would you replace proactively as a reliability improvement?

Obviously the stuff like fresh oil, fresh fluids, belts, hoses, brakes, tires, suspension will be checked out.

I was thinking parts that are still original with 22 years and 256,000 miles on them that are "single point of failure" might be good ideas to replace, things like the ignition lock cylinder, ignition switch, or clutch master cylinder. What do you guys think?

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

U joint and other grease points, grease 'em before you go. See if your leaf spring shackles are still ok, they tend to get crusty.

Have had few alternators go bad, during my ownership of the car, though rarely people have spare on stand by (they're very easy to replace btw).

I recommend bringing tools
A good small tool set :usa:

Drive it gently. 2,400 miles isn't even 1 oil change interval. If you weren't planning a long trip would you be concerned that your vehicle can't make it to its next oil change? Hwy driving is pretty easy on a vehicle. Provided you check/replace stuff that's worn/questionable. I'd say the 2 biggest things to be concerned about is your alternator and your cooling system/radiator. Bring spares and a cheap tool kit. If you make it home without needing the parts you can always return them.

I recommend bringing tools
A good small tool set :usa:

I second that! Many years ago I was on vacation loaded with stuff and the family on a Sunday. Rear caliper locked up on my 02 Explorer. A quick stop at Advance to get the parts. Changed in their parking lot, wife helped bleed it. I returned the core and was back on the road. Always have some basic tools with you.

Another word of advise. If you do change parts before your trip do it plenty of time in advance so you know it’s all good. Last thing you want to do is change parts and leave right away for a long trip.

You may have said it already, change your valve cover gaskets and maybe drop the oil pan to inspect the condition of your oil pump pick up screen. That's a good time to replace the oil pan gasket.
Some time back I went on a long trip in a questionable vehicle and before I left I went by Autozone and purchased an alternator, a water pump and maybe a starter in case I needed them during the trip. Fortunately I didn't so when I got home I returned them and got my money back. That worked out well because when I got home I needed that money!
I just now saw that Phil said what I did...

I recommend bringing tools
A good small tool set :usa:
I would add to this getting AAA or add towing to your car insurance if you don't have it. Over the years AAA has been very useful for me. Especially when traveling. Plus, AAA will provide battery service, tire change, out of fuel, lockout service, extricating and towing. You can cover two cars and have free towing for up to 100 miles for $11.54 per month.

My SOHC Explorer has 308,000mi and I take it on an 800mi road trip every 4-6 weeks. I’d take it across the country tomorrow. Here’s my advice:

Start a maintenance logbook. I have one for every vehicle/engine I own. It allows you to do some pretty effective data analysis, and predict how much life the various parts in your vehicle have left. For example, I knew my LF wheel bearing was at 115,000mi and would be starting to wear out soon. I kept an eye on it. Sure enough, the growl developed 7,000mi later, and I already had the replacement sitting on the shelf :)

Get AAA or similar towing.

Carry a good spare tool set. Some guys like a box, but I prefer a large bag. It’s easier to stash away.

Using your maintenance log, stock your spares shelf and consider bringing the appropriate rare spares with you on road trips. The longer the trip, the more likely I am to preemptively replace a part that I know is getting old.

I won’t carry something common, like an alternator, simply because every auto parts store will have one in stock. If they’re closed, I’ll sleep in the truck until they open.

A couple quarts of oil and Mercon V aren’t a bad idea, in case you spring a slow leak, like a pinhole in a trans cooling line.

Make sure you have good walking shoes and clothing for the weather. Keep a small pillow in the truck, and a blanket or sleeping bag if it’s cold. A few bottles of water are smart, too.

Ridesharing apps are good to have on your phone. If you break down 10 miles from an auto parts store and they won’t deliver, grab an Uber/Lyft ride to the store. Much cheaper than a cab.

Thanks everyone! great suggestions. I already have a mobile tool kit and am going to put together a box of extra fluids and parts. I do have AAA.

Change the fuel filter and air filter.

Check the belt and all pulleys, plus the tensioner. Check tire pressures early to know if any leak, and fix them now if needed.

Also, packing a portable 12V air compressor isn't a bad idea.

Second the AAA Service. The wife had to use it when the local oil change outfit didn't get the lower cover bolts tight. A couple of them fell out so the cover dropped to the ground and was rubbing. She freaked out, called me 3 hours away, late on Sunday night and I had to work the next day.

She called AAA, they towed it to the nearest Ford dealer and dropped her off at a Hotel. The next morning they re-installed the cover and she was on her way.

No, if I had known that was all it was, I could have drove and cable tied it up until we got it home. Don't know if your spouse can make a simple thing sound like the engine is going...

Your insurance company may, like mine, offer towing coverage for a tiny fraction of AAA costs.

But also consider the big picture. After paying the premium for years and not using the service, the point is reached where more is paid for the insurance than what it would have cost out-of-pocket for the breakdown! In that case, it's better to self-insure. Need lucky guess or crystal ball to know which way to go.

But also consider the big picture. After paying the premium for years and not using the service, the point is reached where more is paid for the insurance than what it would have cost out-of-pocket for the breakdown! In that case, it's better to self-insure. Need lucky guess or crystal ball to know which way to go.
The thing with AAA is they are everywhere and getting them to you is pretty quick. I haven't ever waited more than an hour for them to arrive. I like the piece of mind knowing my wife, and kids when they were in the house and driving, had a resource to call on when I wasn't close or able to go to them quickly. Sometimes the peace of mind is worth the price.

If's it running fine now, & your caught up on regular maintenance, Don't worry about it.
Take some tools, gallon or 2 of water, a gas can, some zip ties & duct tape. 12V portable air compressor.
Make sure your tires are good, no nails or damage. Make sure your spare is good as well & fill it to the proper PSI.
AAA is ok, but be sure to get the extended mileage coverage. The basic is only 5 miles before you pay some absurd amount for each mile over. I had a almost 60 mile tow one time on another car & it was overt $200. On top of the $ I gave them for membership.

If you’re gonna bring a compressor, bring a small patch kit too. No sense in filling a pool with a hole in it.

Definitely check your hoses and belts like was said above. Something simple like that can turn into a big headache. I plan on taking a trip with mine in the next few months and I think mine has original hoses. I plan on replacing them before I leave.