Old Car, Long Drive - sensible?

Hi Car Mechanics,

I may have found a loophole to jump through enabling me to get back out to the Alps for winter. It is however a total mess so I'd like to take a car. I have Grandpa raver's 2003 focus mk 1 which has done a measly 75,000 miles and has been pretty well looked after, maintained by the same garage all that time, sailed through it's MOT etc. (Pre-COVID I never needed a 'permanent car).

However, like googling symptoms late at night, I started to look at things that could go wrong and am now paranoid that it's going to explode for a whole load of reasons I'd never heard of yesterday (I'm am no car mechanic, I'm cack-handed enough with a bike).

Am I mad?

The premium for break down insurance is literally more than the car is worth, any prang/breakdown is going to (rather, unfortunately, and very unecologically) send it to the/le scrap yard.

I drove it up to that London and back from Cornwall and it was fine, surprisingly fuel-efficient even. The trouble is that because the visa situation has been so stressful I'm just adding uncertainty and so working myself up into a state.

I've packed a decent tool kit with all the fluids (about my limit), is there anything else I could do/check before I go?

Thanks all...
We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
- @ddraver
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Comments

  • briantrumpet
    briantrumpet Posts: 18,208
    My '03 Almera made it down and back easily enough (1700 miles) last summer, though the driver (me) found it quite tiring...

    Reminds me... I should check that my breakdown insurance still covers France... hmm, might have been one thing I forgot to do.
  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,751
    Don't think there's much you can do other than the basics - oil, water, tyre pressures etc then cross your fingers.

    I'd probably want to know what I was going to do if it did break down.

    Sounds like a bit of an adventure though - maybe pack something to eat, drink and stay warm in case you do get stranded somewhere for a few hours.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • briantrumpet
    briantrumpet Posts: 18,208
    Oh, don't forget that you'll need winter tyres fitted, by law. But you probably knew that...
  • briantrumpet
    briantrumpet Posts: 18,208
    Just checked my Nationwide Flex Plus insurance coverage, and yes, it still covers European breakdown recovery in the £13-per-month account fee. It was one of the reasons I opened the account in the first place, so I'm glad it's still covered.
  • I’d check the laws of the countries you’re driving through for driving - French laws require you to possess breathalysers, breakdown triangles and hi viz jackets. Germany requires you to have winter tyres on all wheels fitted if you’re driving in snowy conditions and you also have to pack snow chains. So plan ahead and don’t just jump in the car and hope for the best.

    I’d also say you’re looking at breakdown assistance the wrong way round. Don’t compare it to the value of the car, but how much it could cost you if you’re stranded. All cars breakdown, even 3 month old ones and can leave you high and dry. On my last trip to Dijon, in a new car, I suffered a puncture. Cut a long story short (I thought I had assistance, but didn’t), I had to fork out for taxis which was in excess of 300 euros, had no transport for 3 days in a very rural part of France as the garages were closed. And despite having a puncture on only one wheel, had to buy two new tyres because French rules say you have to replace the tyres on both sides so the treads are equally matched. I’d never drive anywhere now without assistance. I think it’s a false economy - and I’m quite handy with a spanner.
  • seanoconn
    seanoconn Posts: 11,479
    When was its last service?
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • drhaggis
    drhaggis Posts: 1,150
    ^^^ This

    My old Focus Mk 1 developed electrical gremlins, and I know it's not a terribly uncommon issue on Mk 1's. Without a spare wheel, a cut to the sidewall is terminal. Spark plugs do sometimes fail in old cars, although you can still drive the car to a garage.

    If any of that happens to you in the middle of the alps, what are you going to do? The slightest eventuality, out of a city, would likely cost you several £100's. If the issue is really the end of the car, can you dispose of it in France? Why's the insurer charging so much for the breakdown premium?

    For the record, I don't think it's too crazy of an idea, if you know the car, but you need to CYA.
  • webboo
    webboo Posts: 6,087
    My mate rode to Alps on a Honda 50 back in the day. If you posted this question on UKClimbing, you would find lots of people have done the trip in cars that most wouldn’t risk a trip to local shops in.
  • orraloon
    orraloon Posts: 12,773

    Just checked my Nationwide Flex Plus insurance coverage, and yes, it still covers European breakdown recovery in the £13-per-month account fee. It was one of the reasons I opened the account in the first place, so I'm glad it's still covered.

    Which I have also, though the European aspect hasn't been exercised a lot these past 2 years.

    Check out breakdown cover options via moneysavingexpert.

    Are you worried about the transit journey and/or return or do you want cover for the full time you are there?
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,781
    I'd not bother with the car. Not helpful I know.
  • I am going to say that '03 and 77,000 miles is not that old plus you know the history

    I would look harder at breakdown cover
  • veronese68
    veronese68 Posts: 27,412
    What SC says, that's not very old. My son's daily driver is 34 years old. If it's been well looked after it should be fine, if anything does go wrong with it there's a reasonable chance a small town mechanic can fix it becasue it's not all computerised. As mentioned above look at something like Money Saving Expert for breakdown cover, I think I pay about £60 for European cover.
  • lesfirth
    lesfirth Posts: 1,382
    edited December 2021
    I spent most of my working life fixing cars. I have driven all over Europe often pulling a caravan.

    IMHO Compared to cold starts and short trips, bowling along a motorway at 70mph is no problem. The most likely bits to give a problem are the rubber bits i.e. drive belts and water hoses. If any of them are 18 yrs old I would get them changed.

    Many ( 40?) years ago when an Asian customer collected his car after a service, he casually mention he was going home in it. I tactfully asked where home was and yes ,it was Pakistan. He said he had done it before and there were only a few hundred miles that were not paved! A while later he confirmed that he had been home and back without any problems.

    Enjoy the trip.
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,781
    It used to be the case that you could drive an old car to West Africa and sell it for a lot more than you bought it. I wouldn't have fancied the breakdown risk in the sahara though.
  • daniel_b
    daniel_b Posts: 11,620
    edited December 2021
    I recall when we had our 2001 Volvo V70 with a lot more miles than that on it, the European cover costs seemed to ramp up when it became more than 15 years old, so yes the costs were more, but still viable.

    We have driven down to Tuscany in a 2000 Nissan many times, and also in the Volvo down there, and into the alps, and also all over France multiple times.

    I'd ensure you had a spare wheel, jack etc, and know how to use it, and as mentioned different countries require some fairly complex requirements, that you don't want to risk going without.
    With regards to winter tyres, I have Michelin Cross Climate +s on my current vehicle, they run fine in the dry and normal weather, but also have winter credentials which to the best of my knowledge means they will meet the required criteria.
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • if you don't need a car when you get there have you considered renting one on a one way basis
  • capt_slog
    capt_slog Posts: 3,952
    This reminds me of when I was in a motorcycle club. Most of us owned 'nice' bikes, mine was a Ducati, and some of the group liked to tour in Europe.

    But one guy used a CZ(?) sort of the motorcycle equivalent of a Skoda (this was the 80's, and Skoda was very different then). I think he bought it used but even new it was a few hundred pounds, unlike the £1500 to £2500 others were riding.

    He reasoned that if it did break down catastrophically whilst he was away, he would just leave it and get back however he could! He asked the quite reasonable question of what we would do, and although we scoffed, he did have a point.

    Does that car owe you much?


    The older I get, the better I was.

  • carbonclem
    carbonclem Posts: 1,631
    I’ve been all over the Alps etc in a 1968 VW Camper. I wouldn’t be in the slightest concerned about driving the car you’ve described.
    2020/2021/2022 Metric Century Challenge Winner
  • masjer
    masjer Posts: 2,592
    webboo said:

    My mate rode to Alps on a Honda 50 back in the day.


    Has he made it back yet?
  • hdow
    hdow Posts: 184
    It seems that on French motorways and dual carriageways you must use the emergency phones or call 112 for assistance not your recovery provider. There is a standard charge of 131.94 Euros (plus parts plus more if the repair is lengthy)
  • ddraver
    ddraver Posts: 26,405
    edited December 2021
    hdow - that's what I saw, and I think if it requires a lengthy repair its just going to be scrapped. Have a box of stuff to post back, the rest I can do on the TGV

    Brain - I thought it was still Winter tyres OR chains. I have chains and, being a transfer driver, am pretty slick at them now. If the job paperwork works out I'll put winters on it there. To be honest in cornwall they just think I mean 4 season tyres and have no idea where to get proper winters anyway

    Bean - if I was going to a proper ski resort I would too, but I'm based a bit further down the valley this year. Plus (not to brag, but), I've got a bit bored of the resorts the past few years and would like something to drive to other places to do some touring etc.

    I'll re-look at the breakdown cover...

    Thanks all!
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • TheBigBean
    TheBigBean Posts: 20,781
    ddraver said:



    Bean - if I was going to a proper ski resort I would too, but I'm based a bit further down the valley this year. Plus (not to brag, but), I've got a bit bored of the resorts the past few years and would like something to drive to other places to do some touring etc.

    Can you park at most European resorts? In North America it works well with cars as you can often ski to and from them, but my imagination of Europe would be that it was difficult parking and you'll be on the ski bus most days. That said, one of the good things about skiing in North America is that you are typically based in a town rather than a ski resort, so you have better access to amenities. So, if you are doing that this year, it can be quite good.
  • ddraver
    ddraver Posts: 26,405
    My accommodation has a space. I can get up to the local resort (which one that will be is still flippin' unconfirmed) but I would like to go further.

    Basically, it sounds like it's a total cluster flip over there at the moment. I was supposed to start on Dec 1 but I couldn't because we didn't think we had the paperwork - now turns out we didn't need it...maybe...
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • Ben6899
    Ben6899 Posts: 9,686
    edited December 2021
    Depending how long you're going for, it might be cheaper to rent a car after taking into account insurance, proper winter tyres, breakdown cover etc.

    To clarify, if the car is serviced and well looked after, I would drive it... it would only be the additional costs (which you'll find are mostly included in rental price - eg a good rental company will put some winters on at no extra cost) that would put me off.
    Ben

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  • I drive an 02 plate mk1 Focus daily. 1.6 16v Zetec petrol. We've owned it since it was 6 months old and it's only just clocked up 90k miles. Apart from wear parts like brake pads / discs, and occasionally replacing the lower front suspension arms because the boots / ball joints were failing, it's been pretty reliable TBH.
    In 20 years it needed a new coil pack on two occasions (£50 part and 10 minutes to fit DIY) and earlier this year one of the sensors on the power steering sprang a leak and dumped all the fluid; gave that one to the garage to fix - just over £100. The cables going into the tailgate have started to break where they flex so no heated rear screen now, plus the OSF window refuses to work. Oh and the radio's packed up..

    Still on the original exhaust, rear brake shoes & drums, and all the hoses :o

    Biggest issue (£££) has been corrosion of the sills just forward of the rear wheel arches. Bit of a mud trap behind the carpet wheel arch liners. Both required a bit of welding to get it through successive MOTs

    Just make sure the cambelt was changed when it should have been.

  • ddraver
    ddraver Posts: 26,405
    Munsford0 said:



    Just make sure the cambelt was changed when it should have been.

    That's my biggest fear honestly...

    Mostly because dear Grandpa Raver can't remember if it was ever done, he'll have just done what the garage said to do (which could go either way...)
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • why not quickly get it done now and check?
  • ddraver
    ddraver Posts: 26,405
    Because the job would cost more than the car is worth :)
    We're in danger of confusing passion with incompetence
    - @ddraver
  • briantrumpet
    briantrumpet Posts: 18,208
    ddraver said:

    hdow - that's what I saw, and I think if it requires a lengthy repair its just going to be scrapped. Have a box of stuff to post back, the rest I can do on the TGV

    Brain - I thought it was still Winter tyres OR chains. I have chains and, being a transfer driver, am pretty slick at them now. If the job paperwork works out I'll put winters on it there. To be honest in cornwall they just think I mean 4 season tyres and have no idea where to get proper winters anyway

    Bean - if I was going to a proper ski resort I would too, but I'm based a bit further down the valley this year. Plus (not to brag, but), I've got a bit bored of the resorts the past few years and would like something to drive to other places to do some touring etc.

    I'll re-look at the breakdown cover...

    Thanks all!


    Sorry, yes, you're right re chains, I think, though worth double checking, as I think there have been one or two changes in the past 12 months. I've only tried chains once, and was rubbish at them, as was the person who owned them and whose car we were trying to put them on.