How to Keep Your Car on the Road for 200k Miles
Give your car a chance at going for the long haul by following these important tips.
Whether you're looking for a new or used vehicle, buying a car is a big financial commitment. But the purchase price is only part of the equation when it comes to getting the most value for your money. An equally important factor is how much use you get out of the car over the long haul. That last part is up to you!
Here are some of the best ways to give your vehicle a better chance of filling up the odometer before it has to be crushed or towed off to the junkyard.
Choose Wisely – Pick the Right Car
The first step in maximizing the value of your new or used car purchase is to select a make and model of vehicle that's likely to go the distance with you. Many of today's cars are manufactured to go at least 200,000 miles, but that’s not a guarantee. Some models tend to have recurring defects as they roll off of the factory floor.
Look for any industry news that indicates a particular model year might not be built for the long haul -- for example, in terms of the engine build, the positioning of parts like the manifold or catalytic converter.
Keep an Eye on the Oil
On the list of car maintenance must-do's this is at the top. Changing the oil is the most important part of engine maintenance. It's a major factor in whether your car will keep chugging along up to the 200,000 mile mark, or end up with the engine failing because of low oil or engine wear related to oil contaminants and sludge.
A lot of mechanics would agree that the goal is to keep an abundance of oil in the engine as it ages, and that the type of oil that you use doesn't make as much of a difference. 5W or 10W? Conventional or synthetic? Today's oils are manufactured for a wide temperature range and diverse conditions. The type of oil doesn't make as much of a difference as the oil cleanliness, regular oil changes and above all, adding oil if the dipstick is low.
As your vehicle gets older, it’s likely to burn or leak oil, which is why you have to constantly be checking to make sure the oil is up near the fill line. At the end of the day, the most important piece of advice is just to use the type of oil recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
Help Your Car Stand Up to the Elements
Another big part of preserving your vehicle involves those natural predators like rain, snow, sleet, hail and ice, as well as drastic temperature and humidity changes.
First, a garage-kept car is going to last longer. You can also preserve the body better with some routine washing and waxing. One of your key goals should be to prevent rust. A reason that many cars eventually go to the junkyard is because rust has eaten away at panels, fender wells or anywhere else that compromises the car’s structure and would be too expensive to repair.
In addition, you want to pay attention to your car’s belts, hoses and other connectors. Try to limit desert driving, and keep plenty of coolant in the vehicle in hot climates to prevent a lot of wear on parts like the water pump and radiator system.
Pump Up the Tires
In addition to keeping oil in the engine, a lot of auto experts suggest inflating your tires properly. Good tire inflation saves on fuel, but in some ways, it also promotes longer life for the vehicle while keeping drivers and passengers safer on the road. Making sure to rotate your tires properly is another way to ensure your tires (and your car) stay on the road longer.
Rack Up Highway Miles
A major contributor to your car's final odometer reading relates to the type of driving that you do, as well as where and when you drive.
Essentially, if you want your car to last 200,000 miles (or even onward to 300,000), give yourself a long commute. Those daily commutes of over 60 or 70 miles each way will really push up the mileage, without putting a lot of wear on the vehicle. You’ll make less use of the starter and battery ignition system and the flywheel, as well as the engine itself, and even other parts like the brakes and the doors. By contrast, the reverse is also true – for example, delivery drivers tend to put a lot of stress on their vehicles, which aren’t likely to last as long because of the shorter trips and all that start and stop action.
If long commutes aren't your thing, you can get the same effect by taking a long road trip or a regular Sunday drive. That being said, it's probably best to limit long trips and cross-country treks for a car once it gets up above the 150,000-mile range. There are some reasons that an older car might tend to break down during a long trip. Some of them have to do with engine overheating, as well as extreme pressure on those belts and hoses that we talked about before. In general, subjecting the vehicle to hours and hours of operation is a good way to get it to finally give up the ghost.
Put on Your Party Hat
So that's it. Keep oil in the car, keep it from rusting, make sure all of the fluids are topped off, stay out of the desert, stay out of the rain and stay out of traffic jams (easier said than done, we know). Give your car the T.L.C. that it needs and you stand a good chance of reaching that odometer rollover at 200,000 miles. Then all that's left to do is put on your party hat to celebrate this important milestone for your car.