How To Make Your Car Last 100,000 Miles… Or Longer

100000-miles-by-Muffet.jpgMy current car has been driven about 40,000 miles in the last 3 years.

I never imagined I would keep a car past 50,000 miles.  Normally, I would be looking to buy a new car very soon — especially since I don’t handle breakdowns well.

However, now I want my car to last forever (or at least another 3 years).

While I don’t expect that my car will make it anywhere near the 300,000 miles that can sometimes be achieved with excellent maintenance, I do think that making it to 100,000 miles is a reasonable expectation.

According to Consumer Reports, the average life expectancy of a modern vehicle is about 8 years and 150,000 miles. If a vehicle makes it to 200,000 miles, you are riding on borrowed time and the car is paying you back.  Source

 

Here are the best tips I’ve found to make your car last longer…

 

Oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

This is true even if the manufacturer’s recommendation states every 6,000 miles. Consider it cheap insurance that goes a long way toward ensuring your car’s long life.

While it’s not uncommon to find people who believe that frequent oil changes are unnecessary, those who have had cars last longer than most would beg to differ.

If you’re interested in doing it yourself, here’s how to change the oil in your car.

 

Your car should have a tune-up every year. 

Some newer cars boast only needing 100,000 mile tune-ups, but it doesn’t hurt to have an overall checkup once a year — especially if you want your car to make it past 100,000 miles.

A tune-up is when the air filter, spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor, fuel filter, PCV valve, and oxygen sensor are checked and/or changed.  All of the car’s systems are also checked for damage and wear.

 

Have your air filter checked (not necessarily replaced) at each oil change. 

A dirty air filter, even after just 5,000 miles after a change, can cost you up to 7% of your gas mileage. While a dirty air filter causes fuel inefficiency, a filthy air filter can cause a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle.

If you take your car to a service station to have the oil changed (instead of doing it yourself), you can save a few bucks by simply replacing the air filter yourself instead of letting them do it for you. Just be sure to let them know ahead of time that you want to know the condition of your air filter, but you don’t want to buy a new air filter.

It’s easy enough to look up the make and model of your vehicle in the air filter book found at any auto repair store. And it’s even easier to open the compartment under your car’s hood, remove the old air filter, and put a new air filter in. No tools required!

 

Get your tires rotated every time you get the oil changed.

If you want all of your car’s tires to wear evenly, then you should have your tires rotated (and balanced) every time you get your oil changed.

Depending on the type of tires that are on your vehicle, if you have a spare tire, then you may also want to include the spare tire in the tire rotation sequence each time. If so, then you will have to specially request it, since most service centers won’t do this automatically.

 

Get a wheel alignment whenever you change your tires.

…Or, if you happen to notice that the alignment is off.

Contrary to popular belief, wheel alignment and wheel balancing are not the same thing:

  • If a wheel is out of balance, it will cause a vibration at highway speeds that can be felt in the steering wheel and/or the seat.
  • If the alignment is out, it can cause excessive tirewear and steering or tracking problems.

Driving around with mis-aligned tires and unbalanced tires will cause unnecessary wear and tear on your car.

 

A fuel injector cleaner should be added after every oil change.

Fuel injector cleaners:

Prevent deposits from forming in the gas tank.
Keep the all-important fuel injectors clean.
Remove moisture from the fuel system.

This is not a regular part of an oil change, so you need to specially request it. Or, save a few bucks and add a fuel injector cleaner yourself after each oil change.

 

Find an excellent mechanic that you can trust.

This takes some time, along with some trial and error, but it’s worth it. If you’ve ever had bad car service, then you know how important this is in order to avoid having to go through such an experience again!

Once you find someone who takes care of your car as if it is their own, you will probably stick with them for life!

Here are 5 tips for choosing the right auto repair shop.

 

Keep log of all auto repairs and routine maintenance. 

When it comes time to sell your car, a vehicle repair log will ultimately add to your car’s value — because it shows that you took good care of your car.

Of course, it also helps you to keep track of all repairs and service performed on your car, which makes it easier a lot easier when it comes time to make future auto repair appointments. After all, who can remember all the details of the work that’s already been done? An auto repair log will save the day!

Keeping a strict auto maintenance schedule will also help you prevent car troubles ahead of time instead of having to deal with them as costly repairs after the fact.

 

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More Ways To Make Your Car Last Longer

 

Andrea Hermitt

I have been a certified tightwad since I became pregnant with my first child and decided to find a way to stay home with him. I enjoy sharing my experiences in my journey back to financial health and planning for a future -- which will include sending 2 kids to college and early retirement.

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  • Robert Platt Bell

    Thanks for the link to my website in your article, but I beg to differ on a number of items:

    1. Tuneups are unnecessary. Spark plugs on modern cars can last as long as 100,000 miles. Most new cars have coil-over-plug ignition and thus do not have “caps and rotors” to replace. Oxygen sensors are slated for replacement at 100,000 miles as well. Over-maintenance of these items will not make your car last longer, it will just lighten your wallet.

    2. Oil changes, with synthetic oils, can be as infrequent as 10,000 miles. Given that the labor is more than the cost of the oil, this makes more sense than changing oil every 3,000 miles with mineral-based oils. Also, cars run cleaner with fuel injection, and over-changing your oil has little or no effect on engine life.

    3. Front end alignment is only necessary when you hit a curb, have uneven tire wear problems, a crooked steering wheel, or just had major suspension work done. Many cars can go 100,000 miles without a front end alignment.

    Cars last longer today simply because material science has improved and fuel injection means that engines run cleaner. Also, longer warranties mean that cars tend to last longer, as manufacturers use better parts. Most cars today have aluminized or stainless steel exhausts, for example, that outlive the mild steel exhuasts in a 1960’s-era car by a factor of five or more. Many cars go to the junkyard with the original exhausts.

    Ditto for struts, shocks, and other suspension components.

    Get a reasonable life out of a car – and then sell it. Trying to make the Subaru 300,000 mile club so you have bragging right (and spending thousands on an old clunker) makes no sense.

    Once major components start to fail, at about 150,000 to 200,000 miles, it is time to pack it in.

    As for fuel injector cleaner, I think that is over-rated as well, unless you use really cheap gas all the time.

    A few tankfuls of Chevron will usually do the same thing. Or, if you burn high-test (because your car requires it) generally cleaner is not needed.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Hey thanks for the feedback, Robert!

      • Robert Platt Bell

        Over-maintenance can be a waste of money on most cars. Google “the Waddington Effect” sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

        When I worked at GM back in the 1970’s, much of the advice you have here made sense – frequent tuneups and oil changes, etc.

        But in the last 40 years, cars have changed a lot, and most gasoline-engine cars need less maintenance than Diesels these days.

        In fact, at about the 100,000 to 150,000 mile mark, a whole host of components reach their failure point – the oxygen sensors, spark plugs, struts and shocks, ball joints, tie rods, CV joints, etc. Plus, the car is ready for a third set of tires and a third set of rotors.

        Combined, the repair costs easily exceed the market value of the car.

        And that is when you get rid of a car – when the repair costs exceeds the market value.

        Unfortunately, a lot of people throw money at a car trying to make it last to 200,000 miles or 300,000 miles. They spend hundreds a month on seemingly endless repairs.

        And then they go out and do just the worst possible thing – they buy a brand-new car, or worse yet, lease one.

        The best value is a late-model used car, with less than 50,000 miles on the clock. drive it for 100,000 miles or so and move on to the next car.

        There is a law of diminishing returns, known as the Weibull curve (again, worth googling).

  • Robert Platt Bell

    Is this a real article or just SEO clickbait? Just wondering.

  • Robert Platt Bell

    The big problem, as a car gets older, is that a lot of “little things” go wrong, making the car less enjoyable.

    And as the car gets older, you start to lose confidence in it, and think twice before taking it on long vacations or business trips.

    I bought my 2002 X5 with 50,000 miles on it. It has 150,000 on it now and runs OK, although it is showing signs of wear (minor scratches and wear, inside and out). Small things go bad and are annoying. On a recent trip up North, a coil went bad ($70), the door handle broke ($35) and window regulator died ($40). Those are the parts cost – I did the labor myself.

    Since many 2002 X5’s are headed to the junkyard, parts costs are lower – parts sellers realize they need to unload parts before the cars are gone for good. And since the car is worth maybe $7000 now (as opposed to $53,000 new) no one wants to put money into such a car. A new set of tires is over $1200, and that is the next big decision point for me.

    On the other hand, I paid $1200 in sales tax on the car, when new (!!!) and that puts a lot of repair costs into perspective.

    See:

    http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2012/12/hidden-costs-of-car-buying.html

    But I can see the end game on the horizon. The best you can do is to hope for a reasonable service life out of a car. Fishing too far downstream becomes more expensive than owning a new car:

    http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2010/08/bathtub-or-weibull-curve.html

    Your original post noted that you never kept a car with over 50,000 miles. Maybe back in 1967, this made sense – most cars were junked by 80,000 miles.

    Today? You can expect to get 100,000 miles out most cars before major service is needed. Things like spark plugs, oxygen sensors, struts, exhaust systems, and the like, generally last about 100,000 to 150,000 miles.

    At the very least, I would try to shoot for a hundred thousand miles, even if you are risk-averse.

    Good Luck!

    P.S. – we are saving up for a new car. At 150,000 miles, the X5 works OK, but is still on the original clutch. And I promised myself never again to do a clutch job. It is messy, dirty work, and takes about a week of intense labor, in a home garage.