The 300,000 Mile Car: Can You Do It?
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// According to a 2011 Auto Trader report, cars aren’t getting any cheaper, and they start losing value from mile one. Getting every possible mile from your ride is important if you want to get your money’s worth.
Irv Gordon, a retired science teacher, has put over 2.8 million miles on his Volvo since he bought it in 1966, but he’s definitely the exception. Most of us won’t even see a half-million miles on the odometer, but mileages in excess of 200,000-300,000 aren’t nearly as rare as they once were as more and more drivers are opting to keep their cars running as long as possible before buying or leasing a new vehicle. If you’re looking to the horizon of high mileage car care, or just want to keep your investment in optimum shape, the key is being proactive and focusing on preventive maintenance. Here are my top ten rules for driving into six digits—and beyond!
1. Change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles—whichever comes first. No exceptions. The old debate about whether it’s “really” necessary to do it that often is going to have to go away if you’re serious about keeping your car running as long as possible.
2. Find a good mechanic. You’re going to want to cultivate an ongoing relationship with a reliable, honest mechanic—he or she is going to get to know your car intimately over the next several hundred thousand miles, so make sure it’s one you trust.
3. Check your tire pressure at least once a month. Not only will it prevent flats, it will extend the life of your tires and increase your fuel economy. Plus, rotate those tires every second oil change to ensure they wear evenly.
4. Pay attention to warning signs. Not every little noise is a sign of disaster. With a high-mileage vehicle, however, it’s best to check out any unfamiliar symptom (sound, smell, or just a feeling). Being proactive here could help save you a bundle down the road.
You’re going to want to cultivate an ongoing relationship with a reliable, honest mechanic…
5. Look out for stains! When you pull out of your parking space, keep an eye out for tell-tale stains of leaky fluids. Learn to tell the difference between oil (slippery, brown-black), transmission fluid (bright red), and just plain water, which is usually just condensation from your A/C housing and no reason to panic. Getting the jump on potential leaks will keep you rolling on.
6. Schedule regular maintenance visits. On top of oil changes and tire rotations, your mechanic is going to want to keep an eye on belts, hoses, brake lines, spark plugs, air filter, fuel injector, and other parts that can be overlooked in a standard oil change.
7. Prepare for the seasons. Defending your high-mileage car against the elements will help lessen its chances of needing repairs and save you money in the long run.
8. Check your fluids. This is something you can, and should, do yourself on a regular basis. Use the dipstick to check the oil level; a quick glance at the coolant reservoir will let you know if you need more cooling fluid. In your owners manual you can find the dipstick locations and indicators for other important fluids as well.
9. Store it properly. All the maintenance in the world will do no good if environmental hazards start to eat away at the finish. Rust will spread like cancer in a car, so keep it safely stowed in a garage or under a carport, and keep that finish sparkling.
10. Remember safety. All the maintenance in the world is worth nothing if you car isn’t safe in case of an accident. Safety features like airbags and seat belts (and in-car navigation, communication and diagnostic systems, if you have them) should be kept in working order. You should reach high mileage, too—not just the car!