How to Make Used Car Last Longer
Here are Four Proven Tips for Making Your Car Last Up to 200,000 Miles
Today, modern vehicles are able to last longer than cars our parents drove. But there are key things you can do to extend the life of your used vehicle.
While these are practical tips I've learned over the years of experience servicing my cars and others, there are fundamental tips that will help keep your car on the road.
We will cover some simple things you can do to help extend the life of your car, truck or SUV. In this article, I'll share with you four proven tips to help ensure that your used car lasts as long as possible.
Some of these tips might cost some money, but from experience, it's better to address smaller issues before they become bigger problems.
How to Hit 200,000 miles with Your Car
Most modern cars should be able to reach 100,000 easily. With that being said, joining the 200k mile club will take some attention from you and maintenance on your vehicle.
With computer monitoring systems and multiple sensors, today's vehicles will be able to tell you if something is wrong or needs to be addressed. It's when owners do not heed the warnings or take action on dash lights when bigger problems arise.
Let's dive in...
There are four areas that I typically suggest that you keep in mind to ensure your vehicle goes the miles.
Keep Your Engine Humming Along
If there is one thing you take away from this article is that oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. If you have an EV, then batteries are your lifeblood. Either way, they should be part of your regular maintenance.
Routine maintenance like oil changes are key to having a long lasting car. The oil helps keep the engine properly lubricated and pistons running smoothly. Changing and topping off engine oil are important parts of keeping your vehicle running smoothly.
The average cost of changing engine oil ranges between $30-$150 depending on the type of oil you use and how much work needs to be done. If you don't change it regularly, you could damage your engine over time by developing sludge buildup.
Synthetic oils should only be applied if specified by the manufacturer, and even then, synthetic oil isn't recommended for vehicles older than 10 years as it can develop leaks from the older seals since synthetic oils are thinner than conventional oil (Dino oil)
Today's modern engines are controlled by an ECU and as with anything else electronic, it can get worn and need to be replaced. Both the spark plugs and the coils can cause a misfire with your engine and impact your fuel economy since it deals with combustion and emissions.
Most misfires are commonly caused by either a bad ignition coil or bad spark plug. It will most likely trigger a "check engine light" or "service engine soon" light on your dash. You might feel rough idling or vibration. While spark plugs typically last up to 100,000 miles, I have replaced some that have failed at under 50,000 miles.
The function of the spark plug is to provide a high voltage discharge across the gap between the electrodes, thereby igniting the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. This causes the rapid expansion of gases and pressure waves inside the combustion chamber, resulting in the power stroke.
If your mechanic suggests a tune-up, this will most likely be a replacement of your spark plugs and your ignition coils. One thing to note is to be aware of fake spark plugs that run rampant online.
Your battery needs to be changed every three to five years. This is because batteries are susceptible to corrosion over time. Because of today's modern engines, a low battery can trigger a few electrical issues with the car.
From experience, my BMW would trigger a few warning lights on the dash and was resolved with a new battery.
In addition, if you are having problems starting your car, it could be as simple as a low voltage on your battery. You can check the date on your battery by looking for a sticker with the month and year.
A new battery costs between $100-300 depending on the type of battery you buy. You can find replacement batteries at your local auto parts store or dealership. I have found AutoZone batteries to be a good value.
When checking your battery, look for any signs of corrosion on the terminal connections and carefully clean the oxidation. Be sure to wear nitrile gloves to protect your hands.
Change Air Filters Regularly
Change your air filters based on the recommended service interval. For example, an engine air filter needs replacing every year or 12,000 miles respectively. They are pretty easy to install and it doesn't cost too much money.
By changing the air filter, it will allow your car to "breathe" better and get better airflow for combustion. It can also help in improving your gas mileage.
Air filters can be washed and dried out regularly - just make sure you're not putting too much strain on them.
Always use genuine parts for any jobs.
Keep Your Ride Nice and Smooth: Suspension
Tires are wearable items on your car. It's part of the maintenance costs in owning a car. Having the right tire size and type will ensure your car lasts longer. Depending on the manufacturer, you should be able to get between 20k - 65k miles on the set of times.
When it comes to tire replacement, there are many things to consider. If your tires are 6 years old or show signs of dry rot or damage, you should consider replacing them.
We have an article about how to make your tires last longer and this will help ensure you get the most from your tires by rotating them and keeping the proper air pressure.
In addition to the tires, the brakes are one of the most important safety features on your car. Annual brake inspections are key to driving thousands of miles safely.
They stop you from crashing into things such as trees, poles, cars, etc. If your brakes fail, it could cause serious damage to your vehicle and even lead to death. Therefore, it is very important to know how often you should change your brake pads and rotors.
Typically, your car will trigger a brake service light or the ECU will sense that it's time for servicing. IMHO, you can get away with just replacing the brake pads for around $150. However, I suggest that you consider replacing the brake rotors if you have any vibration on during braking.
My typical schedule is to replace the brake rotors every 50,000 miles.
Shock absorbers and strut replacements are common maintenance items for most vehicles. They help absorb road vibration, keep tires aligned properly, and protect the suspension system from damage.
Personally, as long as you keep your car stock, your OEM suspension should last over 100,000 miles. At that point, you can replace the shocks and struts with OE equivalent along with any bushings in order to restore the comfortable ride.
However, rough roads and aggressive driving can shorten the lifespan of shocks and struts, causing premature wear and tear. A quality shock or strut will last much longer than a cheap option.
Keeping It Clean Inside and Out
Clean your car regularly. Car owners often think that cleaning their cars once a month is enough, but washing your vehicle more is better for the health of your paint job.
The key for a longer lasting car or vehicle is to avoid rust at all costs. Rust can cause damage to the paint and even lead to cracks. Washing your car keeps the dirt off the finish, preventing it from getting into the pores of the paint. If you do notice some minor scratches, don't worry about it - they're normal and won't affect how well your car looks.
However, if you live in an area that uses salt in the winter, then you will need to include washing your car as part of your routine maintenance.
In fact, rust is a HUGE factor in a car that is road worthy.
When you already have 100k+ miles on the car, then you want to keep rust from rusting out your subframe, body panels and jack points. I have seen cars perfectly mechanically being parted out because of rust. You can simply take a hose and rinse off the undercarriage from time to time to help.
Also, keep your car's interior as clean as possible too. You want to avoid attracting any pests or mice in your vehicle. Mice and rodents can easily chew wiring and engine harnesses. This can cost upwards of thousands of dollars in repairs.
Small Quick Fixes Avoid Bigger Problems and Large Repair Bills
A rattle or clunking sound coming from your vehicle could mean big trouble. If you hear one of those noises while driving, don't panic. In fact, there are some things you can do to fix it yourself without having to take your car into the shop.
Also, a small oil leak is normal as the age and miles rack up. However, you want to address if the oil is leaking on your belts or suspension. Oil can quickly deteriorate rubber parts.
By fixing small issues, will help avoid larger bills in the future. Think of it as an investment.
Follow the Recommended Service Schedule
Make sure you stick to the scheduled maintenance dates listed in your owner’s manual. This will ensure that your car runs smoothly throughout the life of your vehicle. If you do not follow the recommended maintenance schedule, it could lead to costly repairs down the road.
Check the warning lights on the dashboard
If you notice any warning lights flashing on the dashboard, make sure you take note of what each light indicates. You might want to contact your local mechanic to find out what the problem is.
A lot of people overlook the warning signs on the dash. These are there to help alert drivers to potential problems that require immediate attention. For example, if you see a low oil warning sign, you should stop immediately and check the oil levels.
Don't Drive with Fuel on Empty
We are all guilty of it. But running your car on empty is bad for the fuel pump.
Did you know that fuel filters are lubricated and cooled by the fuel in your tank. If you have a habit of driving with 1/4 tank or less most of the time, your fuel pump's life will be shortened.
If you don’t keep your fuel at a proper level, it could mean big problems down the road.
If a fuel pump fails, you are stuck in the water. No fuel equals no fun. You will need to call a tow truck to tow you to the nearest auto repair shop for replacement. While this won't happen overnight, it will happen one day.
If you let your fuel level drop too low, however, this process stops working properly. Your fuel pump won’t draw in enough fuel and the pressure inside the tank drops. When this happens, there’s nothing to push the fuel out of the tank and it builds up behind the valve. Eventually, the buildup causes the valve to stick.
However, overfilled tanks are dangerous because the extra volume makes the fuel heavier and harder to move around. As a result, the fuel pumps struggle to pull the fuel out of the tanks and the pressure inside the tanks drops. This causes the fuel to flow backwards through the pipes and out of the filler neck.
In conclusion, used cars aren't cheap, which means you want yours to last as long as possible. Fortunately, there are lots of simple steps you can take to help ensure that your car lasts longer than expected.
If you follow the steps in this article, you are well on your way to the 200k mile club. It is definitely possible. My car currently has 146k miles and the other at 142k miles.
First, keep your tires properly inflated and oil changes on schedule. A dirty engine can cause friction between moving parts, which can result in damage to critical components like bearings and seals. Finally, make sure you change your air filter regularly. Over time, dust and dirt build up inside the filter, causing it to clog up and reduce airflow through the engine.
These small changes can mean the difference between a reliable, trouble-free ride and a costly repair bill later on. If you have any other questions about car maintenance, let us know.
Remember, follow these simple tips to extend its lifespan.