how to care for high-mileage vehicles

Ask an Expert: Caring for High-Mileage Vehicles

On average, our vehicles are getting older. Even though automakers sold more than 16 million new vehicles in 2014, the average age the cars, pickups and SUVs in our driveways is about 11.4 years old. That translates to plenty of high-mileage vehicles on American roadways.

To find out more about how to care for high-mileage vehicles, we called Bob Arlotta of Long Hill Auto Service in Millington, New Jersey. His shop, a NAPA AutoCare Center, services a range of foreign and domestic brands. Arlotta explained how owners can best maintain their cars and trucks, helping them to last even longer.

Long Hill Auto front

Long Hill Auto Service in Millington, New Jersey is a NAPA AutoCare Center that helps owners of high-mileage vehicles keep them properly maintained and serviced. Image courtesy of Bob Arlotta/Long Hill Auto Service

“Where our customers were previously getting rid of cars at 100,000 miles, they’re giving them that second life and keeping them going for 200,000 miles,” Arlotta said.

Squeezing 200,000 miles out of a car, he says, is now normal.

When Does “High-Mileage” Begin?

When I threw out 100,000 miles as a benchmark for high-mileage, Arlotta proposed a lower figure. He said that around 80,000 or 90,000 miles, owners should start thinking differently about how they maintain and service their vehicles.

“We try to gear high-mileage service to around 80-90,000 miles,” Arlotta said. “Starting at 100,000 miles is a little late if you’re planning on keeping a car for a long period of time. If you want to keep a car until it reaches 200,000 miles, then at 80,000 miles you should start thinking about treating them differently.”

At around 90,000 miles, several important service items are due on many cars and trucks. These include timing belt, hoses, spark plugs and other components that are expected to last about 90,000 miles, a point at which parts are deteriorating from the effects of time and mileage. Mechanically speaking, the internals of the engine should be strong, but other parts are likely showing wear.

Long Hill Auto bay

Arlotta says he sees plenty of older, high-mileage vehicles like these in his bays. For owners that want to reach 200,000 miles or more, he recommends careful attention to maintenance and repairs. Image courtesy of Bob Arlotta/Long Hill Auto Service

Oil changes

To keep oil change intervals simple, Arlotta recommends changing conventional oil every 4,000 miles or 4 months. With synthetic, he uses an 8,000-mile, 8-month oil change interval. He says that these regular oil changes not only keep fluids fresh and clean but also gives his mechanics a chance to make sure other components and systems are working properly. That’s especially important in areas like his, where winter weather and road salt take their toll.

Arlotta says special, high-mileage oil contains additives designed for older vehicles. Because there’s not much price difference between high-mileage and regular oil, he says it’s worth it for owners upgrade to high-mileage oil if they want their vehicles to last longer.

Synthetic motor oil is ideal, though. Arlotta said in his shop’s experience, motors that use synthetic are virtually free of any sludge. The inside of a high-mileage engine that has always used synthetic typically looks brand new, he said.

Long Hill Auto tools

The latest tools and equipment and properly trained ASE-certified technicians help NAPA AutoCare Centers like Long Hill Auto Service perform top-quality work. Image courtesy of Bob Arlotta/Long Hill Auto Service

Regular Inspections

Those regular inspections every four or eight months allow mechanics to keep an eye on any potential issues.

“We check for battery corrosion,” Arlotta said. “We’re checking belts and hoses for cracks or leaks. These are things that drivers wouldn’t notice without opening the hood.

“If we’re doing a tire rotation, we’re checking the brakes and brake lines. Also, we check struts and shocks for leaks, and check for bushings that are deteriorated from potholes, things like that. We recommend tire rotation at every other oil change for conventional oil customers, or at every oil change for synthetic oil customers.”

In fact, some Long Hill Auto customers are switching to synthetic oil just for convenience. It means changing oil only half as often. The synthetic oil itself is pricier than conventional oil, but the price of the oil filter and service are the same. The eight-month interval still gives his technicians a chance to perform inspections.

Long Hill Auto hood up

Arlotta explained that time and harsh elements take a toll on vehicles. This pickup equipped with a snow plow certainly works harder than most everyday vehicles. To reach high-mileage, it will require excellent maintenance. Image courtesy of Bob Arlotta/Long Hill Auto Service

What Causes Excessive Wear?

“Time and the atmosphere take a toll on cars, especially here [in New Jersey],” Arlotta said. “We see heavily corroded suspension parts on older vehicles and deteriorating brake lines. This can be dangerous when making a panic stop and a brake line suddenly ruptures. A brake failure, losing a suspension part or losing steering can cause a catastrophe. That’s why it’s important to have a mechanic inspect your car, especially as mileage gets higher.”

We asked Arlotta for a single piece of advice to owners of high-mileage vehicles.

“Stay religious on your oil changes,” Arlotta said. “Keep that oil clean. It’s cheap insurance, because you’re allowing someone to open that hood do a visual inspection. If you’re doing it yourself, you need to train yourself to check everything that a technician would check.”

Drivers that prefer to let a professional handle the work can visit Long Hill Auto Service or find a nearby NAPA AutoCare Center. These qualified professionals will help you to get the most out of your vehicle, helping to ensure safe, trouble-free performance.

Long Hill Auto Service | 908-647-7984
1905 Long Hill Road
Millington, NJ 07946

What the current mileage on your vehicle? Are you treating it any differently as it gets older? Let us know in the comments below.

about author

Nick Palermo

Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick serves as president of Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.

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