Can high mileage cars make it from 100,000 miles on the odometer to 200,000 miles and beyond? It’s not an impossible dream: modern automobiles are far more reliable, and better built, than they were in the era when seeing 50,000 miles roll over meant it was time to buy a new vehicle. With these four basic maintenance tips, you, too, can see your car cruise into the 200,000 mile club.
Each vehicle has its own oil change interval, which is usually described in the owner’s manual. You may also have an oil monitoring system that uses sophisticated engine monitoring to calculate how worn out oil may be. Regardless of how you decide to keep your maintenance timeline one of the keys to keeping high mileage cars on the road is making sure you don’t push past your next oil change. You should aim to hit the garage within a hundred miles or so of the expected interval, or if you haven’t been driving all that much, then get the oil changed every six months. This helps keep your engine lubed up and also removes contaminants that collect in the oil over time as the additive pack wears out. Finally, always use the manufacturer recommended grade of oil as prescribed in the owner’s manual. If the owner’s manual gives a range of oil to choose from, pick the one that matches your driving environment.
2. Check Your Fluids
Oil changes are important, but you also need to regularly verify the fluids in your engine are still doing their job. Every two weeks you should check your oil level, and if it’s low, add some to the engine (from the oil canister you should be carrying in your trunk). Once a month, it’s also worth checking the coolant level in your radiator when the engine is cool. Most newer vehicles use a coolant overflow tank with a gauge on the side to help judge fluid level. If you don’t have one you can simple check the fluid level at the radiator cap (again, only on on a cold engine). If you have an automatic transmission read your owner’s manual to find out how to check the fluid level. Keep in mind that some automatic transmissions are known as “lifetime fill” and won’t have a dipstick or other way to check the fluid level. Check the brake fluid for contamination and flush it when the water or copper level gets too high. Keeping your brake fluid fresh helps fight corrosion and brake heat issues. If your vehicle has hydraulic power steering check that fluid as well. Check your windshield fluid reservoir and top it off with an appropriate fluid for your weather. Finally verify the amount of air in your tires is within the specifications found in the owner’s manual.
3. Yearly Inspections Are a Must
Usually, the list of items that need to be replaced on high mileage cars includes suspension bushings, struts, shocks, radiator hoses, engine belts, brake calipers, mufflers (depending on your climate) and sometimes water pumps. Researching what parts of your specific car are known to fail over time can keep you prepared for the inevitable. You also need a yearly inspection where a mechanic or yourself checks out the wear points on your vehicle to make sure it’s never a surprise when it does need some preventative maintenance. This should be a full wheels-off, vehicle off the ground (safely on a lift or jack stands) inspection with a flash light. Check for any wet spots that may indicate a fluid leak. If any leaks are found trace the origin and put a repair plan together. Suspension and steering links should move smoothly but not loosely. Check for rust especially if you live in areas that use road salt. If you find any rust treat it immediately before it can spread. Your owner’s manual should have a suggested maintenance schedule that can give you a good start as to what area need to be inspected on a regular basis.
4. Don’t Ignore Seemingly Small Problems
Front tires starting to vibrate? Car pulling to one side or the other? Strange noise emanating from underneath the vehicle? A little puddle of fluid in your driveway every morning? Don’t ignore it — get it examined by yourself or a mechanic you trust as soon as possible. Small problems can blossom into bigger issues as you continue to drive, especially with an older car where components aren’t in showroom condition anymore. Problems don’t fix themselves or go away on their own. Your car is made up of many complex systems that all count on each other. If you let something like work out struts go on too long, you risk not only unpredictable handling but also abnormal tire wear. Shaky unbalanced tires can accelerate wear on steering and suspension parts making for shortened component lifespans.
Whether you put a ton of miles on your vehicle yourself or bought it used, the chances are high that a modern vehicle can make it well into the 200,000 mile range. Keeping up with maintenance is key as well as making time for inspections. Consider starting a car maintenance journal that you keep in your glovebox or go high-tech and use your smartphone. However you choose to keep track you will thank yourself down the road when you know exactly when a part was replaced last.
Check out all the chemical & lubricant products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on high mileage cars, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.