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6 High Mileage Car Tips for Extending Vehicle Life

An older F150 in great shape thanks to good maintenance

Just one more year. That’s what you have been telling yourself as you complete yet another repair on your aged car. And with used car prices through the roof it just makes sense to hold on to what you have. One more year may end up being two or three. But if you’ve been keeping up with your car’s maintenance schedule and responding quickly to each indicator of trouble, then there’s good chance you’ll get your wish, as long as you’re following these six high mileage car tips.

1. Handle Repairs at OnceHigh Mileage Car Tips for Extending Vehicle Life

Putting off repairs means you might only exacerbate the problem. Keeping to the maintenance schedule is one thing, but responding immediately to warning signs may spell the difference between having a car you can depend on or one that you’ll be sending to the salvage yard. For instance, a leaky water pump is more than an inconvenience. If left unattended, your engine may overheat, crack a head gasket or warp the cylinders. For an aged car, you’re looking at repairs that may exceed the vehicle’s worth. You will need to do monthly fluid checks and overall inspections to catch problems early. You and your vehicle probably have a long history together, you know what it should sound and feel like. Anything out of the ordinary should put your senses on high alert and get your detective skills going to find the cause.

2. Know the Quality of Your Parts

With an older car you might think it wise to manage costs by using lower quality parts. This is understandable as OEM parts may cost you more than aftermarket parts or the ones you acquire from the salvage yard. Whatever parts you choose, such as a water pump, radiator or a head gasket, ensure that it is suitable for your car. Cutting costs is one thing, but cutting corners can prove disastrous. Along with choosing quality parts make sure to also replace related items like gaskets. Changing a water pump but trying to reuse the gaskets to save a buck is just begging for a leak and to do the job over again.

3. Change Your Oil Change

When it comes to oil changes, always reference your owner’s manual for the proper change intervals. However, if your car has more than 75,000 miles on the odometer, then the engine’s seals are more prone to erode, leading to leaks. Older engines tend to burn oil more frequently and are also prone to oil sludge. The best response here is to change your oil more often, such as every 3,000 miles, and to select a super high mileage oil. Choose a synthetic oil and you can reduce sludge build up. Or, if your car has had regular oil changes, a standard high mileage oil with seal conditioners can control oil consumption and prevent leaks. It doesn’t matter if you change your own oil or take it to a shop, just get it done on a regular basis. If you are a DIYer it is better to get the oil changed at a shop than wait too long for for a chance to do it at home.

4. Tend to the Brakes

Bleed the brakes and if you notice that the fluid is dark and contains pieces of rust and rubber, then an overhaul is a priority. Replace the rubber brake lines and inspect the wheel bearings when removing the rotors or drum brakes. Flush the entire brake system until the fluid is clear again. Don’t forget to inspect the metal brake lines as they can also corrode and leak. Brake repairs are a manageable cost until they’re ignored. Brake pads that are worn down to the metal will quickly destroy a brake rotor while also greatly diminishing braking ability.

5. Take Your Car to a Mechanic

So far, DIY items have been discussed, but there is a time and place to take your car to a mechanic. A second set of eyes, experienced ones at that, can identify problems you might miss due being too familiar with the vehicle. Sometimes problems can creep up slowly and won’t stick out until things have gone too far. A great example is shocks and struts that slowly degrade over time while the driver just gets used to a floaty ride. Further, a mechanic who specializes in handling more complex jobs, such as suspension systems and engine overhauls, can identify problems before they spiral out of control. They might also help you make a decision you couldn’t bare to make on your own: like cutting your losses and sending your old friend to the junkyard. This is one of the reasons why it is important to build a good relationship with a shop you trust. A good shop will know that a long term customer is far more valuable than a quick buck.

6. Calling it Quits

When should you get rid of an aged car? Whenever the cost of repairs and time lost because of downtime exceeds your budget and patience. Thanks to high used car prices that threshold can be a lot higher than it was a few years ago, so make sure to get up to date pricing on not just the repair but your vehicle value. Vehicle type can also make a difference on whether you fix it. A work truck is a lot easier to justify spending big money on a major repair due to the return on investment and the high cost of a new work truck. But a cheap economy car that just chucked a rod through the block is probably done. On the other hand, if your repairs are manageable and you’re timely with upkeep, you may find that a year from now you’ll be thinking of new ways to keep your car for just one more year.

Check out all the chemical & lubricant products available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on high mileage car tips, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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