Are you the proud owner of a vehicle nearing the 200,000 mile mark? Congratulations! High mileage cars are not for the lazy or negligent. Getting the odometer this far has doubtlessly required a good deal of persistence and care.
Of course, 200,000 is a daunting number. All engines, no matter how beloved, eventually fail. Even on a well-maintained vehicle, this is when parts can really show their age. But with proper upkeep and attention, your vehicle can survive to 200,000 miles and beyond.
What Happens at 200,000?
An odometer technically measures miles on the engine, but mileage is a helpful way to predict wear on the entire vehicle. We ask a lot of our cars: Their parts are subjected to high speeds, extreme temperatures, heavy pressure and all sorts of environmental contaminants. Parts that aren’t changed during regular maintenance are likely as old as the car itself. Over time and continued exposure to the elements, those parts become more likely to fail.
While signs of wear vary greatly depending on the high mileage car, there are a few things that can be expected to creep up on most cars after 200,000 miles — even on cars belonging to the most fervent oil-changers.
The parts to watch out for are the ones that have contact with other surfaces, are expected to bend or that are exposed to very high heat. Keep an eye out for small leaks or weeping around gaskets, bolts that have vibrated loose or small spots of rust that seem to show up overnight and gradually spread. These things aren’t guaranteed to happen at 200,000, but as you approach higher mileages, it’s a good idea to start keeping a closer eye on them.
For instance, think about your suspension system. You’ve almost certainly replaced your shock absorbers by the time you hit 200,000 miles. But there are other components of the suspension system, especially rubber bushings, that take on a lot of stress, and can be expected to tear or get squashed beyond usefulness.
The exact moment these components fail depends on factors such as the original quality of the parts and, above all, how well the vehicle has been maintained up to this milestone. Generally speaking, joining the 200,000 Mile Club means paying closer attention to the day-to-day workings, sounds and smells of your car. Regularly monitor the condition of frequently stressed components like radiator hoses (look for bulges) and check the ground for leaks anytime you leave a parking spot. The key here is vigilance.
The Best Defense
It’s called preventative maintenance for a reason. A lot of what you want to stay ahead of, around 200,000 mile mark, are things you took care of in accordance with your owner’s manual when you hit 100,000: think timing belt, water pump, radiator and engine flushes, spark plugs, etc. Refresh your memory by giving the manual a look, different manufacturers suggest different services.
The Little Things
The regular maintenance you’ve likely been doing so far to rack up so many miles is all the more important as a car gets older. Don’t slack on your oil changes, and though it seems like a small thing, keep your tires properly inflated, rotated and aligned; it will help keep all your suspension components from wearing . Another little thing that makes a big difference is cleaning and waxing. This helps prevent corrosion from rust and environmental contaminants.
Check out all the maintenance parts 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.
Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.