How to Make Your Car Last to 200,000 Miles and Beyond

by Staff Writer on December 6, 2012

While some drivers swap their cars out every couple of years to get the newest and shiniest model, others of us are much more loyal to our trusty rides. We maintain them, pay them off in full, and try to keep that engine ticking until it just won’t go anymore. Whether you need to keep your car running because you can’t afford another or just want to drive it into the ground because you love it so much, try these tips for keeping your vehicle in its best shape to 200,000 miles or more.

  1. Stick to the maintenance schedule:

    When you get your car, make sure you read the owner’s manual. Not only will you learn all the ins and outs of operating your vehicle, but you’ll find out the recommended maintenance schedule. It can be tempting to skip a few of the appointments along the way to save some money in the short term, especially when nothing’s actually wrong with your car, but you’ll regret it in the long run. Preventive maintenance is the name of the game when it comes to hitting the 200,000-mile mark.

  2. Find a mechanic and stick with him:

    Finding a great mechanic is going to save you a lot of headaches in the long life of your car. You’ll probably save money by going to someone you trust (and who might knock off some costs due to your loyalty), and your mechanic will start to know your car better than anyone if you continue to use his services. Because he’ll know the car’s history and past problems, he’ll be able to better guess what new problems might be.

  3. Don’t put off repairs:

    When your check engine light comes on or you notice your car running rough, you might decide to give it a few days or weeks to see if it fixes itself. But doing so could cut the life of your car short. Not only do you risk stalling or causing an accident, you could be doing more permanent damage to your engine by driving with parts that aren’t functioning properly.

  4. Use premium gas if you have a high compression engine:

    Even if your car’s maker recommends using premium gas, you can get away with using the lower grade gasoline. You may not even notice the difference. But if you haul heavy loads, drive on steep roads, or are out in hot weather, the load put on your engine may make a difference in the performance of your gas. Low-grade gas can cause pinging and knocking, which over time can cause damage to your car’s engine.

  5. Pay attention to your air filter:

    Of course you should keep up with oil changes and fluid levels, but you also need to make sure your air filters are clean to get the most out of your engine. Engines need clean air to run, and the ratio of air to fuel has to be precise. Too little air can put extra strain on your engine, making it last for fewer miles. Change your air filter as often as your (trustworthy) mechanic suggests, or just do a spot check to see how dirty the filter is.

  6. Avoid salt or wash your car frequently:

    When it gets cold out and salt gets poured on the road, do your best to avoid it. Salt causes metal to rust over time, and while you might not see the signs of it on the exterior for years, hidden parts could be rusting without your knowledge. If you live in a place where driving on salt is a must, make sure to wash your car regularly — try once a week — so that rust doesn’t cause your car to fall apart.

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