Does your car have a shot at reaching 300,000 miles? There are certain models (e.g., Honda Accord) and brands (e.g., Toyota) that always pop up on lists of cars topping 200,000 miles, so they would be a good place to start. However, it takes more than a solid frame and reputation for reliability. A car’s owner must commit to regular maintenance for years to have a vehicle reach these goals.
Actually, there is no reason to expect a car will die once you hit a high-mile mark. In the past decade or so, the list of cars that passed one million miles has grown significantly. Their owners never spoke of weird tricks or seemed surprised by their car’s durability. To the contrary, they observed maintenance programs so meticulously they sort of expected the performance.
With that in mind, we checked on the advice of experts from Consumer Reports and a few other reliable sources on taking cars the distance. More often than not, their recommendations matched up with the drivers who hit half-a-million miles or more. Here are eight car repairs that will help your car to last forever (or close enough).
1. Cooling system and hoses
While many drivers obsess over engine lubrication (for good reason), too often the same folks neglect the cooling system. According to Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad, this mistake can cause the engine to “literally melt down.” Vehicle owners interested in longevity should make sure proper coolant levels are maintained and hoses work properly. Otherwise, you’ll have the many problems associated with overheating and shorten the car’s life.
Ian Law, a Canadian racer and educator, owned a 1982 Volvo GLT that stormed past 500,000 miles in 2012. He raced the car on track days and drove it up and down North America for three decades. Every fall, he had his GLT sprayed with Rust Check. In addition to keeping the undercarriage rust-free, Law says it kept screws and bolts from corroding, too.
Once rust creeps into areas around the wheels or under the hood, it’s only a matter of time before your car becomes unsafe or too expensive to fix. Spend the money on annual rust-proofing if you want insurance for the long haul. (In warm and dry climate, you can get away with every two or three years.)
3. Exhaust system replacement
Somewhere beyond 100,000 miles on your car’s odometer, check on your vehicle’s exhaust system. If you begin hearing noises you don’t recognize or smell fumes, both are signs your exhaust may be failing. Malfunctions may also lead to the vehicle overheating, which will affect other parts of the car. Using a 2008 Camry as an example model, Consumer Reports estimated replacement could between run about $2,000-$3,000. It may sound like a big investment, but it will push a well-kept vehicle toward high-mileage goals.
4. Electrical components
Why do electrical components fail? If you drive an old Fiat 124, you can blame the manufacturer. For everyone who bought a car in the last few decades, owners share the responsibility. Law washed and waxed his die-hard Volvo every two weeks to prevent exterior corrosion, and he recommended taking it for a drive afterward so the wind could dry moisture he missed. (He also says to avoid automatic car washes that will scratch a paint job.)
Consumer Reports points to moisture as the path to failure for electrical components over the long haul. How you drive has an impact as well. (Charging through puddles is a bad strategy for this reason.) Repairs usually cost less than $1,000 for the worst electrical problems, and it could keep your car on the road for a long time.
5. Gaskets and lines
Though most driver won’t know an exhaust manifold gasket from a vacuum line, remember these things are important once you exit your vehicle’s service contract. Mechanics check on gaskets routinely to make sure there are no leaks coming from the engine. Issues with minor seals, lines, and other engine functions might only run you a few hundred dollars. Replacing the head gasket will be a more expensive fix (over $1,000).
6. Spark plugs
Every milestone on the odometer comes with a certain amount of responsibility. After 100,000 miles, treat your car to a new set of spark plugs. These small parts provide the jolt your engine needs to start as well as the power to keep pistons running. If you leave in old plugs, your engine will lack the power to start every time, but there are other effects, too. Fuel economy and performance both suffer when spark plugs malfunction. A new set should cost $200-300 with labor included.
7. Brake lines
Consumer Reports says to check brake lines frequently as you near 200,000 miles on a vehicle. Drivers who live in cold climates should be on the lookout for rust that can come from driving through snow every winter. If you mechanic notices weak spots, replacing the brake lines could run from $1,000-$2,000. Ian Law recommends simple, smart driving techniques to save on brake wear, especially in heavy traffic. While other drivers start and stop violently, try smoother acceleration to keep your car in the game.
8. Shocks and struts
You will notice when a car’s shock and struts deteriorate. The overall balance will be off, and you will feel the impact of every pothole more than usual. In some cases, you will even note uneven wear on the vehicle’s tires. Many cars can last until 100,000 miles with original shocks and struts, but it is not unusual to need a replacement after 60,000-70,000 miles. A new pair usually runs about $600. If you need both sets replaced, the cost will rise above $1,000.
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