to Make Your Car Last Forever … Or At Least, For As Long As Possible
no reason why you shouldnt be able to get at least 15 years
and 200,000 trouble-free miles out of a new car today putting
off the day when youll have to dig deep for a replacement
and also maximizing the investment youve got in your current
wheels. Done right, you can end up with almost-free transportation.
The car itself wont have cost you much of anything
youre only out of pocket for things like gas, oil/filter changes
and so on.
The key thing
is proper care and proper driving. Cars are a lot like our
bodies; live like Elvis and dont expect to live very
long. But treat your body (and your car) with care and respect
and both should last a very long time.
maintenance per the factory recommendations
Not just oil
changes, but general maintenance, including periodic service of
the brake system, cooling system, transmission and so on.
Most automakers provide a service schedule with their new cars,
listing what should be done (and when) according to mileage accrued
or time passed. These are not suggestions they are there
for a reason. Ignore them at your peril. As an example: Failure
to have an ABS brake system periodically flushed can lead to the
premature failure of major (and expensive) parts like the ABS pump.
the difference between Normal and Severe
read the fine print, you may be under the impression you only need
to have oil and filter changes and so on done once every six months
or 6,000 miles, when in fact the driving you do qualifies as severe
use and the changeout intervals are actually much shorter.
The automakers tout their normal service intervals
which are typically pretty generous these days making it
seem like the need for routine service has almost gone away (implicitly
saving you time and money). But if you live in a city/suburban area
and your driving includes a lot of stop-and-go duty, then you usually
qualify for the severe (or heavy duty) intervals,
which tend to be much shorter. Its important to follow the
right schedule, in either case. Even if you do end up spending
an extra $40 or $50 per year on oil and filter changes, thats
a lot less expensive than a prematurely tired engine or the
bill for a new car to replace your old one.
service by trained technicians
work can result in botched repairs and accelerated wear and
tear. For example, overtightening the lug nuts after a routine tire
rotation can warp brake rotors, which can end up leaving you with
a big bill down the road.
Make sure the person under the hood knows what theyre doing
and avoid the temptation to fiddle with things yourself unless
you understand what youre doing and have the right tools to
do the job.
This last ones
often the deal breaker. Frequent full-throttle starts, late (and
hard) braking, throwing the car around corners its
all lots of fun, but in addition to killing your gas mileage and
prematurely wearing out your tires, it also means a shorter life
for your engine, transmission, brakes, suspension parts and so on.
Smooth, steady driving will extend the life of all these components
and the car as a whole. Youll also save on gas and
- If you
have a manual transmission, engage/disengage the clutch smoothly
without riding it, which will wear it out faster. Do not
hold the clutch in while idling at a light; this places excess
strain on it which can lead to expensive repairs. Instead,
depress the clutch, put the transmission in neutral and wait for
the light to change. Then depress the clutch, put the vehicle
in gear, smoothly release the clutch and drive on.
- If you
have an automatic transmission use the parking brake when leaving
the vehicle. Throwing the transmission into Park without
first applying the parking brake can put excess strain on the
transmission, lock it in gear even cause expensive damage
that will require a tow.
- If you
have a a truck or SUV with part-time four-wheel-drive, avoid engaging
the 4WD on dry, smooth pavement. Never engage the 4WD Low setting
(or differential lock) on dry, paved roads. (If you have a vehicle
with AWD, the system will adjust itself automatically for given
- Use the
proper grade of fuel specified by the manufacturer. Even though
modern cars can self-adjust for lower-octane fuel (preventing
damage from premature-ignition that might otherwise occur) youll
still suffer decreased mileage and lower performance as a consequence.
Also, off-brand fuels may not have the same amount of detergents
and fuel system additives of name-brand gas. Avoid filing up at
out-of-the-way stations, where old (or water-laced) fuel may be
- Be gentle
to the car in the extremes summer and winter. Winter, in
particular, is very hard on machinery. Using synthetic lubricants
(which flow better at very cold temps., providing additional protection
as well as decreasing friction, which saves gas) is a great idea.
Synthetics also have better high-heat protective ability, too.
Not just engine oil, either. Use synthetics in manual transmissions
and differentials, too. (Just be sure before you do that its
ok to do so; some late model cars use automatic transmission fluid
in manual gearboxes fyi.) Keep the cooling system in good
running order. And if you have a car with an automatic transmission,
be sure to service the unit fluid and filter replacement
at least as often as the factory recommends.
the fuel filter at least every other year. (Some recommend once
a year.) Many people neglect this small but very important maintenance
item. The filter is all that stands between your cars engine
and whatever gunk is sifting around in the bottom of your gas
tank. Filters are cheap; new cars arent.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
Best of Eric Peters