How to Make Your Car Last Longer

Cars tend to last a varying number of years and miles.  Back in the day–in the 1960’s and 70’s–the odometers on most cars turned back to zero before hitting 100,000 miles. These days, six digit miles are nothing.  In 2011, the average car on the road was over 11 years old. As you may know, most insurers and government agencies estimate that the average car is driven 15,000 miles annually. At that rate, we can safely estimate that, on average, cars on American roads have more than 165,000 miles!

While a small portion of how long a car will last can be attributed to the automaker, the biggest factor is the owner. Factors like how well a vehicle is maintained, how it is driven, and weather conditions affect a vehicles longevity the most.

Never Neglect Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your vehicle is probably the biggest factor in how long it will last. Oil changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Changing your air filter and maintaining your cooling system are essential. Keeping your tires in good repair and at the right pressure is very helpful. Even if you do all of this, you cannot neglect a regular tune-up and all of the scheduled maintenance listed in your owner’s manual. Lastly, be sure to pop the hood from time to time so you can check the hoses and serpentine belt for cracks or splits.

Lighten Your Lead Foot

Cars tend to last longer when the mileage is put on them thoughtfully. Yes, highway miles tend to be less stressful on a vehicle, but only if you keep your speed in check and avoid constant lane changes. If you tend to stay in urban areas while driving, you have to avoid sudden acceleration and deceleration. This causes undue wear and tear, and it just isn’t necessary. As my father told me: ”There is no reason to go from 0-60 between stop signs.” So keep that “lead foot” in check.

Garage Your Baby

If at all possible, garage your car as often as possible. A car port is nearly as good, if you don’t have a garage. Garaged vehicles are subjected to less fluctuation in temperature, which means less wear-and-tear from parts expanding and contracting. If a vehicle is under cover, you don’t have to worry about the two things that can fall out of the sky and ruin your paint:  tree sap and bird poop. If you cannot keep your car covered, at least invest in a sun visor that can keep the interior of the car from heating up so much in summer.

Watch Your Salt

There is a reason that classic car collectors covet cars from places like the Southwest–it’s dry, and there isn’t ever salt on the roads!  Sure, road-salt makes roads safer, but it accelerates the rusting process–big time! Some experts have gone so far as to say that it will kill your car, and environmental groups decry it for damaging the environment. What can you do? Moving is obviously out of the question, so your next best option is to find an automatic car wash that uses low pH (acidic) detergent–or buy some yourself. An older-school method is, after cleaning your car, to spray a solution of water and vinegar on it.

If well maintained, there is no reason that a modern vehicle will not last at least 150,000 miles. Many can be daily drivers after 200,000 miles.


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