5 Essential Tips on Making Your Car Last

tools on a garage floor

Just because you’ve had your car for quite a few years and racked up 100,000 or more miles doesn’t mean it’s time to send the car to the junkyard. The fact is, if you treat your car like your baby it may still be thriving at 200,000 and 300,000 miles or even longer. Here are 5 tips to help keep your car running longer.

1. Use only the best

To extend the life of your engine, when you have your oil changed use a high-grade filter and pay a bit more for high-quality synthetic oil. In bitter cold weather, this maintains the oil’s fluidity and is also less likely to break down when the engine gets hot. While this may increase the cost of an oil change, ultimately it may help your engine to last longer. Likewise, a good filter can eliminate any unwanted particles from the oil. First double-check to make sure that these products are appropriate for your car.

2. Keep an eye on fluids

While your owner’s manual may tell you it’s not necessary to check your power steering, brake fluids and coolant for years, it’s wise to check these every 20,000 miles. If you’re doing this yourself, consider the consistency of the fluids. Any of these that feel gritty or smell burnt, point to a need for a fluid change.

Likewise, if your orange coolant is now dark red, a fluid change is warranted. Or if it has a cloudy appearance, it may mean your engine needs to be serviced. In addition, don’t hesitate to change transmission fluid every 35,000 miles or so, replacing this with high-quality synthetic transmission fluid that offers better protection if the transmission gets hot and that lasts longer. If you try to stretch well beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations, you may find yourself with an expensive repair bill to rebuild the transmission.

3. Coddle your car from the start

If your car has been parked overnight or more, don’t drive off immediately. During the period it has been sitting the oil has settled into the oil pan, leaving the moving parts of the engine without lubrication. If you wait 30 seconds or so and allow your car to warm up without revving your engine, this should be enough to allow the oil pump to work its magic.

4. Don’t forget about hygiene

Washing and waxing a car regularly can extend its life. This is particularly true during the winter and after snowstorms when road salt can break down a car body, causing rust. Road salt can even affect brakes. Once there is a thaw, drive your car in for an underbody wash to limit the damage caused by road salt. Basic winter cleanings wash away harmful road spray and debris. A good waxing in the fall and midwinter can create a barrier against salt. Use a wax that functions effectively at lower temperatures. Wax jobs in warmer seasons can also protect a car against sand and dirt that are sometimes no less harmful than salt.

5. Play it cool

You don’t need to accelerate from zero to 60 in record time. And you don’t have to be the kind of driver who feels compelled to stomp on the brakes at every light or try to throw the car into reverse before it’s fully stopped. All that constant stress can age your car and may take it off the road long before its time.

Ultimately, if you take the time to keep up the maintenance and treat your car right, you may find yourself able to watch the odometer spin several hundred thousand miles more than you might have thought possible.