100,000 Miles and Beyond – Make Your Car Last Longer

Yesterday’s post talked a little bit about some of the principles I live by when it comes to purchasing and maintaining cars. As promised, I’ve prepared today’s post with your car’s health and long life in mind. I’d like to share with you a number of strategies to employ if you’d like to keep your car around for a while, thereby saving on the costs required to purchase a new vehicle. Here they are:

  • The service schedule is your friend. Granted, it’s very self-serving for the car manufacturer to publish a schedule that requires you to bring in your car for maintenance every X number of miles. But they did build your car, and should know best about the intervals required for proper function.
  • Use your eyes to inspect the car. Loose or cracking belts, inadequate tire pressure, low fluid levels, and especially parts and pieces coming off the vehicle are all readily apparent traits if you know where to look. Familiarize yourself with your vehicle, and consult the user’s guide if you’re unsure.
  • Listen to your car’s heartbeat. No one knows your car quite like you do – you ride in it all day long, and know what it typically sounds like. You should also be able to tell when something’s wrong at the first sign of trouble – a strange vibration, noise, whistle, or bell are all early warning clues that something needs to be checked.
  • Don’t let small problems fester and grow up. Putting off a small repair may just be the worst thing you can do financially, even with the best of intentions. Small problems have a way of compounding and getting worse quickly.
  • Easy, tiger. Relax off the gas pedal, especially during the first few minutes of an engine’s running time. Don’t open up on the throttle until the engine is fully warmed up. Avoid stopping and starting the engine frequently.
  • Mind the age. An older car will have a unique set of problems – rust and other corrosion, electronic systems giving out, and years of engine wear finally taking their toll. Treat your car with care, but especially if it’s a senior citizen.
  • Learn a bit, and do it too. Working on your car saves money and teaches you to take care of your assets. There are plenty of simple things you can learn to do, like changing out the air filter or swapping a burnt-out light bulb.
  • Break out the shades. Keep your car covered whenever possible. This is especially true for a harsh climate, like Florida, where the sun will wreak absolute havoc on your interiors and paint job.
  • Verify your fuel grade. Make sure you’re using the right fuel grade for your car. Most newer models will run on regular and only regular, but better to check and use the correct fuel.
  • Clean me! Keep that ride clean to maintain your paint work, enhance that warm and fuzzy feeling of “ownership”, and keep your boss from thinking you’re a complete slob.

One of the biggest criticisms I get for trying to maintain an older car are the intermittent but very large expenses that pop up when something major fails. At least so far, I have been able to prove my point with a little bit of analysis. If you take even the large maintenance bills and project them over the months where maintenance expenses did not exist, the average monthly cost is smaller than a new vehicle, and typically much smaller. For more information on “spreading out” the costs of car repair, and any other budget category that isn’t steady, see my link to “Why Budgets Fail” below. And please share your own car maintenance tips!

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Photo by Danilo Prates