The average age of cars on American roads is nearly 11 years, according to Polk Research. Plenty of drivers own vehicles with well over 200,000 miles. The long-term savings of keeping a car for 200,000 miles, or about 15 years, can be $30,000 or more. Clearly, learning to keep a car well maintained and healthy is worth the effort.
1) Your Owner's Manual and Regular Mechanic Checks
a) Read and follow the owner's manual for your vehicle.
b) Find out the recommended maintenance schedule and stick to it.
c) Follow the "severe duty" maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer.
2) Look, Listen and Smell
a) Know how to check your car's oil and transmission fluid, and how to inflate your tires to the correct levels.
b) Pay attention to how your car runs. Any time it makes odd sounds, has trouble starting, overheats, or does not brake or handle correctly, get the car checked by your mechanic.
c) Heed warning indicator lights on the dashboard.
d) Do a walk-around of your car regularly, including checking brake lights and turn signals.
e) If you see fluid spots in your garage or parking space, park on some cardboard to check the exact source of the leak. Get the leak repaired as soon as possible.
f) Listen for out of the ordinary sounds. Note when these happen and at what speed and give this information to your mechanic. This saves them hours of trying to recreate the issue, and saves you money in labor costs.
g) When you check your oil, notice if it smells burnt. If it does, get repairs quickly and avoid needing your engine rebuilt.
h) Burnt or bad-smelling transmission fluid is a bad sign that needs mechanic attention immediately.
3) Oil Changes and Fluid Checks
a) Never skip recommended oil and filter change. Missing oil changes results in clogged oil filters and sludge that wrecks engines.
b) Use the "severe use" oil change schedule listed in the owner's manual.
c) Use synthetic oil.
d) Your mechanic will check the other fluids during oil changes. They will inspect the fluid itself and top off fluid levels. If there is a big fluid loss, mechanics can find the cause and repair it before it gets worse.
a) Get your transmission fluid and filter changed according to your car's maintenance schedule.
b) Replace the fluid at least every 100,000 miles or sooner.
Regardless of how well you care for your car, accidents happen, and parts fail. However, proper maintenance keeps your car on the road longer and brings you a better price at trade-in time. It is usually cheaper to fix a car that is in decent condition than it is to make new car payments. Follow your maintenance schedule and attend to concerns quickly to keep your car running for 200,000 miles or more.