Can you believe there was a time when the odometer on a vehicle only went up to five digits? It’s true! Of course, that was back when typing was done on a typewriter, you actually dialed the numbers on a phone, and you were told to change your oil “every three months or three thousand miles”. Back then, if your car was approaching the dreaded milestone when its odometer was about to hit a hundred thousand and “turn over” back to zero, it was probably headed for the scrap heap. And back then, seventy- or eighty thousand miles on a car were considered to be high mileage.
Times sure have changed. Today, many vehicles are really only entering adolescence at the same age and mileage that some of yesteryear were at when considering retirement. It would seem that a hundred thousand miles has become the new 60K.
But is that always true? Check out the label on any bottle of high-mileage motor oil and you will find that it is made for engines with seventy five thousand miles or more. A car might be considered to have “high miles” at that mark. And yet there are plenty of examples of healthy vehicles on the road with more than two hundred thousand miles.
What makes the difference? Is a car already getting old at seventy five thousand miles, or is it meant for more? If you are looking to get the most mileage possible out of your car, truck, or SUV, consider how high miles affect its performance.
The effects of age on your car
Just as our bodies age over time, so does your car. In fact, as the second law of thermodynamics might suggest, it begins deteriorating the moment it rolls out of the dealership lot. As your car ages, several issues impact its performance. Among the most influential are wear and tear from use, component breakdown (either from defect or time), corrosion and other elemental influencers, and internal engine wear.
Wear and tear on vehicle components can shorten a car’s life if not taken care of in a timely manner. Some components on your car – like the tires, brake pads, or oil filters – are sacrificial and have a relatively short useful lifespan. They are intended to be replaced regularly. But most car components are made for the long haul. That does not mean they will make it there, only that they are intended to do so. Brake rotors, for example, are not necessarily a sacrificial “wear item” like brake pads, but they wear out nevertheless. Your suspension system is not a wear item, but eventually you might have to replace the ball joints, struts, or tie rod ends because they can only take so much abuse on the road.
Besides wearing out, components can break down. Parts on your car can just up and quit on you. The alternator helps to keep your battery charged up and powers all of the electrical systems on your car while you are driving. It is made to last a long time. But alternators sometimes fail. So do air conditioning compressors, computer modules, ABS sensors, and a host of other components. They are not supposed to break, but they do. Some have an immediate impact on your car’s performance; others exhibit their effects over time.
Another issue that works its devilry over time is corrosion. Rust. If you live in a northern region of the country, especially one that relies on salt or calcium chloride to keep the roads free from ice in the winter (chloride is also used in many areas to keep down dust on gravel roads in the summertime), you know firsthand the effects of rust on a car’s body panels. SAme goes if you live by the sea. But corrosion also degrades mechanical components on the suspension, exhaust, and engine. Other environmental problems, such as hard water, acid rain and rail dust, might not affect how your car runs, but can cause it to look older than its age.
But the biggest issue impacting longevity is internal engine wear. Inside your engine, metal parts move quickly – thousands of revolutions per minute – and create a great deal of heat. To help mitigate the heat from combustion and friction, motor oil lubricates all of those parts. Without oil in your engine, all of those fast moving metal parts would scrape and grind against one another and wear out quickly. Now, some internal wear is normal and occurs over time. Excessive wear, though, will shorten an average engine’s life more than any other cause.
How to keep your car young as it ages
There are many factors that impact the way your car ages, whether gracefully or not. It stands to reason that fewer potholes will lead to less suspension wear, and avoiding salt-strewn roads (or washing your car on a regular basis) might decrease the chances of corrosion.
But the truth is, longevity is sometimes a matter of genetics. Certain makes and models on the road are simply prone to lasting longer than others. While auto enthusiasts may argue as to which brands are better or hold up longer, there is little doubt that, in general, some vehicles look better, last longer, and require fewer repairs than average.
That is, however, not the only truth. Just because the make and model of your vehicle has a reputation for longevity does not mean that your specific specimen will go the distance. And on the flip side, there are plenty of examples of inferior models that usually see an early ending to their lives, and yet some hold up for the long haul.
If not cared for correctly, any vehicle will suffer the effects of time because genetics are not the only factor. The good news is that you are far more likely to get high miles from your car if you take care of it properly.
You see, high miles may affect the performance of your vehicle, but you can limit their effect. How many miles your car makes it down the road is far more a condition of its care and condition than anything else. Preventative maintenance, such as replacing the timing belt(s) and serpentine belt before they break, or rotating the tires, or topping off the fluids, serves to lengthen the life of your car.
But nothing, repeat, nothing has as much of an impact as keeping up with oil changes. When the oil light comes on to warn you of low oil pressure, when your engine loses oil due to a leak, when the oil is allowed to become dirty, your engine wears out faster. So, avoid skipping oil changes. Pay attention to the oil life monitoring system. If you are unsure how and when to change your oil, check the vehicle owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals. If you switch from conventional oil to synthetic motor oil, you can give your engine the advantage of superior protection.
If you truly hope that your car does not end up looking and acting like it has seen thousands of miles of bad road, then you should certainly consider the manner of care you give to it, for you, above all else, are the most important factor in seeing it through to a ripe old age.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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