How to Drive Your Car for Miles and Miles

Gear and Tech : August 1, 2008

I once had a friend in college that drove an ’89 Civic with 250,000 miles on it and the sucker ran like a dream. No engine sputtering, no squeaky brakes, not a peep. Other than a busted lime green paint job and hemorrhoid-inducing seats, you’d swear the thing was mint. So when he told me that he’d never had any work done to it other than basic maintenance, I thought he was talking out of his ass rear exhaust. Not even Einsteen could figure out how to get 250,000 miles out of a twelve year old Civic.

But sure enough my friend was telling the truth. Come to find out, if you take proper care of your car and alter some of your driving habits, you can drive until the wheels fall off. The trick is having a car that you actually want to drive for that long.

  1. Read the manual: Everything you’d ever need to know about taking care of your car is the in manual, and yet most people don’t even read the thing. Big mistake. The manual is the key to unlocking your car’s longevity, and contains valuable info about proper scheduled maintenance. If you’ve misplaced your manual click here for an online library thanks to the good folks at Edmunds.
  2. Change the oil: Probably the single most important thing you can do for increasing longevity. Without it your car’s a ticking time bomb, so defuse the situation by changing it as instructed. To find out how often you should change your vehicle’s oil, see tip number one.
  3. Watch the heavy foot: Accelerating fast and stopping quickly will put a lot of wear and tear on your engine. It’s also bad on fuel consumption, and with gas prices hovering at $4.00 a gallon, you may want to watch the peel-outs…no matter how much fun they are.
  4. Stick it in the garage: Keeping your car in a garage will help cut down damage caused by the elements, plus it’s much more effective than throwing a cover over it.
  5. Wash and wax: Nobody wants to drive an ugly car, especially if you’re going to be driving it for 200,000+ miles…so make sure you wash and wax frequently. And don’t forget about the interior! Vacuuming the carpet and scotch guarding the seats will make a difference.
  6. Get some fresh air: Most people know to change their oil frequently, but a lot of drivers forget about changing the air filter. This allows your engine to “breathe” easier and thus last longer, and it will also improve your fuel economy (click here for more tips on saving gas).
  7. Fill ‘er up: If you’re storing your car for an extended period of time remember to top off the tank. If you don’t you risk the chance of getting moisture in your fuel injectors.
  8. Cool Off: Maintaining the proper coolant level is almost as important as changing the oil. If you don’t have the proper coolant level the damage to your engine could be catastrophic overtime.

The average life of most U.S. driver’s automobiles is 100,000 miles. If you follow routine maintenance and give your car some tender loving care, there’s no reason you can’t double that.