7 Tips to Help Your Vehicle Reach 200,000 Miles

the odometer of a vehicle at rest

Source | Peter Stevens/Flickr

Now it’s easier than ever to keep your car running smoothly for thousands of miles. If your vehicle has less than 50,000 miles on it today, chances are it still has 75 percent of its driving life ahead of it. That’s good news if you’re like the majority of Americans who are holding onto their vehicles longer than ever before.

It wasn’t that long ago that hitting the 100,000-mile mark on the odometer was a major milestone. Today, vehicles are built to last. With proper maintenance and attention, there’s no reason you shouldn’t expect to see that odometer roll right past 200,000 and keep on going. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Read your owner’s manual

In addition to informing you on the basics, like what those buttons on the dash actually do, the owner’s manual contains vital information for your vehicle. You’ll find specifics about the various components that need to be monitored and replaced, when that needs to happen, and how owners can perform the checks.

Following the owner’s manual also helps prolong your vehicle’s life, because it specifies which fluids work best and provides vehicle-operation instructions that prevent damage and reduce wear.

2. Avoid short trips

The difference between driving short distances and longer distances is that the engine never has a chance to reach its optimal operating temperature on short trips. Here’s why that’s a problem. Water is a byproduct of combustion. When the engine is nice and hot and operating at its most efficient temperature, the water turns to vapor and is ventilated out of the engine. But on short trips, the engine never gets up to that optimal temperature. As a result, water can remain in the engine, collect in the oil, and settle in the exhaust system, where it causes excessive wear and tear.

a mechanic lays underneath a car during a routine maintenance check

Source | Mark Ittleman/Flickr

3. Find a mechanic you trust and like

Given the choice, DIYers would rather work on their own vehicles. We get that. Sometimes, though, having a mechanic you trust is worth its weight in platinum brake pads. Mechanics you get along with—who you believe have your best interests at heart—will give you the right advice and won’t BS you. They’ll be a partner in your quest to reach that magical 200,000 milestone, not interested only in selling you an expensive repair and never seeing you again. If they’re experienced, accustomed to working on the type of vehicle you drive, and convenient to your work or home, it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

4. Follow the recommended vehicle-maintenance schedule

If you hate your vehicle and don’t want it to last through the next block let alone make it to 200,000 miles, then this is the one category you want to ignore. Nothing shortens a vehicle’s life faster than a lack of maintenance. Remember your friendly mechanic and the stimulating reading found between the pages of your owner’s manual? They’re both instrumental in knowing when to perform routine vehicle maintenance, based on either mileage or time increments, or both.

While you should keep up on all maintenance items, the most important step is far and away the oil change. In addition to lubricating vital engine parts, oil traps contaminants and prevents them from harming your engine. Changing the oil gets rid of all that gunk. Oil also breaks down over time, so it’s necessary to replace it at regular intervals.

Of course, don’t forget about these items as well:

  • Coolant, brake, power steering, and transmission fluids
  • Filters
  • Belts
  • Brakes
  • Windshield wipers

Follow your owner’s manual to develop and stick with a maintenance schedule.

5. Pay attention to your vehicle

We’re not talking about a date night or a conversation around hopes and aspirations, but rather an increased awareness as to how your vehicle looks, sounds, smells, and feels. Don’t just get in it and go, or park it and leave. Pay attention to anything new or out of the ordinary when it comes to your vehicle’s characteristics like:

  • Vibrations, rattles, or squeaks
  • Unusual smells
  • Fluid leaks under the hood or underneath the vehicle

Look at the dashboard gauges and indicator lights for signs of trouble. By paying attention to how your vehicle operates normally, you’ll notice when a mechanical problem is causing something out of the ordinary to happen, enabling your mechanic to make a minor repair before it becomes a major, vehicle-ending problem.

6. Follow up on manufacturer recalls

Don’t ignore vehicle-manufacturer-recall notifications, no matter how minor you think they seem. Manufacturers don’t issue recall notices on a whim. It has to be a serious, important issue that affects vehicle performance and/or driver and passenger safety, which means it’s something you want to take care of. Be wary of any upsells when you take your car in, though. It makes sense to do your research before blindly agreeing to any potentially costly repairs.

7. Make it shine

There are several reasons to keep your vehicle clean inside and out, aside from the most obvious one of looking good when you’re behind the wheel. A regular wash and wax will protect the finish and prevent the vehicle body and components from rusting, corroding, and decaying.

The same is true inside the vehicle where dirt and other foreign materials accumulate, increasing fabric, vinyl, and leather wear. Regular cleaning also gets you up close and personal with it, so you’re more likely to notice broken or missing parts or other maintenance items that need attention.

And as long as you’re at it, don’t forget to clean the engine bay.

It’s a long way to 200,000 miles. Another 38,000 beyond that, and you’ll have equaled Earth’s average distance from the moon. Not every vehicle will make it to that impressive milestone, but by being an attentive vehicle owner, you can increase the likelihood that yours will.

Have you already reached 200,000 miles? Share your tips in the comments.

Comments

  1. Paul Ramdial says:

    My 91 Volvo is at 213,000 miles. I do most of the maintenance myself including timing belt changes , fluid changes (including transmission). To stay on top of things I maintain a log of all services and repairs . I try not to let things break and if that happens I turn to a forum that I participate in for tips. At present Im a member of four forums , Toyota , Honda , Volvo and Mercedes. If you are mechanically inclined and can help yourself these forums are invaluable. If not then being aware of the overall health of your vehicle is a must ( follow manufacturers maintenance schedule is the best guideline). Take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you, simple as that.

  2. Kevin Kelly says:

    My 2004 Chevy Malibu Maxx has more than 280,000 miles. I bought it new in August of 2005 and it had 900 demo miles on it. Proper routine maintenance has been critical for it to last. Do not skimp by using cheap oils and filters. I have done 95% of all the maintenance myself. I will be replacing the front strut assembly and rear shocks in May. I plan on driving it to at least 350,000 miles.

  3. I have a Saturn 2001 that just turned 240,000 that has had the intake manifold break twice day or two after Sandy. ( no internet) part cost $150 Second time was six months ago I found a $55 fix that is still working after 18 hours to total time under the hood…

  4. Janie Humphrey says:

    I recently sold my 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Edition to my ex brother in law. I had this Jeep for 9 years. Original motor and transmission. When I sold it to him it had 315,000 miles on it. The key is to keep the oil changed on your vehicle. Now I have an ’02 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and am looking to get that many miles and more out of it.

  5. Andy Sugrim says:

    I have a 2001 Honda Odyssey ex model with 205,800 miles and running like a champ. Replaced the transmission and torque convertor, but it’s the original 3.5 vtec engine that’s a beast. Change my oil at 2,500 miles, rotate tires and balance, flush fluids and change belts regularly
    Parts are so cheap, its worth it. Take care of your car and it will take care of you.

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