Top Five Ways to Make Your Car Run Forever


  • Oil Dipstick Picture

    Oil Dipstick Picture

    Checking your engine's fluid levels on a regular basis is an easy way to keep your car running. | July 02, 2012

3 Photos

Though we may set out to keep a car forever, not everyone will have the persistence — and luck — of Irv Gordon, a man who holds the world record for having driven his 1966 Volvo P1800 for nearly 3 million miles. You can, however, greatly extend the life of your vehicle, while simultaneously reducing the possibility of mechanical mishaps. The following five items are basic and can apply to any vehicle.

1. Follow Your Vehicle's Service Schedule: This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still too many car owners out there who pay little or no attention to the vehicle maintenance schedule as laid out in the owner's manual. "I follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule, not the dealer's," says Gordon. "They built the car, so they ought to know what's best for the car." Not following the maintenance schedule is particularly inexcusable in late-model cars that have oil life monitoring systems that automatically determine the best time for an oil change. Between the service indicator lights located in the gauge cluster of many new cars and the lengthy intervals between required service (up to 20,000 miles in some models), there's no reason for skimping on proper maintenance.

2. Check Fluids and Tire Pressure Regularly: Here's a task that takes about 10 minutes. With a rag in hand and the engine cool, open the hood and pull out the oil dipstick. Wipe it clean, reinsert it and pull it out again for a quick check of your oil — the most important engine fluid. Check the radiator overflow reservoir level and the brake cylinder reservoir. Check the power steering fluid level and, while you're at it, check the hoses and belts for any signs of wear or imminent failure. Give the air cleaner a look, too. Start the car and after it warms up, check the transmission fluid level. Finally, with the tires cool, use a pressure gauge to make sure each tire has the proper psi, as described in the owner's manual or in the driver's side door jamb. Ideally you should do these checks once a week, but in the real world, once a month would be acceptable — except for tire pressure, which really should be checked at least every other week.

3. Go Easy During Start-up: You might have heard this from someone who fires up his car and immediately floors it: "It helps warm it up." Wrong. A cold engine — meaning one that's been sitting for more than five hours — will have little or no oil left on the moving parts. It's all seeped down into the oil pan. It only takes a few seconds after start-up for the oil pump to adequately lubricate an engine. During those few seconds, you should keep engine rpm down to a minimum. Give the engine at least 30 seconds before popping it in gear and driving off. Give it a little more time if it has sat for more than 24 hours.

4. Listen for Odd Noises: Turn off the radio once in a while and listen for any odd noises, both at idle and when under way. Here are a few examples: A clicking noise when you are driving could be a nail stuck in a tire. If it is time for new brakes, you might hear the loud squealing sound of the brake wear indicators. These go off when the car is driving and the brake pedal is not depressed. Similarly, if you hear a scraping or grinding noise while applying the brakes, it could mean that the brake pads are so low that metal to metal contact is already happening. If you cannot pinpoint the source of the noise, take the car to your mechanic to get a more informed opinion.

5. Drive Calmly: Take it easy on the car when you drive it. "Go easy on the brakes and don't drive it too hard," says Gordon. The occasional full-throttle acceleration or panic stop isn't going to hurt anything, but a constant Ricky Roadracer attitude will reduce your car's road time and add to its downtime.

The same easy-does-it attitude applies to shifting gears, too. Make sure the car is completely stopped before shifting into reverse, and be sure you're stopped before going back to a forward gear. That will avoid stress on the transmission components. If you need more incentive for calm driving, how about money in your pocket? Edmunds editors tested the tips and found that having a calm driving style improved fuel economy by about 35 percent.

Don't Panic Over Wear-and-Tear
These simple steps can be applied to just about any vehicle, and will help you take a proactive approach to maintaining your vehicle. But don't be discouraged when things start to break down. Parts wear out on every car, even those with excellent reputations for reliability. In almost all cases, it is cheaper to fix your car than to replace it.

These are our five tips for keeping your car running forever, but what is Irv Gordon's secret to reaching nearly 3 million miles? Drive the car like you love it. We couldn't agree more.

Comments

  • null_4 null_4 Posts:

    rear vents blowin cold air when heater is on

  • This article seems a little dated, but the basic information provided remains valid - with a few exceptions: 1. Slick-50 provides no additional protection on start-up. It was most likely quickly filtered out right after being added, and even if it wasn't, there's nothing to make the teflon stick to engine parts in the first place. Bearings and cylinder wall interfaces retain sufficient oil to provide lubrication until the oil comes up to pressure (just a few seconds). 2. Buying higher octane than your car needs to operate is a waste of money. OTOH, if your engine has a carbon buildup that results in some "pinging," running a higher octane will help. 3. Running the same brand of gasoline can actually lead to engine deposit build-up. Changing brands occasionally will allow the new gas to remove the deposits left by the previous gas, and visa-versa.

  • When buying motor oil, check to see if its certified by the American Petroleum Institute. It is located on the star burst symbol on the front label. Then buy the lowest price of oil that you can find, knowing that it has passed all of the tests they put the oil through. Save money without sacrificing quality. You do not need to buy the name brands oils.

  • saintt9903 saintt9903 Posts:

    The above are all completely logical suggestions. One you might not think of is that if you drive a car with a high performance engine- drive it like it was meant to be driven. On occasion, and after fully warmed up, go ahead and use most of the rpm and throttle range. Let it develop all the power it is meant to, otherwise you may be stuck with a car with a high-performance reputation but will no longer be able to fulfill those demands if it was always babied and not allowed to 'stretch it's legs' on occasion.

  • this is true to some but not to others... i had a 1996 ford explorer purchased with 176,XXX miles did a tune-up COMPLETE. and never did another oil change due to it leaking/burning oil... so never changed plugs/wires/oil/fuel filter/ air filter/ nothing. besides brakes/tires/wiper blades... it lasted till just over 304K and that was because it ran out of oil and blew up the engine.. yet. I had a 96 s10 2.2l changed oil regularly did all the maintenance and everything... yet it blew the engine at 172K!!! yeah i try to take car of my vehicles but if it burn/leaks oil why change it if you adding 1-2+ courts a week?!

  • bluetdi bluetdi Posts:

    For those of us living in the northern part of the country. You need to remove the salt from your Vehicle after each snow event. Also look for areas that collect road salt and be sure to flush well. The life span of most vehicles seems to be dictated by drive system components and suspension. With today’s modern engines I don’t see the need for any protective measures other than routine maintenance. I’ve had a few cars with over there hundred thousand miles, with great compression, no metal in the oil and absolutely no oil consumption.

  • Also don't let anyone borrow it!

  • tmharrell tmharrell Posts:

    I would add two things: 1. Buy a vehicle you know you want to drive for 200,000 miles. You are more likely to take care of it. And you are more likely to drive it like you love it. 2. When buying a car, use Edmund's True Cost to Own to avoid surprises, especially the frequency of repair and the cost of repairs. It is easy to fall out of love if the repairs are more than you anticipated.

  • delphino delphino Posts:

    1997 Chevy silverado 4x4 290,000 miles and still going strong. Synthetic oil, in eng., differentials, transmission, even brake fluid. Radiator, brake system and power steering fluids changed every 2 years...My truck has seen, heavy snow, low floods, mud and beaches, it's been on 3, 3500 mile trips towing a trailer with well over 200,000 mile on odometer at that time. I'm a firm believer, if you take care of your stuff, it will take care of you...

  • bluelady2 bluelady2 Posts:

    All the tips are very good. But my experience has taught me to avoid the dealers unless your vehicle needs a major repair. I quit getting my 'inspections' at the dealer and my car repairs dropped by $1000 annually. They were always finding something that was about to fail and I should fix it 'right away'. I got the last 75,000 miles on my Honda dealer-free and traded it in excellent condition at 175,000 for a vehicle that has yet to see the inside of the dealer's shop. I love my cars, I take good care of them, I drive them reasonably, and they serve me well.

  • lowndes lowndes Posts:

    I have a comment that NO ONE else has, and NO ONE believes, either!! I always keep the oil level one quart ABOVE the full mark on the dipstick. People will tell me that this will "blow the seals" and other such things. My reply is the I am currently driving a 2001 Ford Taurus with the standard 3.0 V6 and over 400,000 miles. Id does not burn or leak oil, never been "worked on", other than water pumps, power steering pumps, alternators. The transmission was rebuilt at 150,000, but it's a Ford. My previous cars, all using the same "one over full" were '72 Ford Econoline - 220,000 miles; '76 VW Diesel Rabbit - 240,000 miles; '78 VW Diesel Rabbit - 260,000 miles; '89 VW Quantum Turbo Diesel - 270,000 miles; '92 Ford Taurus SHO - 220,000 miles. Also, my wife's '95 Camry - 173,000 miles, but she is retired now and doesn't drive much. All of these vehicles were purchased used with 40-60,000 miles already on them. I have ALL the fuel receipts with the mileage at fillup on each back to '68, and the motel bills, too!! None of these engines ever had any work, other than the water pumps, etc. and none of them burned oil. The main reason I have been doing this is for the GAS MILEAGE improvement I get. It has been in the 8-10% increase range. The only reason I can come up with is that the cylinder walls get more "splash" lubrication and there is less internal friction. I change the oil and filter at 5K myself. So, does anyone else have any ideas or similar experience??

  • carguy1964 carguy1964 Posts:

    The reason you do an oil change at the proper interval even though you are adding oil frequently is because you replace the filter which will eventually become clogged and limit the flow of oil to critical engine components. Clean oil does no good if it is not distributed properly to all the internally lubricated parts.

  • carguy1964 carguy1964 Posts:

    The reason you do an oil change at the proper interval even though you are adding oil frequently is because you replace the filter which will eventually become clogged and limit the flow of oil to critical engine components. Clean oil does no good if it is not distributed properly to all the internally lubricated parts.

  • caseyjones2 caseyjones2 Posts:

    The comment by Saint9903 is not entirely crazy. Here is what I was told by the Lubrication Engineers at Borg-Warner, who designed parts of the pumps that pump the oil in the Alaska Pipeline: When the metal in your engine is new and young, including the rings, it is strong and elastic (as opposed to brittle). To break in an engine, first baby it and vary speed for 200 miles or so, then change out the oil. For the next few hundred miles, keep varying the speed, and, be sure to run it as hard and hot and high-rpm as you will ever run it. The rings will expand and carve out their channels in the cylinders that will last the life of the engine. If you exceed those limits later in the engine life, the rings will be too brittle, and instead of carving out a larger path, they will chip and flake and your engine will start burning oil. Since I was told this, I have had four new cars, and none has ever burned enough oil to top-off between changes, nor any (internal) engine problems.

  • joemaize joemaize Posts:

    Why change oil if it burns/leaks 1-2 quarts a week? To get rid of the acids and other harmful chemicals that build up inside the crankcase.

  • aprilia1 aprilia1 Posts:

    # 1 Don't let your wife drive it.

  • bpeebles bpeebles Posts:

    Is it obvious to anyone else that this photo shows oil-level which is OVERFILLED above the safe area? This is a good way to blow a seal in the engine. The oil-level should be BETWEEN the upper and lower markings in the 'safe' area.

  • bpeebles bpeebles Posts:

    Oh - and for the folks suggesting that oil must meet API specs (American Petroleum Institute) You are thinking about a single country too much. Asian vehicles often need JASO certification on their oil and European vehicles (like my Diesel volkswagen that gets 56 MPG) REQUIRES special oil that the API does not even recognize nor test for.

  • samwallace samwallace Posts:

    Two words: synthetic oil

  • theshark1 theshark1 Posts:

    I service my car when due approx every 5k. I change the coolant,brake p/s, every 30k. All my cars have over a 200k and run great. I do not rent a car to go on long trips I take my own vehicles because I know they are dependable. I see the listings of other people commenting on lack of service is better and I think they are fooling themselves and others. Cars and trucks are still a mechanical machine which require maintenance on a regular basis. Oil and lubes now days have improve tenfold within the last 10-15 years. Technology is here and I use that technology on my vehicles. It use to be call snake oil in the past and there are still some out there. But additives do work and porolong the life of engine and transmissions etc. Car dealers want vehicles to wear out to sell you another one, service depts want your vehicle to last as long as possible and safely without buying a new vehicle every 7-10 years. So you do homework and decide how you want to spend your money. If you like new cars every 3-5 years don't service them. If you want to save money keep what you have and maintain it! Its cheeper to keeper. Happy motoring!

  • dutchman61 dutchman61 Posts:

    There is a lot of things associated with long life for a car, but the reality is there are two pieces of mechanical equipment that determine its life: the engine and transmission. Yet of all the things you can do, the oils are the one thing that really matter. When they are new, the components must wear it together to operate correctly. They used to call it the break in period. How a car is broken in is the single most important factor in determining it life. During this period (the first 1200 miles give or take) it is critical to properly warm up the engine and transmission, then operate it through its full range. Vary the speeds and do not stay at one level. Mix city with highway. Start fast and slow. At the end of the break in, the engine oil and the transmission oils should be changed. Why? Because during break in metal parts wear and you will find tiny microscopic fragments in the oils. Many will be filtered out, but not all and they will abrade the wear surfaces like miniture files. Bearings work based on a very thin film or layer of oil between the moving parts. Anything solid causes hard contact and wear. At initial cold start, you have metal to metal contact. The second most important factor is the quality of your fluids and regular replacement. If you have a sealed transmission that does not call for maintenance, contact the service representative of your dealer and ask them what the manufacturer tells them. For engine oil, the simple truth is you should always use better oil rather than the minimum standard. natural oil is a mixture of hundreds of carbon chains and the rating is an average. In recent years, the refineries have improved the formulas to limit the total number of elements and make them more consistent. The result is a better average to start with. All oils age with use causing the carbon chains to breakdown into smaller chains with less lube protection as well as accumulating dirt. This is where the synthetics step in. Mobil discovered they could create lube oil carbon chains 3 to 5 times as long as natural oil. The longer chains actually flow better at hot and cold temp so they protect the parts better. Their long life comes from the length of the chains. Like conventional oil, their chains breakdown with wear and age, but they break down into "normal" oil first.

  • tcarlos tcarlos Posts:

    First, ignore most of the opinions posted in this comments section. You have no idea who we are, or what we know.Seek out a verifiably knowledgeable person on the automotive subject, and get their opinion. When you read opinions like the one here telling you that all oils are the same (or "good enough") if they carry the API symbol, you know you are being mislead.

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