7 Tips to Help Your Vehicle Reach 200,000 Miles

by Rich Ellis

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 the proper maintenance and attention, there’s no reason you shouldn’t expect to see that 50,000-mile reading on the odometer one day roll right past 200,000 and keep on going. Here’s how to make that happen. 

Avoid short trips.

The difference between driving short distances and longer distances – and it’s a detrimental one to your vehicle – 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, and as a result, that water can remain in the engine, collect in the oil, and settle in the exhaust system where it causes excessive wear and tear. Frequent short trips also mean an increased number of cold starts for the engine, which also translates to increased wear because the engine’s oil isn’t flowing as freely or in every place that it should until the engine is warmed up.

Find a mechanic you trust and like.

Given the choice, you’d rather work with someone you get along with, who you believe has your best interests at heart, right? That’s why you need a good technician who’s going to be a partner in your quest to reach that magical 200,000 milestone, not someone 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. 

Read your owner's manual.

In addition to informing you what that little button on the dash is actually for, the owner’s manual contains vital information about the various vehicle 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 what types of fluids work best in the vehicle and provides vehicle operation instructions that prevent damage and reduce wear. 

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 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 trapped gnarly stuff. 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, and your mechanic’s advice, to develop and stick with a regular maintenance schedule. 

Pay attention to your vehicle.

We’re not suggesting a date night or a conversation around hopes and aspirations, but rather an increased awareness 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 correct a little problem before it becomes a major, vehicle-ending problem. 

Manufacturer recalls.

Don’t ignore vehicle manufacturer recall notifications, no matter how minor you think they seem. Manufacturers don’t just 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.

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. Removing dirt, bugs, sap, chemicals, and salt from your vehicle’s exterior and coating it with wax on a regular basis help 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, if left to accumulate, will increase 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. 
It’s a long way to 200,000 miles – another 38,000 beyond that and you’ll have equaled the earth’s average distance from the moon. Not every vehicle will make it to that impressive milestone, but by being a responsible vehicle owner, you can increase the likelihood that yours will. 

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