The Long Haul

By Chandra Orr

April 3, 2009 5 min read

THE LONG HAUL

Cars need more monitoring after 100,000 miles

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

The odometer just clicked over. Your car made it to 100,000 miles. Now what?

"Treat your car as you did for the first 100,000 miles for as long as you own it. You made it to the first milestone, you must be doing something right," said Irv Gordon from East Patchogue in Long Island, N.Y.

He knows a thing or two about high-mileage cars. As the owner of a 1966 Volvo P1800S with over 2.7 million miles, Gordon holds the Guinness World Record for the most miles driven by a single owner in a noncommercial vehicle.

"Higher mileage cars simply require the same service they have always had, but perhaps at a bit shorter intervals," he said.

In other words, don't wait until there is a problem to see a mechanic. Over time, preventative maintenance costs less than big repairs -- and you'll save yourself a lot of aggravation.

"As components and materials age, it becomes more and more important to monitor their condition," said Bruce Kunz, also known as "The FIN MAN," a vintage vehicle enthusiast and classic car columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "What may have been a slow process of deterioration can suddenly accelerate and, if not addressed, can result in premature failure of mechanical systems and materials."

With a little luck, an ounce of prevention and a bit of TLC, your high-mileage vehicle could see another 100,000 miles.

MIND THE DETAILS

Periodically inspect belts, hoses, bushings, protective covers and other rubber parts, which deteriorate over time. Look for signs of aging or mechanical wear.

"The longer these parts are exposed to the elements, the greater the chance that these parts may begin to fail. The same goes for electrical parts as time causes connections, clips, plugs and fuses to oxidize and cause annoying and expensive problems," Gordon said.

Even a tiny leak in the brake line can lead to big problems. "Small leaks can result in low fluid levels on important control systems such as steering and brakes," Kunz said. "These are important safety components -- you do not want to risk failure."

CHECK THE FLUIDS

Check the antifreeze, brake and transmission fluids regularly. Replace them as needed -- and keep up with oil changes.

"Frequent oil changes are the lifeblood of the car's engine," Gordon said. "Oil changes must be done at proper intervals no matter how many miles or how old the car."

Consider a switch to synthetic motor oil, which tends to perform better in extreme temperatures and be more forgiving on older engines. It also lasts longer: Synthetic oil typically lasts 5,000 miles or more, while traditional mineral oil lasts about 3,000 miles.

Don't forget the battery. Even the most mechanically challenged driver can top off the battery fluid, and spending $2 on a bottle of distilled water to replenish the reservoir sure beats shelling out $100 for a new part.

KICK THE TIRES

"Checking the condition of the tires while on the ground or when the car is up on a lift is perhaps the most basic of check-ups, especially for the high mileage car," Gordon said.

Keep an eye out for signs of uneven wear, which can usually be corrected with a simple tire rotation, and check your tire pressure once a month. Your tires will last longer, and you'll save big bucks at the gas pump.

"Under-inflated tires will break down quickly as the sidewalls take a terrible beating from constant flexing and road hazards," Gordon explained. "Over-inflated tires will wear out quickly in the centers and cause a harsh ride, which will cause steering and suspension problems."

Also, watch for signs of aging. Regardless of how many miles you put on the tires, the rubber deteriorates over time and can pose a safety hazard.

"Older tires on cars that are not driven much should be checked for signs of dry rot, a condition that produces hairline fissure-like cracks in sidewalls. This condition can be dangerous," Kunz said.

KEEP IT CLEAN

Don't just baby the engine. Over time, grit and grime take their toll, so keep your car clean -- inside and out.

"Dirt translates to wear and tear, whether it's the fragile paint of the exterior or fabric and leather surfaces on the interior," Kunz explained.

A weekly car wash will go a long way in preventing rust. Follow up with a quick wipe-down and protective treatments for the dashboard, vinyl accents and leather seats.

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