Maintaining your high-mileage vehicle
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Maintaining your high-mileage vehicle

While modern vehicles are typically designed to be nearly trouble free over a decade of use, the average American car is about 11.6 years old and 80% of cars built within the last 20 years are still being driven. How can you make sure your car is part of that 80%? By keeping up with maintenance and knowing what repairs to expect as your car ages.

Keep Up on Maintenance

Most included maintenance schedules end at 150,000 miles, but once you’re beyond that point, you still need to keep doing the same repairs at the same intervals whether it’s oil changes every 5,000 miles or timing belts every 60,000 miles. Some manufacturers also include added maintenance once the vehicle reaches a specific age or mileage. Suspension components and diesel emissions systems need to be checked more often as parts start to wear out.

Going to start using your old car as a winter beater? Oil breaks down over time, so you might need to change the oil before you’ve reached the mileage interval. Most manufacturers recommend replacing oil every year or two.

Check the Oil Frequently

As internal seals and piston rings get old and wear down, they can let oil get into places where it shouldn’t be, burning it off. If too much oil is burned, there won’t be enough left in the oil pan to lubricate the engine. Check the oil level every few hundred miles and keep some extra oil on hand to top it off as needed.

Consider Switching to High Mileage Formulations

High mileage motor oil and transmission fluid have added conditioners to help expand and restore aging seals so these fluids stay where they need to be instead of leaking out or burning off, and they’re designed to resist burning and deposit formations to keep internal components clean.

When switching to a different fluid, make sure it meets all the manufacturer requirements. In the past, it was common for owners of older vehicles to switch to higher viscosity oil to increase oil pressure, but that oil may not make it all the way through the motor, keeping some parts from being protected. Instead of protecting the motor, using high viscosity oil will make it wear out faster.

Expect Some Parts to Wear Out

Wear and tear will eventually break parts in your vehicle no matter how well it has been cared for. There are a few common areas that will have problems as your car ages:

When you have your air conditioner serviced, the condenser is cleaned and the refrigerant topped off to make it easier for the compressor to do its job. However, this doesn’t address clutch wear, which will eventually keep the compressor from switching on when you push the “A/C” button.

The belt tensioner springs will lose their pushing force and some tensioner mounts will crack after facing several years of heat and vibration. This will let the belt vibrate and jump, keeping the engine from powering accessories.

Rubber will crack and shrink with age, putting suspension bushings, brake hoses, radiator hoses, CV joints and vacuum lines at risk of failure. Most oil leaks in older engines are caused by brittle valve cover and oil pan gaskets.

Oxygen sensors help the ECU keep tabs on the exhaust, but to do so, they need to be in the path of the exhaust gases when they’re at their hottest. Even the best made sensor will wear out after long term exposure to these extreme temperatures, resulting in poor fuel economy and reduced power.

Don’t Forget the Body

While it’s easy to get stuck on caring for what’s under the hood, it’s important to remember to take care of the entire car. Seals around doors and windows can shrink and wear thin from use, increasing wind noise and letting moisture gather inside the cabin, while Wisconsin’s salt exposure can rust out an old car just as easily as it will a new one.

When you need to have your car rustproofed or you need body maintenance including rust repair, seal replacement, headlight restoration or paint restoration, visit the experts at Merton Auto Body. We have the latest equipment and a staff of I-CAR Gold trained and ASE certified technicians who can help you keep your car on the road for years to come.


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