Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am

On The Road

How to get the most out of your vehicle


Q: I just spent a lot of money on a new car and am very happy with it. I would like to keep this car for a while and not have to buy another one for a long time. What can I do to keep this car reliable and in good running order over the long haul? Is it true that when a car reaches 100,000 miles it is time to buy a new one?

A: I will answer your second question first: No. If you take good care of your vehicle, then there is no reason it can’t stay with you for more than 200,000 miles. To help that happen, make sure to keep the car looking good and mechanically fit.

Looking good

The best way to maintain your paint job is to keep your car clean. The debris that accumulates on the exterior causes the finish to deteriorate (especially bird droppings, which are acidic and chemically damage the paint). The longer debris is left on the finish of the vehicle, the more damage is done.

Because it is not always convenient to wash the car yourself and not the best for the environment to wash a car in the street (wash water flows down the sewer and into the Bay), taking your vehicle to a professional car wash is a good alternative. They usually recycle and clean the wash water before it enters the sewer system.

The interior of your vehicle also requires some ongoing attention. Place mats on the floor to protect the carpets and be careful with food and drink in the car. We also recommend a professional detail once a year to keep the appearance (both inside and out) like new.

Mechanically fit

A number of areas require attention to keep your vehicle in good running condition.

The best place to start is to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. Again, this is a place to start.

Following only the manufacturer’s recommendations simply guarantees to get you to the end of the factory warranty period.

To take your car down the road another five to 10 years requires more attention to the details. For example, so-called lifetime fluids will lead to shorter component lifetimes if the fluids are not changed as needed. Transmissions can last many times longer if the fluid is changed at 60,000 miles (sometimes sooner, depending on the application).

Engine coolant deteriorates and should be tested for acidity or pH so that the old coolant does not damage the engine metals and cooling system. This can lead to engine head gasket failures, radiator failures and coolant hose failures.

The brake-system fluid also deteriorates and needs to be tested to determine when it should be changed. Old brake-system fluid can cause premature brake-component failures or can lower the system fluid boiling point. This can cause brakes to fail under heavy use.

Power-steering fluid also needs to be tested and changed when needed. Old power-steering fluid will lead to premature failure of power-steering-system components.

Most car owners are aware of the need to change engine oil and filters. There is an alternative to the tried and true petroleum-based oils: synthetic engine oils. The synthetics can go longer between changing, resulting in less waste added to the environment. The other advantage is less wear and tear on engine parts, lower heat and lower or no deposit buildup on the engine. This will mean longer engine life with fewer repairs.

Investing a little time to pay attention to the details will result in your new car’s living a long life for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Warren McCord is an ASE certified master technician and owner of Dean’s Automotive Inc., 2037 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 961-0302 or e-mail McCord at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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