Maintenance Tips for Higher Mileage Cars

High mileage on vehicles can mean headaches for an owner, but smart maintenance can keep your favorite car running down the road for many miles to come. There are rules of thumb maintenance tips for higher mileage cars that may or may not be obvious to the average owner.

Buyer Beware – Taking the Maintenance Mystery Out of Buying Used Cars

Car dealers often replace car parts with the cheapest parts they can, and why would they not? They are in the business to make as much of a profit as they can.

Is that the real mileage?Are there extensive wears and tears to the interior? If so, this could be a sign of a rollback on the odometer.

Some things to look for to see how well a car has been maintained are straight out of “buying a used car 101” handbook.

  • Are the rotors rusty? Cars that sit in a seller’s yard or on a dealership lot can accumulate dust. Mix that dust with rain, humidity, snow, sleet or icy weather and rust can form over time. This may not seem like much of a concern, but could possibly be a headache for the buyer not far down the road. No one likes brakes squeaking, squealing or vibrating when pressure is applied to the brakes, not to mention there could be the expense of new rotors and brakes not long after a purchase.
  • Are there new brakes on that car you just have to have? If so, that is great, right? Maybe… or maybe not, it depends. New brakes can be a used as a ploy to distract a buyer from a car’s shortcomings. Even if new brakes and rotors were put on the car, it does not mean there will not be the expense of replacing them sooner than the buyer would expect to.
  • Ask if the rotors and brakes have been turned or rotated.
  • Are they new – all or specific ones?
  • What brand are they specifically?
  • Where were they purchased?
  • Is there a warranty and what is it?
  • Ask for a copy of all parts and repair work.

 

Do your homework and research the detail on those parts. It could indicate there are serious issues you cannot see.

  • Does the clutch pedal have a lot of wear? If so, this could indicate the previous owner rested their foot on the clutch pedal instead of the dead pedal – foot rest – existing for the driver to rest their foot on while driving. Resting a foot on the clutch pedal can wear on the manual transmission.
  • Tires should be replaced about every six years. Check for low tread and if any cracks are on the sides of them. Is there uneven wear or any smooth areas on the tread? Are there any punctures or evident repairs? These can affect a tire’s longevity, for example, a long nail puncture can create a weak point and promote premature belt shift.
  • Check the exhaust while the car is running; is there any smoke coming out? Smoke of any kind is a bad thing.
    • Blue Smoke – comes from excessive oil burning indicating a problem with the engine. The most common cause is oil leaking through the engine’s seals and into the cylinders. The oil mixes with fuel and burns along with it. Worn seals and gaskets are common in older or high mileage cars, so this is frequently seen.

      Only at startup – indicates worn piston seals, worn or damaged valve guides that can result in a rattling noise.

      An engine’s external oil leak dripping onto the hot engine or exhaust parts can cause blue smoke.

      Worn valve seals, piston wear, worn piston rings, non-functioning or dirty PCV valve, worn engine oil seals, intake manifold gasket leak and head gasket failure can cause blue smoke.

       
    • White Smoke – causes vary and can be as simple as built up condensation in the pipe(s) – common with cooler temperatures – existing as steam. However, if after the car has warmed up for bit and there is excessive white smoke, this may indicate internal coolant leaks and the possibility of a failing head gasket.An exorbitant amount of white smoke accompanied with a sweet smell isalso an indicator of an internal coolant leak.

      A leaking cylinder head gasket causes coolant toheat up in the combustion chambers then blow out the exhaust. Engine oil contamination occurs from coolant leakage – check the engine’s oil at the dipstick for a milky, frothy appearance.

      Main causes of white smoke exiting the exhaust, are a warped or cracked cylinder head, head gasket failure due to overheating or a cracked engine block.

      Poor cooling system maintenance, low level coolant, dirty coolant or a non-functioning cooling fan cause an engine to overheat. TIP – While the engine is hot – or running, never remove a reservoir cap or radiator cap. When cap loosening or removal releases the pressure built up, it can cause serious injury. The car should always be completely cooled down before attempting to remove these caps.
  • Black Smoke – comes from the production of excessive unburned fuel and is a fuel system problem. After the car is warmed up, the smoke may or may not disappear, or may be less noticeable. The engine may be – or may not be – starting badly, misfiring or running rough. There could be loss of the amount of power due to the air-fuel mixture.

    If the car has a carburetor its choke may be stuck and need repair or replacement.Fuel injectors could be leaking and need replacing.The air filter may be dirty and need replacing.The ignition module could be bad – check the distributor cap and rotor.

 

Is that rust under there?

Rust is easy to spot on the car’s body; notable bubbles, paint chips/peels and missing metal – holes – surrounded by evident rusting are obvious. Look for spot “fixes” in an attempt to hide deteriorations. Are there any areas with a slightly different color or vibrancy? A bad cover up job will stand out like an eye sore.

Vehicle suspension can be a little trickier on a high-mileage car. If possible, get the car up on a lift and do a visual inspection for any obvious damage; and take the car for a test drive. Listen closely for noises and car reactions as you drive.

 

High Mileage Service Recommendations

To keep a vehicle running well, it is important to due regular maintenance upkeep and inspection. Once it reaches 100,000 miles the manufacturer recommended maintenance stops and then it is up to the owner to schedule routine maintenance.

125,000 miles is just under five times around the earth… that is many miles “under your car’s belt”.

125,000 Miles Recommended Service

Spark Plugs

Decoupler Pulleys

O2 Sensors

Belt Tensioner

Coolant

Alignment

Transmission Fluid

Filters

Shocks and Struts

Brake Fluid

Combustion Chamber

 

180,000 Miles Recommended Service

Drivetrain Seals

MAF Sensor

Headlights

Timing Chain Tensioners

Power Steering Fluid

Engine and Transmission Mounts

Air Conditioning System

 

250,000 Miles Recommended Service

Catalytic Converter

Fuel Injector Cleaning

Chassis Inspection

Air Conditioning System

Taking care of every car is important to maintain the car and its longevity, but especially important for older and cars with higher mileage. With these maintenance tips for higher mileage cars, you can stay behind the wheel of your favorite ride and keep it going for many miles.