With good care, most vehicles will give well more than 200,000 miles of dependable service. A lack of attention kills many at around 130,000 miles. The tipping point seems to occur around 100,000 miles, when it is not too late to reverse a lack of maintenance.
When most folks buy a new vehicle, they intend to take excellent care of it. Many anticipate the first oil change, do it right on time and use the best oil they can find. As the vehicle gets a bit older, we take less care. Soon, oil changes become low on the list of priorities and price is the primary consideration when buying tires. Unfortunately, this thought-pattern causes most problems people think demands another vehicle.
Automobiles follow a similar life-path to humans. Many young adults concentrate little on their health. This is natural as health concerns normally come later in life. Diet is more a matter of taste and convenience, rather than what is best for us. At some point, lack of care causes problems. Extra pounds gained in the thirties, often become heart problems in the fifties. A vehicle with 100,000 miles is similar to a person entering mid-life. Good practices up to this point help set up a long and trouble-free future. Fortunately, it is not too late to reverse negative trends.
Vehicles and people are robust by design. Both handle abuse better when they are young. As they age, vehicles and humans require better treatment. With automobiles, this is usually the opposite of what many receive. Often unintentionally, we fail to give our older vehicles the care they need to continue problem-free service.
The logic may go like this; "This car is getting old, so I am not going to spend a lot money on good tires."
We save two-hundred dollars by buying tires at a discount tire store. The car vibrates and after two trips to the tire store, they install new struts. Replacing the struts is a large expense and does not improve the problem. Months later we notice a whine noise when turning. A leaking rack-and-pinion is found requiring further expense.
The owner reasons, "It’s a good thing I didn’t buy better tires. This car is falling apart."
A few months later a humming noise means new wheel bearings. This is too much and they trade the vehicle for a new one. Thirty-five thousand, and repair costs are spent, to save two hundred dollars on tires.
In reality, none of this needed to occur. A good set of tires, properly installed and balanced would have prevented the vibration. Choosing the lowest price provider resulted in inferior struts that they did not need. Out of round tires damaged the rack and pinion and eventually the wheel bearings. They wasted thousands of dollars, by not realizing the difference in price and cost.
This story plays out countless times. People need lower costs. They unknowingly spend far more because they look for a lower price. Understanding life-cycle costs means getting far more for our money and it is never too late to begin.
Quality always costs less, when considered over time
Price is the initial amount paid for a product or service. It is very easy to measure, but incomplete. Costs of a good or product include the price. It also includes other expenses that occur as a result, and is considered over time. An example is a $5,000 car. The price is low, but it soon needs air conditioner repair. A few months later the transmission fails. In less than a year, the engine fails. Repair exceeds the value of the car. The overall cost, for less than a year of service, includes the price and the repairs, not to mention inconvenience.
Another vehicle is a better model, in good condition and the buyer pays $10,000. Though initial price is more, this car gives five years of use, with few repairs. Overall cost is much lower for the second vehicle, though the initial price was more.
Proper maintenance and quality service cost less
The only real reason to do maintenance is that it will lower our costs. Replacing coolant prevents corrosion. We spend a small amount because it saves a much larger amount. A proper transmission service lowers the chances of transmission failure. We should not service a transmission because it is the right thing to do, we do it because it lowers our costs. The same applies to the service we buy. High quality service costs less, because it last longer and does not cause other problems.
Vehicles today require less maintenance than those in the past, but what they require are far more critical. Long-life coolant may last up to five years with the initial factory-fill. At this point it is 100% depleted and causing damage to the system. With yesterday’s vehicles we changed coolant every two years. If we did not, the cast iron engine might rust a bit, so it had to be flushed.
Today vehicles use active metals. Hybrid organic acid technology protects these metals. When we deplete the coolant, corrosion occurs. They need to remove the dash to repair the leaking heater core. Not only does this cost thousands, continued problems are likely. Replacing the coolant at the proper time prevents this, saves money and greatly extends the problem-free life of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the first symptom may be a soaking wet carpet or an overheated vehicle. They incur A large cost by the time the owner is aware of a problem. To prevent this, we must either learn and observe the maintenance needs of the vehicle or find a professional to advise us. This becomes far more important as the vehicle approaches the 100,000 mile point.
Beware of things sold as maintenance
Dealerships and some shops sometimes represent things as maintenance that are only high-profit flushes. This is unfortunate as these ‘wallet flushes’ do no good and consume funds that we might have applied to needed items. People become leery after spending freely on this trash and still having problems. Asking for an explanation of the benefit, and listening carefully to the answer is a good guide. Favorite wallet flushes include these:
Vehicle makers give recommended maintenance schedules. They condition these on use and drivers often misunderstand them. Auto makers are eager to make their vehicles appear as low maintenance. To this end, the guidelines are based on ideal service conditions. For instance, any of the below conditions place a vehicle in severe conditions and normal conditions no longer apply.
Frequent trips less than 10 miles
Excessive idling, longer than five minutes
Continuous stop-and-go driving
Operation in high (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature
For most folks, these severe conditions are the normal way they drive. These drivers need to follow the severe-condition schedule. They also base these schedules on averages and so they are not always accurate. Some vehicles experience more wear and others less, in the same number of miles. A much more accurate method is an annual general inspection by a professional.
With a general inspection, the actual condition and needs of the vehicle can be determined. This will vary, depending on how drivers operate the vehicle. For instance, the brake pads are checked. If they are good, they need no service, if they are worn thin, they replace them, before other damage occurs. They lubricate a binding caliper slide and prevent severe brake problems.
An additional advantage of the general inspection is advice. A professional can set priorities for things that should be done and save expensive rework. They may also advise against spending money on a vehicle neglected for too long.
The objectives are longer vehicle life, fewer problems and lower costs. The best methods are professional inspection and preventing, rather than repairing problems. Mid-life for a vehicle need not be the end. With proper care, it can be the beginning of a long and problem free life.