How long will your car last? This is a common question that might be harder to answer than you’d think. There are many things that can shorten a vehicle’s lifespan. Driving conditions and our habits behind the wheel can play a large role in long-term wear and tear. But if we put these aside, the area that makes the most difference in keeping vehicles running better for longer is how they are maintained.
So, what is maintenance? Preventative maintenance is defined as “service that is routinely performed on physical assets to reduce the chances of equipment failure and unplanned machine downtime.” Most of us know that the engine oil must be changed, but what else and when? Some other maintenance items include engine air filters, cabin air filters, fuel filters, coolant, fuel system services, shocks/struts, etc… Every manufacturer provides a minimum maintenance schedule for the vehicles they produce based on time and mileage intervals. Again, this is a minimum maintenance schedule designed to keep the vehicle running for a reasonable amount of time and keep the expected cost of ownership to a minimum. Each vehicle has an expected lifespan if you follow the service interval recommendations. Thanks to advancements in technology, we have seen both average lifespan and vehicle maintenance intervals increase over the past 30 years. But what if you want to do better than the average?
If you take a more pro-active approach and change the oil before it gets dark and smelly, replace the oxygen sensors before the check engine light signals a fault, or replace the serpentine belt before it starts to fray, the lifespan, efficiency and dependability of your vehicle will increase. There are resources available, other than the manufacturer, that provide alternative maintenance intervals and more advanced products that are designed to maximize your vehicle’s potential. Automotive specialty lubricant companies such as BG Products Inc., Schaeffer’s, and Wynns USA have alternative maintenance intervals that will provide more protection to your investment when compared to manufacturers’ recommendations.
Who would replace the oil, transmission fluid, coolant, etc. before it “needs to be replaced”? That’s just a waste of money…. or is it? Once a service “needs to” be performed, it is no longer maintenance, but a repair. A repair is defined as “fixing or mending a thing suffering from damage or a fault”. For example, engine oil should be a light honey color. Once it turns dark there are particles of metal, carbon, moisture, and other elements suspended and carried along, causing the dark color. The longer this oil circulates through the engine, the more long-term damage can occur. Yes, the oil filter helps, but only so much. As the “dirty oil” circulates, heats, cools, and settles, these suspended elements are either caught in the oil filter or deposited throughout the engine. Oil passages can become restricted, which limits oil flow. Restricted oil flow can lead to quicker wear and tear on internal engine parts such as the timing chain, crank shaft bearings, valve guides, etc. Deposits can restrict passageways reducing oil pressure to the cam shaft timing hub, which negatively affects engine performance or can clog very thin oil passages such as those inside the oil cooler. This would cause the oil to operate at a higher temperature. Higher oil temperature accelerates oil degradation and reduces its lubrication properties, in turn accelerating wear. Simply put, clean oil = clean engine. Clean engine = less money on repairs, more dependability, and higher mileage.
Today’s vehicles are more complex than they ever have been in the past and there is a lot to keep up with. If you prefer to DIY, make sure to do your research when deciding what is right for your car, truck, or SUV. If you are not, find a trustworthy and skilled service center to call home. If you don’t have one, look for an ASE Certified repair center with trained technicians. You can read reviews online or ask around the local community. Like choosing a primary care physician, proper training, trust, and integrity are important. The service center will keep a history of the services performed, help educate, and advise you on the available options and what you can expect in the future.
Although there is no replacement for a vintage muscle car with a big V8 engine, free flowing exhaust and 4 on the floor, there are many things that make today’s vehicles superior, especially when it comes to longevity. According to Car & Driver Magazine, advancements in materials, production practices, and lubricants have increased the average expected vehicle mileage of today’s cars by 100,000 miles or more when compared to their older “vintage” versions. Today the average vehicle on the road is 11.5 years old with 175,000 miles on the odometer. Using the right preventative maintenance program 300,000 is very attainable and 500,000 original miles is not out of the question. Whether you choose a specialized alternative maintenance program or follow the manufacturer’s minimum requirements, maintaining your vehicle is extremely important to the longevity and performance. How ling will my car last? That’s really up to you.,
Here are a few resources for more information on specialty lubricants, vehicle maintenance, and ASE:
BG Products Inc. https://www.bgprod.com/programs/lifetime-bg-protection-plan/
Wynns USA https://wynnsusa.com/titanium/
Schaeffer’s oil https://www.schaefferoil.com/engine-oils.html
Gates Belts/Hoses https://www.gates.com
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence https://www.ase.com/find-a-repair-shop