High Mileage Cars

Dear Click and Clack:

Any time a person mentions that their car has over a hundred thousand miles you express amazement that it is still on the highway. So, on behalf of my precious oldies, and speaking from another side of the continent, here is a Westerner’s perspective on miles.

I have a 1994 Chevy Blazer (turbocharged diesel) and a 1999 Buick Regal GS (supercharged gas), each of which has more than 200,000 miles. I bought the Buick with 15,000 miles. It required front hubs at about 60,000; serpentine belt and pulleys at 120,000; water pump & bypass hose at 200,000; ignition switch @ 205,000. I elected to upgrade shock/struts and brakes at 150,000. Of course I replaced all rubber and fluids at 100,000 mile intervals. I bought the Blazer with 180,000 miles and immediately replaced lift pump, fuel hoses, all belts and hoses, pitman arm, idler arm, and brakes. This is just ordinary stuff when buying a used car. In addition I upgraded the PMD (pump mounted driver – the part that causes the 6.5 diesel to be unreliable).

Each of these vehicles drives like new. They are exceptionally powerful – which is why I own these specific vehicles. They get great mileage: Buick 30 highway and 25 overall; Blazer 20 highway and 18 overall. They are incredibly cheap to own: low insurance, low taxes. And they are simple: I can perform most of my own repairs.

A vehicle can last a whole lot longer than the standard 60 – 100,000 miles if it is maintained properly. There is nothing wrong with the metals of which most internal parts are made. Most mechanical failure is due to overheating and/or fluid failure. This is the reason I replace all belts and hoses at the 100,000 mile mark (or 5 years max), and maintain factory schedules on fluid changes. I use synthetic (or blend) oil and superior filters. And then drive, drive, drive.

Maybe there are differences between western cars and the ones you see in Boston:
• East coast vehicles tend to rust out quickly, but in the intermountain west vehicles rarely rust
• Driving conditions are very different: brakes may only last 20,000 miles in the start-stop rat race of the East coast, but easily last 100,000 miles in the open country

I also suspect that western drivers are a little different: people who know how to change spark plugs are just a little easier on their machines than the typical mechanically-challenged East coast driver.

You are under a misconception. Rust is a bigger problem in the northeast than in the west, but no where near what it used to be. Other than that, the east coast and mid west cars last just as long as western cars.

They may not accumulate as many miles because things are closer together, but they probably log as many hours in those miles as western car accumulate in their lifetime.

There are plenty of people in the east that can change plugs, and a lot in the west who can’t. I have lived on both coasts and now live in the middle.

Click and clack rarely if ever visit this website…you just have us…other car enthusiasts.

Many of us in the North East keep our vehicles a very long time…Based on YOUR vehicles…a LOT longer. I’ve personally kept 5 vehicles over 250k miles…and 3 well past 300k miles…and based on YOUR posted repairs…your vehicles aren’t any where near as reliable as mine.

You also have a misconception that we don’t do our own maintenance…Well again you’d be wrong…I do all Preventive maintenance and most repairs…The big repairs that require a lift or special equipment or a job that’s going to take me all weekend I usually farm out…But those repairs have been extremely rare.

Also remember that C&C get phone calls from all over the country and they say the same thing to everyone no matter where they live. I never heard them say anything different to someone on the West coast about their vehicle reaching 100k miles.

First, remember that Tom and Ray live in Boston. Inner city cars tend to deteriorate with age more than mileage.

Second, like Keith said, rust tends to limit the age of cars in the northeast.

Third, Tom and Ray have made it. They get to test drive new cars for free, and they probably have a nice nest egg accumulated. In their circles, people can probably afford to buy new cars on a regular basis.

It’s all about their perspective, which probably doesn’t reflect a random cross section of the USA.

My car has about 211,000 miles on the odometer, but it’s spent its entire life in Florida, with occasional trips to Texas.

Agree that today’s cars last a long time. Ever since rust protectiuon was mandated and emissions equipment had to be guaranteed for at least 50,000 miles, the quality has been rising. The Japanese had something to do with this as well.

Our highest mileage car in the family was a 1984 Chevy Impala which we sold for $700 in 2004. It had 320,000 miles on it and was just getting some rust on the rear fenders. The engine still had all it’s compression and the transmission was near-perfect as well.

Rear grease seals had been replaced, shocks, one U-joint, front springs, brakes, water pump, fuel pump, radiator, ww wiper motor, alternator, 2 batteries. heater fan motor and starter.

The weak point in today’s cars is the plastic and aluminum rads, and too much electronics.

And other inappropriate use of plastics…like for intake manifolds.

I agree with the others that any modern vehicle that starts life without a design or manufacturing defect will last at least 200,000 miles reliably if properly maintained and not abused. A bigger weather issue than salt is actually cold. Extreme cold climates, like Minnesota, North Dakota, and Alaska, can be very hard on vehicles. Vehicles are now well protectd against rust, but nothing can protect them from the effects of extreme cold on internal parts’ dimensional changes and the effects on fluids. Some things can be done that help, but extreme cold takes a toll.

The southern part of the west coast may be more inclined to do more work on their vehicles for one reason…the year around great weather. Who wants to work on their car when it’s 32F and raining outside, or 10F and the ground is snowed over? We’re just as capable, but our weather isn’t as conducive. There are so many things I’d like to do…but the season is waning quickly. And the days are getting shorter. Soon I’ll be driving to work in the dark and driving home again in the dark.

In the old days of carbs and points, 100k miles WAS the magic number; just like the 3k mile oil change. Today, it’s not unheard of for someone to put that on a car in 2 or 3 years.