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How much should I drive an old car to keep it happy?

I have a 1971 Chevy truck that I love! It’s not my main car, but I enjoy driving it around town. My dad would prefer I didn’t drive it more than 5 miles, and then only to the dump, but I am wondering if there’s an optimum distance or frequency I should drive the truck to keep the engine happy. And, I’ve heard that getting a car up to 65 mph or every now and then is good for it (rather than staying under 40 in town)…Anyone have any thoughts?

Pushing a little used vehicle up to 65 or 70mph doesn’t do anything but burn extra gas.

Why does your dad prefer you limit the distance to 5 miles? Is there something wrong with it that makes it unsafe?

A normal drive for about an hour (50-60mph) is sufficient to warm up all the fluids and bearings.

The tranny shifting normally on acceleration lubes each gear as they change.

Once up to operating temp, the seals will get soft and pliable thus preventing leaks.

Wow! Beth, I’m Envious!

You still have a dump. Our dumps closed because of some whackos. We miss going there to see the bears at night.

I’d run that truck every week or so for the 5 mile dump run and maybe another mile or two. To me the important thing would be to get it up to full operating temperature during those trips and I think 5-7 miles would do it.

I personally wouldn’t be concerned too much at getting it going faster than 40 or 45 MPH. I can’t see where that would do much for it.

Let us know if you spot anything good at the dump.


We used to have a dump where you actually went and drove your truck onto the big pile of garbage and then after you made a big pile of junk the guy in the giant machine with the spiky metal wheels would run it over then and there. Very satisfying! Now they have a lame-o setup where you just throw your stuff into dumpsters and they crush it later. But I shall always remember the smell.

As for the question, I also have a seldom driven 70’s Chevy pickup that mostly serves as a dump (and recycling) truck these days. I’ll usually run some other errands on the same run so it gets warmed up and gets a chance to run at operating temperature for a while. The thing’s geared so low that really 45-50 is cruising speed so I usually get in a 4-5 mile stretch of that and call it good. Another consideration is that you want to drive enough to keep the gas fresh, although if you really do a dump run every week it shouldn’t be an issue. I usually try to run down a quarter tank and then top it off before I put it away, but I’m more likely to do a run every three months or so.

Greasy Jack, I Have Fond Memories Of Shooting .22s At The Dump, Frequently.

There was no limit to glass bottles, cans, and other things to shoot at there. This is just one of many things that many young people, including my own kids, are missing out on, now. No video games will take the place of guns and dumps.


FWIW, that giant machine you mentioned is called a sheepsfoot vibratory packer.

Most also have a blade on the front. They are also used extensively where road building or malls are being built when the area has soft ground and has earth trucked in.

Caterpillar is the most common manufacturer.

You still have a dump. Our dumps closed because of some whackos.

Thank god for the Whacko’s in our area…the “Dumps” were an environmental nightmare. We now have transfer stations…over 40% of what was put in our “dumps” is now recycled…not to mention the toxic items that were dumped. Our town is still cleaning up the fall-out the last dump we closed (about 15 years ago) in favor of the transfer stations…and last estimate…we’ll be having problems with our old dump for the next 50+ years.

beth; your dad’s recommendation will actually shorten the life of your truck. Cars are like people; even the older ones need regular excercise to stay fit and live long.

As others point out, take the vehicle out for a 20 mile spin on the freeway to blow out the cobwebs. It will live longer that way.

2nd this.
This is not a modern fuel injected engine, it’s carbureted. Going slow and short trips will cause it to be even more sluggish.
Find a back road where not many people travel on, make sure the car’s fully warmed up, and floor it. You might see some black smoke pouring out, but this will help your engine out.

It’s a machine. It doesn’t care. It will fall apart whether you drive it or not. Gasoline gets funky after 6 months or so, so use stabil or add fresh gas at least every 4 months…

Thanks everyone for the tips – and for the fond memories of dumps of years past. :slight_smile: I don’t actually make that many dump runs, but where I live they don’t pick up glass to recycle curbside (deposit). So, I can use it for more eco-friendly runs to the transfer station, too. I’m having fun with this old gal, and she does seem to like being taken for a spin every 2 weeks or so.