Keeping my car in good shape

I have a 97’ Saturn SL that is getting up there in miles. Currently my car is just shy of 162,000 miles. The last four oil changes I have been using Lucas Oil’s oil stabilizer and it works great. I have also heard about and been using Seafoam in the gas tank about once a month. Being as I am one of the many that were laid off, and I’m not one of those born with a wrench in my hand, what are some other things I can do to help keep my car running as long as possible?

I doubt that you need the oil stabilizer, nor do you need the Seafoam. Bascially, you need to check the oil and tire inflation every couple of weeks. Keep up with oil changes and filter changes. Change your auto trans fluid every 30,000-40,000 miles. Buy a maintenance book and use it to do the work yourself. I suggest a Haynes manual instead of a Saturn shop manual becasue itis a lot less expensive. It isn’t nearly as good, but it will do for now. Also, stop back when you want to do something and we will talk you through it. You can do a lot, and save a lot of money if you learn how to maintain your car.

Stop throwing money away on magic potions for your car to begin with. Just keep the oil (just plain old oil) and other fluids maintained and you should be good. Also follow the maintenance schedule in your owners manual.

Something I forgot to ask before; I had been told by a few people I may want to start using a heavier weight oil with the higher mileage. Is this fact or fiction?

After years of maintaining commercial vehicles that clocked many hundreds of thousands of miles I can say with some certainty that the oil ‘thickeners’ such as Lucas Stabilizer won’t add to the life of the engine until it is limping on its last legs with the oil light winking and smoke billowing out of the oil fill hole. At that point you might add a few thousand miles… Maybe.

Just keep up on the basics: tire pressure, oil changes, fluid changes, and timing belt replacement. The best fuel injector cleaner to use is chevron, its what the dealers use and is recommended by many mechanics. But you only need it twice a year or so

If you’re out of work and need to keep the car going, I would stop using the oil stabilizer and Seafoam. It is not necessary and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t use anything on that engine that thickens the oil. Your 1.9L is a descendant of GM’s Quad Four. It is an overhead cam engine with either one or two chain driven camshafts. You do not have a timing belt, but that chain needs proper oil circulation to keep it from breaking. Poorly maintained Quad Fours, as well as their Saturn and Ecotec cousins, will end up gunking up their timing chain oil passages, starving the chain and tensioner of the oil flow and pressure it needs to survive. Oil thickening products like Lucas can probably exacerbate that problem, if it is present, so I would stop using it altogether, unless the engine is already a serious oil burner and the stuff slows down the consumption, as mentioned by Rod Knox. As a side note, that stuff shouldn’t be used on any variable valve timing engine either. Not pertinent in your case, unless you eventually replace your Saturn with one.

Don’t move up to a thicker weight oil solely because you have high miles. I’ve got 233,000 miles on my '89 Accord and still go by the book with 5w-30 with no additives. The Lucas Oil Stabilizer is just eating your money, it’s not doing anything beneficial for the engine in it’s current state. When properly maintained with the correct viscosity of oil and oil level managed the engine could go many hundreds of thousands of miles.

  If you start using oil and it is not a leak, using a little heavier weight oil may reduce the oil burning and since you would already burring oil, it would not hurt,  However you don't want to do this unless or until your car needs it.  It will not prevent a problem, it will just help mask one for a while.

 The same can be said for all those magic fixes you are are using.  They may be good products, but they are fixes and if you don't have a problem why try to fix it.  Save your money

  The best and cheapest thing you can do for your car is to follow the instructions in the owner's manual.  Keep all the maintenance listed in the owner's manual up to date.  

  Now I will had one likely exception.   Assuming you have an automatic transmission, I strongly recommend changing the fluid and cleaning the filter every 30 - 40,000 miles.

  A second money saver Doing some of that maintenance work yourself.  You can get a book at the library or buy one at the auto parts store.  Many of the maintenance items do not require expensive tools or training.  

  Another thing you want to avoid totally are the quick oil change places.  Not only are they not so good at changing oil like using the wrong oil or trying to sell you services you would be better off without, but they often are rushed and make mistakes, some very costly.  Dealers on the other hand usually get the job done right, but charge a lot more than your local independent mechanic.   Ask friends and family for recommendations of a good one.

I have the manual 5 speed and I have the Haynes manual, just limited on tools and the space. As far as tools, I just recently purchased a 194pc craftsman set as the old set has too many pieces missing (sockets, extensions etc). Aside from that I’m limited, not been one of those until recently that has kept a lot of tools. Want to find a filter wrench at some point, and I worked at a Monkey Wards auto center many years ago, so batteries, tires, oil, the basics, I am familiar with, even if very, very rusty when it comes to working on them(we’re talking over 20yrs ago).

Chevron fuel inj. cleaner /w Techron once a year.
That’s it for me with additives.

My previous car ('88 Accord) ran fine and burned no oil at 239k miles when I sold it.

Modern oils and gasolines already contain all the additives you need to keep your car running as well as possible for as long as possible without additional help, as long as you do the maintenance scheduled. You say the Lucas Oil Stabilizer “wroks great”, but in truth it’s changed nothing to make it better, it just hasn’t doen any damage.

Forget the magic elixers. Maintain the car per the owners’ manual and drive it nonagressively.

Don’t forget about the outside of the car either. Wash frequently and wax it 2 or 3 times a year (by hand). If you live in snow areas, a weekly underbody flush from the car wash will help keep the salt off and prevent rust.

I’ve seen a K&N oil filter that had a hex head at the bottom, which means you can use a normal wrench to turn it( ). Though it seems to be a bit pricey($14 compared to $4~$7 for my car’s oil filter).
Maybe this design will catch on and become cheaper as it does