Newspaper motor route car maintenance

Hi -

I’ve just accepted a part time job delivering 200 or so daily newspapers over a 50 mile a day route & need some help making sure I take care of my car. I live in northwestern Vermont on a windblown island, and my first question has to do with snow tires.
My car: 2006 Honda Accord Coup with 100,000 miles. My driving patterns have been normal & I change my oil regularly, have a set of snow & all-season tires & repair anything that needs repairing. But this new activity will no doubt change the maintenance needs, so here are my questions:

  1. Studded or regular snow tires or removable chains when needed? Given that the car is so low to the ground & that at 3am there will likely be snow drifts & hard to reach mailboxes

  2. Would it be helpful to add anything to the gas?

  3. I’ve heard that I may need to have the oil changed every 1,000 miles or so – does that sound right?

I’d appreciate hearing any thoughts on these questions or anything that I might have missed.


Here are my suggestions

Start maintaining your car as per the SEVERE service schedule

If you haven’t done your timing belt or adjusted your valves, I’d take care of those things now.

A broken timing belt can be costly, as can burned valves (from insufficient valve lash, which you will NOT hear)

You don’t need to do anything special. Once the car is warmed up a 50 mile daily route is actually good for the car. I would install a good set of winter tires, such as Michelin X-ICE. They will make a world of difference in traction.

I would also put a good snow shovel in the trunk and a pair of those traction mats. If you are starting early in the morning an engine block heater will mean sure starts and quick warm up, as well as less engine wear.

You don’t say how many newspapers you have to deliver and the number of pages that make up the newspaper. But you need to determine if your Accord can handle the load of newspapers you have to deliver.

So I would suggest loading all the newspapers into the vehicle, and see how far the vehicle squats to the ground.


Thanks for the tips. I work at a college until 1am, so I’ll have driven 20 “highway” miles before beginning the 50 “stop & go” miles.

I have NOT done anything with the timing belt or valves - I will have them looked at this month.

I was just looking at chains & mats, it’s such a roll of the dice as to the amount of snow we will get, but it may not be a bad idea to have a set of chains just in case. I am in need of new snow tires this winter & will buy the best I can afford.

Again - thanks for the tips!

200 stops a day will take it’s toll…If it’s a stick shift, clutch life will be greatly reduced. If it’s an automatic, it will take a beating…And your brakes will wear surprisingly fast…Your heater, defroster, wipers, lights, need to be in good working order…Grand Isle, Lake Champlain, Brrrrrr.

You might get in the habit of checking the brakes on a very regular basis because 200 or more stops a day is going to eat them up pretty quickly.
A rural mail carrier here (now retired) used to make about 450ish stops a day and he was going through a set of brakes every 3 weeks.

Granted, I’m not privy to details but one has to wonder how much net profit there is in delivering newspapers over an extended route in apparently rough terrain after factoring in maintenance, fuel, and wear/tear costs.

That’s what I’m trying to figure out ok4450 - gross is $1,200 per month without including tips. So I’m trying to figure out costs. I thought brakes every 3 months - not weeks. It is mostly flat, and 75% paved so it will only be rough when there has been snow, and wind after snow, oh who am I kidding there is always wind.

$600 bucks a month for you and $600 for your car…If you can do it in 2 hours you are making $10/hr…

I don’t know if you are delivering to 200 different locations or delivering bulk to fewer locations. My nephew did that in Kansas City and always used a van. Don’t know how many he delivered but the van was pretty full. Actually I was amazed that there was quite a little money in it with the larger routes. Don’t know what my nephew made but he paid for a house and Corvette with no problem. A guy that used to work for me in Minneapolis did it part time and claimed he’d clear an extra $50,000 a year. So not to be scoffed at but have to do it day in and day out without fail or find a reliever. Of course the newspaper business is in a tough spot now.

“I have NOT done anything with the timing belt or valves - I will have them looked at this month.”

Don’t have the timing belt, “looked at”.
Have it replaced.

As the maintenance schedule in your Owner’s Manual will confirm, this vital component needs to be replaced every 105k miles or 8 years, whichever comes first. Thus, the need to replace it is imminent, and simply inspecting it will not give you any kind of assurance of its continued life. A timing belt can look okay, with your engine behaving very normally one minute, and the engine can sustain severe internal damage the next minute when that belt snaps–with no warning whatsoever.

The water pump, the serpentine belt, and all belt tensioners should be replaced at the same time as the timing belt.

And, it would be very surprising if your valves did not need adjustment after all of this time. You need to assume that they are in need of adjustment.

For all of these maintenance jobs, you will need to budget…probably…about $600-800, but this is one case where a Honda dealership may charge less than an independent garage, so you should do some comparison pricing–pronto–before you wind up with extremely expensive engine repairs as a result of deferring these maintenance items.

I agree that a set of 4 Michelin X-Ice tires are the best approach for your driving conditions, but you have to remember that the normally low stance of a Honda, coupled with the reality that it will sit even lower with that load of newspapers, will present problems if the accumulated snow is deep enough to reach the bottom of your front bumper. At that point, you won’t be going anywhere, unfortunately.

Adjusting valves? The last time I did that was on my 52 Chevy. Is there something special about Hondas?

Although there are probably some conditions where studded tires would be best, you need to keep in mind that they’re illegal in many states, they’re noisy on dry roads, and they add to your stopping distance on wet roads. I’d lean toward a good set of winter tires, as others have said. As for the chains, make sure your car allows them; many cars don’t.

I agree with the others about the ground clearance issue. There will be a point at which you simply won’t be able to go. Do you have a friend with a higher car or truck that you could borrow when this happens?

I don’t think you need to change the oil more often, and certainly not every 1,000 miles, but you might want to change your transmission fluid (assuming you have an automatic) more often, as this will be hard on the transmission. As already mentioned, keep an eye on your brakes too.

This is a minor point, but if you’re particular about the appearance of your car, I suspect that putting a possibly-dirty window up and down 200 times per day will scratch it up pretty well. I don’t know if you can keep it clean enough to prevent that, but you could try.

I know that area of VT. You live on Grand Isle???

That area can get decent amount of snow (probably over 100"/year)…and it’s not unheard of getting down to -40.

The Accord should be fine. Just keep up with the maintenance. And you’ll probably go through 2 sets of brakes a year.

I’ll throw in this advice, have the lug nuts loosened and re-torqued by hand and carry a standard wheel and tire as a spare along with a good jack and four way lug wrench.

The guy who has been delivering our morning paper for the last 3 years drives a Civic Coupe. He’s never missed a delivery, and we get some very low morning temperatures. Our paper arrives at 4 a.m.

  1. Good winter tires should be good enough. Today’s winter tires are much better than the snow tires we had long ago.

  2. No, I wouldn’t add anything to the fuel. Most fuel has detergents in it already.

  3. 1,000 mile oil changes sound like overkill. Every 3,000 miles should be fine.

What I would most concern myself with are other wearable items, like windshield wiper blades and brakes. You don’t want to get so obsessive about vehicle maintenance that you turn this into an unprofitable venture.

This just not seem to me to be a financially viable deal. Fifty miles a day X 7 days a week I assume is going to get very old and and expensive. Tires, brakes, timing belt, valve lash, oil changes, filters, fuel costs are going to add up; not to mention the tow costs if and when a snowbank wins one.

The wife of a friend of mine in a neighboring town used to do a part-time newspaper delivery gig and hers was a bit more tolerable as it involved a limited number of bulk drop-offs in other towns rather than delivery to individual subscribers.
When gasoline got into the 3 and 4 dollar range she gave it up as it had become a losing proposition.

Adjusting valves? The last time I did that was on my 52 Chevy. Is there something special about Hondas?

Nothing special…just that many don’t have hydraulic valves…so they need periodic adjusting.

Is it any wonder newspapers are dieing?