Very Low Mileage Cars Older Cars

Grandma’s getting up there and she’d giving us her 2000 Ford Taurus SE 4 door with the V6 engine and – I am not kidding, 4000 miles on it. 13 years old, 4000 miles, and it’s always been garaged. She literally drive it to church on Sunday and occasionally to the local hospital to volunteer – that’s it. At first, low miles sounded great, then the thought occurred to me the car hasn’t been driven much and I’ve always heard it’s better to drive a car than store it. I doubt if the motor has ever gotten thoroughly warm. The tires have aged out and we’ll replace them and we’ll replace the fluids and test the battery. But what else should we do? What should we look out for in a car this age with such low mileage? Any thoughts or comments on this particular model??


There’s an extremely good chance the engine has sludge

There’s also a pretty good chance the trans fluid isn’t fairing much better

Here’s things I would suggest if you take the car

Several oil and filter changes during the first few months of ownership
Transmission fluid and filter service . . . NO FLUSHES
Coolant service . . . drain and refill the radiator and the block
New tires
Flush the brake fluid
Wiper blades . . . they must be disintegrated by now
Replace the battery if it’s older than 5 years
Replace the spark plugs now before they seize

You may want to consider paying a mechanic to drive it, rack it up and look for any trouble spots, etc.

Do you live in the rust belt?

If you do, there’s a chance there are some nasty surprises waiting for you.

I totally agree with @db4690. Before you do anything, get it on a lift and check for rust. If the underside has significant rust issues, especially if it is heavy near the rocker panels, consider letting it go.

If it is fairly clean, use the list above, and I would strongly consider also replacing belts and hoses before they fail due to dry rot like the tires.

I would also add change the tires. Those tires are 14 years old. Rubber doesn’t last forever.

Excellent advice. Good idea on changing the spark plugs – hadn’t thought of that. The tires are definitely aged and we’ll replace them. It’s a California car so hopefully there won’t be any rust problems. What about wheel bearings? Are they something that ages out, too?


More than likely, your wheel bearings will be fine

I wouldn’t worry about bearings. Fluids and rubber degrades, metal usually not (except for corrosion/rust).

Fluids and rubber parts should have you good to go for a long time.
The one nagging unknown to me would be whether or not the engine oil in that thing is the oil that was in it the day it rolled off of the assembly line.

So if like most owners she went with mileage for maintenance (as opposed to time), the car still has its original engine oil in it?

At least the price is right.

I once had a “barn find” that was sitting in a heated garage for 12 years and other than bunch of rubber parts, most other parts were in good working condition.

UPDATE. Turns out Grandma’s 2000 Taurus has 44,000 miles, not 4400 miles. Apparently someone reading the odometer didn’t realize this odometer doesn’t count tenths of a mile. But 44K is still low for a 13 year old car. Body is in like new condition as it has been continuously garaged – except for some garage door scrapes (Grandma is getting up there…) I was mostly able to buff out. Her mechanic has kept it in excellent condition and did maintain it, thankfully. Undercarriage looks news and it passed it’s California Smog check for registration with flying colors.

I replaced all the fluids and filters and tires and belts and most of the hoses as suggested, cleaned years of Salinas Valley talcum powder like dust out of every nook and cranny, nourished the rubber and vinyl, and polished the yellowing headlamp lenses with jewelers rouge so they look like new. Runs very well except it’s stalled a few times on me after warm starts in parking lots upon acceleration. And something is rubbing inside the steering column, especially when cold, and makes and groaning sound and I haven’t been able to find it. And something is making very fine vertical scratches on the inside of the drivers window – farming dust or grit in a wiping pad maybe? Haven’t figured out how to take the door off to check.

But all and all a quiet car with a very comfortable ride which is important because my wife is handicapped and every little bump and bounce hurts her. She can actually ride in this car.

Thanks Grandma.

I would add that the gas made be old and stale. I use Startron. A gas stabilizer and keeps ethanol gas from phase separation which can happen with E10 gas in 4-6 months. It will clean up your whole fuel system. Also, what about gas filter?

The rubber parts would be my main concern. Esp if it has a timing belt. But I think this car uses a timing chain. If so, given that you’ve already replaced the fluids and all the other easily replaceable rubber parts and belts, me, I’d just drive it. Maybe a little gingerly for the first few thousand miles is about all I’d do beyond what you’ve already done.