Industry trends show that people are keeping their cars longer – almost 12 years in 2016, up from 9.6 years in 2002 – according to IHS Markit.
For Kevin Ansell, it’s a trend he can relate to. The first vehicle he drove was the family truck with about 150,000 miles on it. Kevin, an application development engineer for 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket group, says that number is increasing for a variety of reasons – the quality of cars continues to improve, and people view their car as a major investment and take a lot of pride in their vehicles. Since that first car, he’s gotten newer cars, but knows the importance of keeping it in prime shape.
“A typical new car often costs $30,000 or more,” Kevin says. “When you make that investment, you want to make sure it lasts as long as it can.”
Eric Volk, a 3M product engineer, says every vehicle he’s owned has lasted for more than 250,000 miles. He’s enjoyed working on cars since he was a kid helping his dad in the garage. His first car was his parents’ minivan – with cracked leather seats and no AC. But, the windows rolled down in the summer, and it got him to ski practice in the winter. And, bonus, it could hold a bunch of his friends when they tooled around on Friday nights. Since then, he’s ditched the minivan and gravitated to trucks and SUVs. His current vehicle had 200,000 miles on the odometer when he bought it. Now it’s up to 235,000 and still going strong. “It’s better than all my other ones so far,” he says. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
Eric says he doesn’t like to spend too much money on vehicles. He’d rather fix and maintain his truck himself. “I don’t like car payments,” he says. “I know how to work on them, so I like to buy a project rather than pay for something that’s already done.”
Keep on top of the standard maintenance. Over the long run, it’s cheaper to do all the things your owner’s manual advises than trying to fix stuff later. Follow the guidelines – change your oil, check your fluids and brake pads. Change out your spark plugs and rotate your tires regularly to keep the wear even and make them last longer.
When you put high miles on your vehicle, you will need to replace some things sooner or later. Be prepared to change out parts and stay on top of the normal wear and tear. Eric advises just keeping an eye on basics like the gas mileage. If you notice a change, it’s time to check out what could be wrong. “Fixing something before your car breaks down is usually going to be less expensive,” he says.
Wash and wax your vehicle frequently. It makes you feel better about driving your car, and it also helps make it last longer. When dust, grime and salt sit on your car, rust can develop and eat away at it. Remember to clean the insides of your doors – cars often rust from the inside out.
And keeping your car clean includes mechanical systems. Kevin recommends a fuel system cleaner about once a year to improve power and boost fuel economy.
One simple tip: Keep your car from getting damaged. That means driving defensively – look out for other cars, potholes and bumps. And to see those road hazards, your headlights should be clean and bright.
“If you look at the cars on the road, you’ll see headlight lenses that have turned yellow,” says Kevin. “Most people don’t realize that you can fix that yourself.” With a headlight restoration kit, you can do it in a few simple steps: remove oxidation, smooth scratches, polish and add a clear coat to protect from further yellowing. The restoration normally lasts about a year, depending on climate and conditions and can be done many times in the lifetime of the car.
Despite your best efforts, accidents can happen. If you do get into a little fender bender, there’s always scratch repair kits and Bondo®.
Whether you want to keep your car shining by washing and waxing, or get a little more hands on under the hood, there’s an expert who can show you how it’s done.