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Car maintenance checklist for the long haul

J&H Automotive

Are you keeping up with your car maintenance checklist?

It used to be that 100,000 miles on a used car was a lot, and some car buyers still turn up their nose at used cars with six digits on the odometer. Cars have come a long way in recent years, however, and many vehicles pushing 100,000 miles are just getting started. Keeping your car running past 100,000 miles, through 200,000 miles and even higher is absolutely possible. It all boils down to sticking to your car maintenance checklist and putting in the time and money to properly maintain your car.

Whether you’re looking at a late model car or even a classic car — such as Irvin Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800S, which holds the Guinness World Record for most miles on a noncommercial vehicle reaching nearly three million miles in 2013 — keeping up with a comprehensive car maintenance checklist will keep you on the road for many years and thousands of miles. As you start racking up the miles, what kind of things should you make sure are on your car maintenance checklist?

Sticking to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule matters. Staying on top of a routine maintenance schedule helps you replace important components before they wear out, such as fluids and accessory belts, so that your vehicle’s more permanent parts can operate more efficiently.

Routine maintenance services are often done at 30,000, 60,000, 90,000 intervals which means essential preventative maintenance services should be performed about every 30,000 miles. Every vehicle is unique, however, and various parts can wear out at irregular intervals depending on your driving habits. Other services, such as oil changes and tire rotations should be performed much sooner and more frequently.

Most vehicle owner’s manuals specify changing the oil and oil filter every 5,000–7,500 miles. Some manufacturers and oil companies suggest oil change intervals of up to 15,000 miles. An important value-added feature of reputable automotive repair shops is a complimentary inspection of your vehicle during the oil change appointment. For example, tires should be rotated and balance checked every 5,000 miles to even out wear, extend their life and keep on top of vibrations. During the tire rotation, the technician can easily check brake and rotor wear. Fluid levels and condition are checked as well. This complimentary inspection also helps pinpoint unscheduled maintenance items such as bulbs, leaks, and squeaks, not to mention potential repairs. All indicated repairs should be made in a timely manner. Addressing any issues that arise as soon as possible helps you avoid poor fuel economy, drivability issues and collateral damage.

Your driving habits and operating conditions (hilly terrain, towing, stop and go traffic, cold or hot weather) will ultimately determine your service intervals. Upgrading the quality of your vehicle’s fluids will also extend component life and replacement intervals.

Service at 50K miles

At around 50–60,000 miles, many vehicles need a few things inspected and possibly replaced. Some cars require an engine coolant flush around this time, although many have moved to long-life coolants, with up to 100,000-mile lifespans.

Some vehicles’ spark plugs might need to be replaced about this time. Check radiator hoses to determine if they need to be replaced or are still serviceable. Many struts and shock absorbers start to wear out about this time. You should definitely have the suspension alignment checked at 50,000 miles, if not at the last time you had your tires replaced.

Service at 100K miles

Once your car has gotten to 100,000 miles, there are probably some things that you should consider replacing, if you haven’t already done so. Long-life engine coolant will need to be replaced about this time. Some manufacturers suggest up to 120,000 miles for spark plug replacement. The timing belt should definitely have been replaced by now, and most technicians will recommend replacing the water pump, too, particularly if it’s driven by the timing belt. Typically, a timing chain will not need to be replaced.

Service at 250K and beyond

Once you hit this mileage milestone, your car maintenance checklist has become pretty much old hat. You’re going to have to make repairs now and then, but with regular inspections by a certified mechanic, you’ll be able to fix problems as soon as they arise.

Have your maintenance and repairs handled by one of the knowledgeable technicians at J&H Automotive. To make an appointment or chat with the owner or one of the technicians, call (661) 822-9171 or visit the shop at 501 W. Tehachapi Blvd.