10 Ways to Make a Vehicle Last Twice as Long

Eighteen years ago next month, my husband and I bought a new Chevy Silverado. For 14 of those years, it was our only vehicle. Our goal from day one was to make it last longer—maybe even twice as long.

We still have it and as I write, it’s closing in on 250,000 miles—and still running great on its original front brakes.

Chevy Silverado 2002 and still running great

This truck has turned out to be really cheap transportation. And the longer we drive it, the cheaper it gets considering its per-mile cost.

Most cars and trucks are built to last far longer than we can imagine. And when all is said and done, the difference between a clunker and a cream puff is mainly the difference between how the owner has taken care of it. 

According to current auto insurance statistics, the average car’s useful life is 10 years or 100,000 miles. Practice the following and it’s reasonable to believe you can double your car’s useful life and spend less time visiting your mechanic, all the while putting off buying a replacement car. 

1. Practice preventive maintenance

Research by major car manufacturers reveals that neglect of routine service and maintenance is the number one reason for major car repairs. Routine maintenance doesn’t cost; it saves money, aggravation, frustration, and lives. Pay attention. Anticipate maintenance so you don’t have to pay for repairs.

2. Estimate, estimate, estimate!

When you have a major repair to do, get at least three estimates before you proceed, if possible. Don’t just judge by the lowest price, but judge by competence, ability, experience, equipment, and after-service care. 

3. Stick with a great mechanic

When you find a good mechanic you trust, stick with him or her even if the prices are a bit higher. All things being equal, you’ll save time, money and aggravation in the long run. Plus, your mechanic will get to know your car more intimately. 

4. Keep it clean

It’s true. A clean car lasts longer because you are routinely washing away contaminants, which cause corrosion.

5. Heed the Owner Manual

It’s your bible for making your car last longer. Read it. Know what to expect and how to head off trouble. And be sure to keep it in the vehicle. 

6. Under cover

Statistically, we know that a garaged car lasts longest, a carport is the next best, and a car cover is close behind. If you can’t garage, carport or cover your car, park under trees or any covering to protect it from the sun. 

7. Take it easy

Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops. Stop and accelerate gradually. This will save gas, and conserve wear and tear on your brake linings, transmission, and suspension. 

In extremely slow or stop-and-go traffic, don’t ride the brake pedal. This wears out your brake linings prematurely and wastes fuel. It’s best to shift into a lower gear. 

8. Keep it full-ish

Avoid running your car with the tank low on gas. Keeping the tank low increases the chance that dirt, water, and moisture will settle into your fuel system. 

One government study pointed to these top three causes of car breakdowns while on the road:  1) tire trouble 2) cooling system problems and 3) running out of gas.

9. Mind the oil 

Regular oil changes according to the manufacturer’s guidelines are the most important thing, dollar for dollar, you can do to protect your engine and make it last longer.

10. Lighten up

The more a car weighs, the harder the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension have to work. While cars are designed to carry extra weight, over the long term any unnecessary strain will take miles off its life. Don’t use the trunk for a mobile garage. Keep it as light as possible.

 

Follow these suggestions and you can look forward to doubling your car’s useful life! 


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How to Eliminate Odor of Gasoline Spilled Inside Family Vehicle

A message showed up in my inbox that made my heart sink. I couldn’t help imagine what it would be like to lend my car to someone, only to have it come back to me with a little something I’d not counted on—that noxious odor of gasoline!

Worse, what if that condition were permanent?! Thankfully, I have good news for at least one desperate reader.

Portable generator in back of car

 

I have a problem that I can’t solve and was wondering if you would be able to help. Someone borrowed my car recently and transported a small generator in it. Somehow, the gasoline spilled out inside my Explorer and left a very intense gasoline smell.

“I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has removed the smell. I steamed cleaned it with carpet shampoo, sprinkled it with baking soda and vacuum it up, saturated it with Nok-Out at least three times but to no avail. Can you help? Lisa

My first reaction to Lisa’s dilemma was to wonder if this “someone” was at one time on her list of friends (relatives?) but I won’t go there. Instead, I do have a solution and one that does not involve pushing that SUV off a cliff. It’s long, so bear with me.

This is definitely a job for Nok-Out—an odor-eliminating product that is non-toxic, fragrance-free and absolutely works wonders to eliminate the strong odor of gasoline providing it is used specifically and scientificallyRead more

10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Gasoline Cost

Only a few months ago I paid $1.75 a gallon for gas in Thornton, Colo. That’s nearly a dollar cheaper than I paid this past week at the same location—$2.72 per gallon! What’s going on?

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AAA  blames the increase partially on a drop in fuel supply from oil refineries. As a reulst, experts say prices are likely to keep climbing this summer, so drivers will have to be strategic to manage their fuel costs.

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

1. Hop on the bus, Gus

Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at the eRide Share app, eRideShare.com.

2. Take it easy

The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

3. Trip-chain

Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place. Read more

Look at All the Hidden Benefits in Your AAA Membership

When I pulled out my AAA membership card to get a discount for Universal Hollywood tickets, I locked eyeballs with “Years as Member: 43” printed on the card. I nearly passed out.

That seemed absolutely impossible until I did a little mental calculation. It’s true. AAA has been an important part of my life for more than four decades.

If you are a member of AAA, it’s likely that you depend on it to get you out of an automotive bind with a roadside jumpstart, a gallon of gas or a tow.

And so you know, they also come to the rescue should you ever lock your keys in the car. Or a sleeping baby. Let’s just say that AAA has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

 

Sleeping baby in carseat

AAA membership has so many other benefits that just roadside assistance—some I’ve taken advantage of in the past, but many others I didn’t even know about.

If you’re a member, perhaps you’ll be surprised too by all of the hidden benefits in your membership.

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This is the Best Car Trash Can Ever

Wouldn’t you think that if car manufacturers can perfect self-driving cars, they could also come up with a way to conquer the car trash problem?

Inside of a car with every nook and cranny stuffed with trash

Photo Credit TheOnion.com

I’ve always thought that a built-in trash compactor would be great. Or even better, some kind of incinerator that sucks the accumulation of trash and garbage right out of the car and into a holding tank somewhere that magically converts it into purified drinking water. Or gasoline.

While waiting for that kind of invention to appear, I’ve tried plastic bags, plastic tubs, and every kind of frugal trick and tip you can imagine to handle the annoyance of car trash.

I’ve tested and tried. Some ideas are better than others, but nothing has ever proven 100% satisfactory. Until now.

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No More Car Payments: How to Buy the Car of Your Dreams with All Cash

Let’s say that tomorrow morning you wake up to discover that overnight—gulp!—your car was destroyed beyond repair. You’re not covered and you’re devastated.

You can’t live without a car. But you have no money—not a nickel in savings. So what do you do? If you’re like most people in that situation, you head to the only dealer in town who’s offering $0 down financing and a monthly payment that somehow you’ll figure out how to afford.

Salesman handing over the keys to the car of your dreams

Realistically, what payment can you afford if you pull the plug on cable TV, stop eating out, and basically cut out all frivolous spending? $200? $300 $600? 

Okay, back to reality. Your car isn’t destroyed, and you’ll keep driving it for a while. But remember the amount you said you believe you could afford each month if you really put your mind to it? Let’s say it’s $300. Keep reading. 

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The Bank of You

Open a savings account somewhere convenient and begin immediately to make $300 monthly payments into that savings account. Just as if you were in that terrible scenario mentioned above. Every month. Make the sacrifices now, cut the spending now. Be strict with yourself—rigid and unbending! No late payments, no slacking. 

In the meantime, and as you are making these big new payments to yourself, continue driving the car you have now for at least one more year, even if it is a real clunker. You can endure anything for a short time when you have a plan for it to end.

Soon, you will begin earning interest —Ally.com currently 2.20% APY—on the growing balance instead of paying interest on a conventional auto loan. 

At the end of one year—12 payments to yourself—you will have accumulated $3,600 cash plus interest. Not bad! 

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A Simple Tip to Get Better Gas Mileage

Some time ago, I wrote about simple things you can do to get better gas mileage, which means and less time and money spent at the gas pump.

One of those tips was to make sure your car’s tires are always properly inflated because underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary, which wastes fuel, while overinflation causes tires to wear prematurely.

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I went on to tell you how to discover the psi (pounds per square inch) inflation recommended for your tires. And with that, I kinda’ started a firestorm!

My email box fairly sizzled with responses from readers who were not happy—some demanding an immediate retraction, others insisting I was putting the lives of my readers in serious danger due to exploding tires.

The problem? I told you to discover the proper psi by looking for that information on the tires themselves.

“You’re wrong!” informed a few readers, many of them citing their qualifications as authorities on tires and proper inflation.

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Ask Me Anything: Upside Down in a Car Loan, Plastic in the Oven and More

I love my overflowing inbox filled with questions from my dear readers. What I don’t love is not being able to respond personally to each and every one!

So today, rather than trying to decide which ones to answer, how about I just reach in and let’s see what comes out.

multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

Upside Down in a Durango

Dear Mary: I have a Dodge Durango gas guzzler and I owe way too much money on it. If I sell the vehicle outright, I could probably squeak by ending up just $5,000 in the hole. If I trade it in, I would be about $9,000 in the hole.  

I could put the shortfall on a credit card, but I know that is a bad idea for so many reasons. What should I do to pay the difference?

We have an old pick-up truck and an older Subaru that will be okay for now, but how do I get out of the loan and the Durango? And how can I sell it to someone when I don’t have a clear title? Any help will be appreciated. Linda

Dear Linda: There’s no perfect solution here, but here’s a plan that might work: 

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