2002 Chevy Silverado

10 Things You Can Do to Make a Vehicle Last Twice as Long

In September 2021, it will be 20 years ago that my husband and I bought a new Chevy Silverado.  For 14 of those years, it was our only vehicle. Our goal from day one has always been to make it last longer than any vehicle we’d ever owned—maybe even twice as long.

As I write, we still own this truck. It’s closing in on 275,000 miles—and still running great on its original front brakes.

2002 Chevy Silverado

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 comes down to how well its owner has taken care of it. 

According to Eric Lyman, chief analyst at TrueCar, “The average lifespan [of a car] is now almost 12 years,” says Lyman. By that statistic, we’re are well on our way to even doubling that statistic!

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 it’s time for a major repair, get at least three estimates before you proceed, if possible. Don’t judge who will make this repair only by the lowest price; 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. You will feel better too, drive a car or truck that’s shiny on the outside, pristine on the inside.

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 the 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 damaging rays of the sun and other harsh weather conditions.

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. And it annoys the drivers behind you to no end. 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 sediment dirt, water, and moisture that sit at the bottom of the fuel tank will be drawn into your fuel system. That’s engine damage just waiting to happen. This is bad for your vehicle.

But that’s not the only reason you should always keep the fuel gauge above half. Running out of gas increases the chances of getting in an accident as a result of the sudden loss of power and resulting exposure to traffic should you find yourself in the middle of a lane or even on the side of the road.

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. Generally, cars and trucks used to require oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the make and model. Just one more reason to become intimately familiar with that Owner’s Manual. It’s better to err on the side of changing the oil too often than run the risk of failing to change it often enough.

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. That is not a good place to store a 100 lb. bag of sand or every piece of sports equipment you own. Keep it as light as possible.

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

 

Question: Got a great story or vehicle longevity tip or trick? Share it in the comments area below!

 


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19 replies
  1. Lori Cole says:

    We have a 2000 Chevy Silverado named Ol’ Blue, with 223,500 miles. We love that truck. It’s pulled tractors, trailers and campers for family vacation. And helped teach many young kids to drive. I can’t imagine not having it on our life’s. Love it that you have the same truck.

    Reply
  2. Doug Smith says:

    Mary, I think you made a typo when you stated some manuals suggest oil changes every 50,000 to 100,00 miles.
    The engine would be destroyed with that . Change at least every 5,000 miles.

    Reply
  3. Sue Ramsey says:

    I agree with and do all of the above. I would also add that I start a binder whenever I buy a new vehicle and put every receipt of everything I do to the car in that binder–pms, oil changes, wipers, accessories–everything! It’s very helpful if taking the vehicle to a new mechanic, etc. It’s also VERY important when selling the vehicle. It puts the buyer at ease knowing the entire history. I also put tiny labels inside the upper left of my front window to remind myself of oil changes, pms, tire rotation, etc.

    Reply
    • Lilia says:

      Sue, Putting receipts and list of other info in a binder are great ideas. I will start using a binder. I also find it useful to jot down on 8 x 11 paper dates of oil change, repairs and other maintenance that were done so that I don’t have to go thru receipts to find info I’m looking for. One time, I had maintenance done and did not realize job was already done a few months ago from a different auto shop. I wasn’t keeping track but now I am. Thank you.

      Reply
  4. Bruce B says:

    We change our cars’ oil every 5,000 miles. Years ago I started changing the oil on the multiple of 5’s schedule…25,000 miles, 30,000 miles, etc. This simplifies remembering when to get an oil change.

    Reply
  5. Amanda says:

    I drive a 1990 Subaru Justy with many many miles on her. My trusted mechanic is my wonderful husband who keeps me on the road. I wholeheartedly agree with all your points, especially the preventative maintenance! I also have a friend who has a tire changer, which saves us about 60% on the cost of tires. We reward him with home cooked meals for his trouble.

    Reply
  6. canceledcheck says:

    My 20 year old Tahoe has 235,000 miles on it, It gets a synthetic oil change every 5000 miles whether it needs it or not:-). The engine runs so quiet, sometimes when I am stopped I am not sure the engine is running. The only thing annoying is the fact that our wonderful government (sarcastic) charges me an extra $9 for the age of the vehicle!! Just got my license renewed and seeing this charge was a shocker.

    Reply
    • Shannon Robbins says:

      Is the extra charge because of it being considered a “classic” or a “show car”? If so, appeal it. Explain that it’s your everyday vehicle or emergency vehicle and that it’s not being shown as a classic..

      Reply
    • discus/watchdog for God says:

      I have one more suggestion. If you live in a “cold” State with lots of snow and ice and salted streets, be sure to get a car wash at least once a month, more if weather is bad. Go to a car wash that has under body washing to get all that crud and salt washed away. This will help prevent a build up of rust that is the unseen destroyer of cars.

      Reply
  7. kcjmc says:

    About parking under trees: Then you have to decide which is worse, bird poop and/or falling limbs and copious amounts of tree — or the sun.

    Reply
    • LILIA says:

      Thought about the same things kcjmc. Birds in my parking area are notorious for dropping their poop on my vehicle (yuk). I also get nervous of falling limbs parking under trees especially during a rain storm.

      Reply
      • DD says:

        Bird poo is also extremely acidic. Tree sap is another major problem parking under or near trees. Both destroy the finish on a car!

  8. PatriotPeg says:

    mary, thanx for all the tips u provide each day. i tried your link for the are and maintenance of the fire extinguisher. link is not working. pls see if this is the correct. thanx again. peggy

    Reply
  9. PattiHath says:

    I drive a 2003 Honda Accord with 240k miles on it. I do synthetic oil on a schedule and use Marvel Mystery oil with every gas fill (at the beginning) which really makes a difference in how well this car drives. It may not look great but I’m confident I’ll give it to the next person and they will get many more miles as well.

    Reply
  10. Kathleen Hicks says:

    I have 480,000 miles on my Toyota Prius. I took it to the dealer while it was under warranty for all scheduled maintenance and I get the oil changed every time it is due. I just took it in for a tune up and to check the AC. It looks like it will make it to 500,000.

    Reply

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