Zombie Wheels: How to Own a Car That Just Won’t Die

Soccer Mom Zombie

Image by juco via Flickr

The average car dies somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 miles.    My car is coming up on the lower end of that range and I’d like to see it last a lot longer than the top end.    I paid the thing off in January, and I’ve grown fond of not having a car payment.    Extending the useful life of your car–and continuing to use it–means fewer car payments and cheap auto insurance premiums.

Who really wants to keep making car payments month after month, year after year?  I want my car to outlast me.  Scratch that.   If that wish come true, I’ll have a meteor fall on me the day before the transmission explodes.

How can you help your car continue past undeath, past the point when other cars have given up and accepted the True Death?

Keep Your Gas Tank Full

Here in the frozen north(though not as frozen or as north as some of you), it’s conventional wisdom to keep your gas tank full in the winter to prevent your fuel lines from freezing.  Did you know you should keep it full the rest of the year, too?   An empty tank is more likely to rust.  Even before the rust eats a hole through the tank, there are tiny flakes of rust drifting into the gas lines and clogging the fuel system.

Change Your Oil

When you run old oil, you’re leaving contaminants and little flakes of metal flowing through all of the important moving bits of your engine.   Changing your oil removes those tiny abrasive bits from the equation.  I don’t recommend buying into the propaganda put out by the oil-change stores and changing it every 3000 miles, but do it regularly.    I aim for about every 5000 miles, but a better recommendation is to do whatever your owner’s manual says.

In between changes, don’t forget to check your oil level and top it off when it’s needed.    All by itself, that will improve your fuel efficiency and keep your car running happy.

Consistently keeping up with just these two small things will keep your car running smoothly for a long time.

How many miles are on your car?  How long do you plan to keep it?

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    1. I doubt if your car can outlive you..even if it does it won’t b that friendly to environment. I don’t think getting services at 3000 miles is a bad idea I do that and my 2002 model is running fine

    2. Love it. Have a great weekend.

    3. Love your title.

      Maintenance definitely will help keep your car going.

      I don’t change my oil every 3,000 either, we go ’til about 4,000 and then do it.

      I have about 17,000 miles on my car, I hope to be able to give this car to my daughters in about six years.

    4. I dunno about keeping your tank full all the time… that’s bad for your fuel economy since it makes the car heavier.

      Mine is on 120 000 and going strong. I sold my last car at 140 000 and it was running beautifully. I would have kept it but I just didn’t have the need for a car then.

      I’ll never buy a car on credit and make car payments. I set aside an amount each month, and when I need an upgrade that’s the money I use.

    5. I always laugh at posts like this. I have 97 Toyota 4-runner with 204k miles and it is still going strong. My husband says it has to last until 300k!

    6. Just coming up on the 50,000 mile mark! WooHoo! My car is a 2007 Toyota Yaris, it’s paid for and it gets nearly 40 MPGs on the freeway, so I’d like to keep it as long as possible. Right now it’s our only car, but it works out because I live close to work and my wife is able to stay at home to take care of the house and our son. Whether or not we end up keeping the car until it dies depends on whether or not we’ll be needing two cars by the time baby #2 arrives. If we can swing it, I’d like to pay cash for a decent minivan for my wife and keep our smaller car for me to drive. Assuming we end up keeping the car, I’m guessing we’ll easily get 200,000 + miles out of it. I think most newer cars these days are desiged to get more miles out of them than the older cars. 100,000 miles is the new “nicely broken in” marker now…


    7. I think it really depends on the car. Some car just last longer than others. Good tips.

    8. Usually I dont drive at all, compared to what I used to, but I still keep up maintenance on the pickup. There’s no reason to let it crap out just because im not using it at that point, as I may need it later.
      I also keep up with air/fuel filter changes, and anything else that I can think of to make sure I get the most out of my car.

    9. I have 157,000 miles on my car and am planning on it lasting about 2 more years to 200K. I enjoy not having to make payments on it.

    10. I don’t have a car, but I have a motorcycle. I’m hoping it lasts until at least 100K without an engine replacement.

      The nice thing with the bike is that I could replace it myself if it did go bad.

    11. I paid off my car a couple months ago…it has 65K miles. I am hoping to keep it going strong until at least 120Kish

    12. My minivan has 86,000 miles on it and I don’t have plans to replace it anytime soon. Like you, I love having a paid for car.

      I didn’t know the tip about the full gas tank. I’ll have to keep that in mind since I don’t fill up until my tank is pretty low.

    13. Check out Rachel Veitch and her 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente. 563,000 documented miles on it. There are plenty of links and youtube videos about her and the car on the net. Inspiring story!

    14. I’m driving a little Mitsubishi Mirage that now had 187,000 miles on it. We’ve but about 70,000 miles on it, driven it across the west coast a couple times, and I really like how reliable it’s been. Unfortunately it’s hit the point where it will need some parts replaced that make it smart to buy a new car. I look forward to having my next car for 200,000 miles!

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