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Living with a high mileage car (over 144,000 miles!)


This may be a new thing for some, but it's the norm for me.

At the time I write this, my car just came back from the shop for rear brake adjustments and front passenger side wiring repair at a cost of $450 for the whole job. You may think that's expensive. It isn't and I'll explain why.

I am no stranger to driving a car or truck with over 100,000 miles on it. In fact, I consider any vehicle with under 100K on the odometer to be a "low miles" car.

I've learned a few things over the years when it comes to the care of a high-miles car.

Lube those tracks

This is for power windows. I unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way.

The window is held in place with tracks. These tracks over time dry out and need to be lubricated. The lubrication to use is WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant. Roll the window down, spray the lubricant into the tracks, then roll the window up and down 10 times to work the lubricant in. Do this once a year.

Before I knew to do this, I spent several hundred dollars on repairs for a driver's side window. When it started rolling up/down slowly, I just figured "Oh, it's just doing this because it's old." No. It was slow from no lubrication. Had I lubricated the tracks, the only cost would have been the price of the lubricant and nothing more.

Stop slamming the damn door

The only thing slamming the door shut hard does is break stuff sooner, and not just for stuff on the door. Every time that door is slammed shut forcefully, a hard shock is sent through the whole car. Not smart.

It's especially stupid to forcefully slam slut a car door with the window open. Watch the window shake when you do that and you'll understand why.

Over the years, I've had to tell passengers a few times to stop slamming their door shut so hard. Yeah, they get annoyed when I say this. I don't care. It's my car and not theirs.

Air and rotate tires routinely

Air should be checked every 90 days. Rotations should be done every 6,000 miles or twice a year. That's how you get 50,000 miles or well beyond that out of a set of tires.

I'm honestly amazed at how many people I see driving around with semi-flat tires.

Don't "top off" the fuel tank

When the gas pump clicks after filling it, STOP on first click. There's a thing called an evaporative system within the fuel assembly. Namely, the canister. Topping off the tank will break that canister sooner. Not cheap to fix.

Replace the fuel cap if loose

If the cap is loose (it's obvious if it is), that can make the car's computer trip an error code and put a "check engine" light on the dashboard.

Clean the fuel cap area

This can get gummed up with black crap over time. Baby wipes clean this area easily.

Replace the radiator cap

This is more than just a cap. There's a valve inside it, and that valve eventually wears out. If the car has over 100K miles on it, replace the cap. Cheap.

Clean the MAF sensor

This is another thing that will prevent a "check engine" light from happening. Getting the MAF (mass air flow) sensor out for cleaning is usually easy on most cars. Spray it with MAF sensor cleaner, shake dry, reinstall, done.

Replace both air cleaner filter and cabin filter

This is a once-a-year thing. The air cleaner gets junk in it, and while true you can just shake out the dust and debris, better to just replace it outright. If the car has a cabin filter (mine is behind the glove box, sometimes a different location on other cars/trucks), do the same.

Sanitize the floor carpet

Resolve carpet cleaner from a spray bottle. Wear kitchen gloves when using this stuff, and don't let the spray get on to any plastics or leather. Spray, let sit for 5 minutes, use a hand towel to work it in to the carpet, let dry.

This also works on normal cloth seats.

Clean the dashboard

303 automotive protectant spray. Spray or wipes do the same job. Makes the plastics last longer and prevents discoloration/cracking.

Replace tire valve stem caps

Cheap to buy and should be replaced once yearly.

Always use simple black plastic caps, because they typically provide the best seal using the least amount of weight. I can't see how adding weight from metal caps to a valve stem would do it any good.

Replace license plate screws

If you see rust on these, replace. If the screws that are rusted also rusted the screw holes they were in, repair those holes as best you can first, then fit with new screws.

Install a new battery in the key fob for keyless entry

If it's been more than 5 years since the fob battery was replaced (if ever), replace it with a new one.

Have a spare key

If you only have one key for the car and no spare, that's not smart. Have at least two, and make sure both keys work.

Also make sure the spare is in a place where you'll actually remember where it is in case you ever need it.

Lubricate keyholes

If the car uses regular traditional keys with older style keyholes, spray some of that WD-40 silicone lubricant into the key hole (you can hold closed keyholes open with a pen), then move the key in and out a few times to lubricate. Lubricate all keyholes. Ignition, doors and trunk/hatch.

Clear out dust and debris from switch areas

Use dust removal spray to clear out dust and whatever from power window/lock switches. Vacuuming never gets rid of this dust. You need the spray for it.

What was the deal with a $450 charge just for rear brake adjustments and wiring repair?

When you have a car with over 100K miles on the odometer, you get what I call "100K mile problems", which basically means age related things that go wrong with a car.

In the area of the engine bay on the passenger side front where the headlight is on that side, the part of the main engine wiring harness that connects electricity there had two little frayed wires. The wires were frayed right at the connector, preventing the passenger side turn signal from working at all, hence the need for the repair.

On top of that, the break in the wires was on the engine wiring harness side of the connector and not the headlight side. If it were the headlight side, I could have fixed that myself with a new $20 headlamp replacement wiring harness from eBay. The way this wiring break happened was something way more complicated that I could not fix.

To fix this, the connector had to be re-pinned completely, wires trimmed, stripped, re-soldered, entire system probed and checked to make sure there wasn't a break elsewhere, then put all back together and re-shielded.

All of the cost was labor. The shop barely charged me anything for the brake adjustments (e-brake cable tightening and rear drum cleaning).

Did I pay too much?

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