Getting More Miles Out of the Old Van

My 2004 Pontiac Montana just clicked over 167,000 miles, and I couldn’t be more excited.  It is my goal to get up to 200,000 with it.  It is such a great feeling to own that vehicle outright.  Only 2 weeks ago, I had to spend $650 to get a new radiator and thermostat.  I had been in South Carolina for a week and had just gotten home.  My wife was out of town, and I was responsible for dinner.  Not wanting to fix anything after 11 hours in the car, I told the kids I would go through a drive thru.

As I pulled in, the temperature gauge flashed its warning that the van was overheating.  I was surprised since it had never done that before.  I shut it down, called my teenager to come in a second car and follow me to the mechanic and take me home (with dinner of course).  This was all within 4 miles of home.  Well the van cooled down enough while I waited, and we made it.  In the morning, I dropped off the keys and later learned the bad news that there was a hole in the radiator.  It would have to be replaced.  Oh well, $650 is better than a car payment!

In May of 2009 when the van had 108,000 miles on it, I had to have a new transmission.  The cost was just over $2000.  But to get a comparable vehicle would have cost me $25,000 or more so I think I got a bargain.  The payments would have been over $500 per month so all I had to do was get the van to last 4 months without anything major.  It was almost 3 years between that repair and this one so I am happy.  Now I should be good to go for that 200,000 goal which should be about 2 more years.

Tips to Extend a Vehicle’s Life

  • Don’t drive like a maniac.  Avoid rapid acceleration and braking.  This is tough on your transmission and braking systems.  Besides, you don’t get anywhere more quickly because there are enough stoplights in the city to slow you down.  Plus, it is bad for gas mileage.
  • Maintain a regular maintenance schedule.  I make sure that the oil and other fluids are changed regularly.  I also have the tires rotated routinely as well and make sure to maintain proper inflation.  I have my mechanic look over the vehicle and any item that needs repaired is fixed sooner rather than later.  This is especially important with belts and hoses.
  • Don’t buy gas when the tanker is dropping off more fuel at the station.  The filling of the underground tanks can stir up any sediment that is in the tank and transfer it to your vehicle when you are filling up.  This would ultimately be bad for your fuel system.  I have also heard that you shouldn’t let your tank get to empty since any sediment in your tank would be more likely to get sucked into the fuel system.  I always try to fill up at about a quarter of a tank left.
  • Keep the vehicle’s exterior in good condition.  You don’t want paint chips to develop into rusted out areas that will eat away at your vehicle.  I am fortunate that my van still looks pretty good, but I do try to take care of it.  I usually have it thoroughly detailed once per year.  It is nice to have a clean van, plus I am helping out a local business.

Ultimately, I must be doing something right.  Every vehicle I have owned has been driven over 100,000 miles.  Now I am working to extend that to 200,000 with them all.  Our Suburban is closing in on 100,000 and the teenagers’ Cobalt has over 75,000.  It is getting ready for teen number 3.  I am hoping to get it to last for several more years as well.

I have purchased all of my cars new which might not be the best thing to hear from a personal finance blogger, but I can know that the car has been cared for well during ownership.  That piece of mind is worth it to me.

Do you have any other tips to keep your car running or any other thought?  Please share in the comments below.

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