What can I do to keep my older car running smooth?

Ask the mechanic
By: Chris Bradford
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People are keeping their cars longer and longer. It's very common to see vehicles with 100,000, 200,000 and even 300,000 miles on them and still running strong. The trick to getting this many miles out of a vehicle? Maintenance. If you've had regular oil changes and proper service over the years it is not unusual to reach these milestones. When a vehicle reaches high mileage certain things start to happen; the engine's tight tolerances have loosened up and with this the engine may start to use oil ” this is a normal condition. The trick is to not let the engine consume all the oil and cause a failure. This is where the driver comes in. The old saying of check your oil with every fill up is still true, especially with older vehicles. This is a good practice and will certainly reduce the possibility of engine problems. When an engine gets older, some owners wonder about using a thicker oil, this isn't the best plan. Over the years car manufacturers have been using lower viscosity oil (a thinner oil). For example a 5W-30 oil is thinner than a 10W-30 oil. It's not recommended to use a different viscosity oil. Engine manufacturers design engines to run on a certain oil viscosity ” using a thicker oil could result in slower engine cranking, reduced fuel economy and in some cases premature engine wear. I've heard of people using thicker oil on engines that are using more oil and the results have been minimal. While using a thicker oil might not be the solution to an aging engine, adding an oil additive may extend the life of the recommended oil. Some additives help reduce oil breakdown and clean the inside of the engine, thus allowing components to de-carbon inside the engine and sometimes reduce oil consumption. When an engine consumes oil it's usually burned with the gasoline. It will be carried by an air-fuel mixture that is pressurized inside the engine and is re-circulated into the intake system to be burned. This is common on older or high-mileage vehicles. This process will allow the formation of carbon on the intake valves and on the top of the pistons. Fuel manufacturers have introduced additives to fuel to help reduce this build-up. You can buy fuel-additives that can help by removing this carbon build-up, and you will increase engine performance. Lastly, just because your car is high mileage doesn't mean you shouldn't get regular inspections. Thorough inspections of brake and suspension systems, transmissions, and electrical components are a key to keeping your high-mileage vehicle trouble free for miles to come. Chris Bradford is the shop foreman for Magnussen's Auburn Toyota at 800 Nevada St. in Auburn. He can be reached at (530) 885-8484.