DEAR CARS: My 2010 Ford Taurus now has over 415,000 miles on the odometer. I have the car since 21,000 km.
So far I have done the scheduled maintenance, oil change, tires, fluid topping up and two spark plugs changed. Otherwise, same engine, same transmission. No dents or scratches and still looks new. It gets about 25 mpg with the V6. I realize I’ve been lucky … mostly because the car’s history includes a lot of highway miles.
So what should I expect to wear, fall apart, or come off or not stick? What needs the most energetic, watchful eye and testing of my car’s age and mileage?
I still drive it long distances but wonder if I should be more cautious. Oh, and while I’m proud of my seemingly indestructible vehicle (knock on wood), I have to admit I’m on my third windshield, thanks mostly to big, uncovered dump trucks.
Thanks for any advice. — Timmy
DEAR TEAMS: Well, the first thing you should do is check the Guinness Book of World Records for Taurus. You may qualify.
You did great. And while highway mileage and luck certainly play some role, to a large extent people make their own automotive luck. When you do all your regular maintenance and drive carefully, you’re more likely to see these higher mileage readings. But, unfortunately, you’re now at the far end of the bell curve, Timmy. You may even be out of it – on a second sheet of paper.
And the problem is that absolutely anything (or anything) can fail at any time on a car with over 400,000 miles. Cars just don’t last forever.
So, in addition to continuing your regular maintenance, I’d make sure your mechanic does a really thorough safety check every time you’re in his shop.
You never know when the engine is going to throw a rod or the transmission is going to drop going through a hole. But you can see wear and tear on things like brake lines, wheel bearings, tie rod ends, and many other things that cause a crash – instead of an inconvenience.
So if your mechanic can assure you that it’s safe to drive, then you should make sure you always have three things with you in the car.
First, a cell phone. So if it dies during one of your highway trips, you can save yourself.
Second, the title so you can legally transfer it to a tow truck driver and ask them to take it to the local skeleton.
And third, a credit card to get a ride to the dealership and make a down payment on something to get home.
Or you can give the Taurus a pat on the bumper now, tell it a job well done, matey, and get a newer car under less stressful circumstances. It all depends on your taste for adventure, Timmy. Either way, happy travels.
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DEAR CARS: I have a 2002 Volkswagen Passat. I wonder if there are any tricks to keep the auto windows from freezing up after using the car wash in the winter. — Thaddeus
DEAR THADEUS: yes Apartment in San Diego.
This is a difficult problem to solve, Thaddeus. Some cars seem more susceptible to this than others, possibly due to geometry, the age of the surrounding seals, and perhaps an older, weakened window motor that isn’t strong enough to break the seal.
Our customers have had the best luck by spraying some silicone lubricant on the edges of the window that fit the door frame.
It’s actually less messy if you spray the silicone on a paper towel and then wipe down all the exposed edges of the window, inside and out.
If you’re careful, you can also spray a little inside the frame where the window fits. This may help. If it still freezes closed, you can lightly tap the window from the top and sides. That might be enough to loosen it up.
And if it doesn’t, I’d recommend a dirt car until the weather clears up.
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DEAR CARS: Regarding Steve’s 2012 Chevy Equinox (he added fresh oil so often he felt he could skip the oil change and you said no).
You said it’s like a pan you keep heating and adding oil because the dirt never drains. But here’s my question: Unlike your pan, the Chevy has a replaceable oil filter.
Doesn’t the filter, if changed regularly, work to get the crap out of the dirty oil? — Larry
DEAR LARRY: It is, but I don’t think it’s enough.
Changing the filter regularly will help. But this does not prevent the degradation of the oil itself. Over time, due to use and heat, the slippery long-chain molecules in motor oil break down and become less effective at lubricating important parts.
If you burn oil – you make the remaining oil work harder and hotter. For example, if your car takes 5 liters and you burn a liter before filling it up, each of those four remaining liters does 25% more work. So the remaining oil will break down even faster.
I stand by my position, Larry. In my experience, good lubrication is one of the keys to engine durability. And for the price of an oil change – compared to an engine – it seems silly to skimp there.
Ray Magliozzi hands out car tips on Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting cartalk.com