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Bought a Toyota, how do I make it last a long time?
August 22, 2012 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought a 2011 Toyota Corolla with 37,000 miles on it, it's Toyota certified. I drive about 2000 miles per month (probably more). When I'm done with college, I'm hoping to move closer to work at reduce my overall commute by 50% or more, but right now I'm stuck at 2000ish miles a month (lots of alone car time).

How do I make my car last longer? My last car was a Ford Ranger 1999, it had lots of problems, engine troubles, axle troubles, I poured about $6000 into it over 4 years. I want to avoid this as much as possible.

How can I make my car last a long time? Target goal: 250,000 miles.

I know about:

1. Regular Scheduled Maintenance

2. Oil Changes

3. Take it easy (What does that mean?)

Other then that, how do I ensure that my car will last?
posted by snow_mac to Travel & Transportation around Fort Collins, CO (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find out when the timing chain / belt usually wears out on your car. Start paying close attention to it about 30k miles before it goes out. Replace at the first sign of any problems.

Keep track of coolant levels. If your coolant starts to drop suddenly, get to the shop quick. If steam EVER comes out of the hood of your car, STOP IMMEDIATELY and get the car towed to the shop.

Keep your ear open for odd / unusual sounds. When a new sound starts up, find out WHY. Fix it unless you are absolutely sure you don't need to.

Taking it easy means don't slam on the accelerator or breaks. Drive smoothly. Don't fill the car full of stuff until the springs bottom out and then drive cross-country like that.

General safety: make sure your tires always have plenty of tread and your brake pads and rotors are in good shape. If the car shakes when you brake, get the rotors replaced or filed down (if possible). If you live in a very wet area, make sure you are using all-season tires. If you live in a snowy / cold area, keep an ice scraper in the car as well as a par of chains or cables for the tires. Remember that your car is front wheel drive, so the traction devices go up front.


A Corolla should last 200k miles easily. By the time it gets there, it is up to you whether you want to push the last 50k miles or not. You may be able to get substantially more money for the car at 198k miles than 250k miles, and you will almost certainly pay what the car is worth to get there (around 2-3k).
posted by b1tr0t at 9:33 PM on August 22, 2012


Not only are toyotas more reliable than fords, small cars are designed for a longer life than trucks. You already have the most important points. Also Make sure to keep the tires inflated. For oil changes, use the duration in the owners manual. It's likely a lot longer than the 3000 miles jiffy lube will tell you. But in the end, every car is different. During 200k miles you're gonna need some maintenance. It's part of the cost of car ownership and you shouldn't expect to avoid it.
posted by scose at 9:49 PM on August 22, 2012


It's a Corolla: it'll last quite a while as long as you follow a decent maintenance schedule. I've got 110K on my 2001, and aside from a replaced water pump and worn-out front struts, it's just been regular maintenance. I change my oil every 7,500 miles. Don't buy this 3,000 mile nonsense, it's overkill, especially with the aluminum laser-cut engine block. I had my timing chain changed at around 100K, just to be cautious.

Also, everything b1tr0t says is absolutely correct, fantastic advice, so as long as you heed that, the car will take you to 200K easily.
posted by spiderskull at 10:51 PM on August 22, 2012


In case my comments seemed alarmist: just follow the guidelines in the manual. 200k should be easy if you follow the instructions.

It is also worth tracking your expenses, the value of your vehicle, and the cost of whatever you consider to be a suitable replacement. I'm not certain 250k miles is a good idea, but it should certainly be possible. And the numbers will tell you one way or another.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:08 PM on August 22, 2012


Some of these factors are already built-in, it depends how well the previous owners drove and maintained their cars. I had a SAAB 900 turbo which exceeded 250K (I bought it at 130K but the previous owner had tampered with the mileometer, going by the service history I suspect he'd been unsuccessful in trying to rewind it). Some private hire cars in the UK have an engine/transmission transplant at 250-300K and go round again. Toyota isn't Mercedes, but Mercedes are said to award badges to cars which last for multiples of 250K.
posted by epo at 2:03 AM on August 23, 2012


I want to avoid this as much as possible.

Well you've already taken care of the most important part of that: not buying a Ford Ranger.

Seriously, stay on top of the maintenance, regularly check your fluid levels, and don't drive like a maniac. That last one can be a challenge, but the point is not braking or accelerating as hard as you possibly can. Go easy on the gas, and you'll be able to go easier on the brakes.
posted by valkyryn at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2012


Do regular tyre pressure checks, and maybe consider an alignment check once a year with that sort of mileage (or when you change tyres).

You're doing all the right things. Regular maintenance, follow the maintenance schedule in the manufacturers recommendations and don't scrimp on preventative maintenance.

Also: Don't forget the body. Keep the car clean (including underneath). Oil the car in the winter if your climate is cold (the spray style underneath). Pressure wash out the wheel arches and the undercarriage if you can during the summer. Dirt is bad as it retains moisture against the body and promotes rot.

Cars cost money. People that have problems are trying to avoid spending money, so they skip maintenance and then bitch that their car breaks. Spend the money first and it will likely be cheaper in the long run.
posted by Brockles at 5:48 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just bought a 2011 Corolla earlier this year. The recommended oil change interval is 10,000 miles. That bothered me enough to ask about it here and the consensus was that engines today are manufactured to much tighter tolerances than cars even 15 years ago and that 10,000 mile oil changes are fine. So just follow the "high mileage" maintenance schedule in the manual and you should be fine.
posted by COD at 6:00 AM on August 23, 2012


For the love of god, drive the car gently until the engine is warmed up. That's the biggest thing you can do for an engine/transmission's longevity. After it's warmed up, you could redline the thing a couple times every day and it'd last 250K miles (says the guy driving the car that has done dual track/street duty for 250K miles and has never hesitated to buy a nicely maintained car with 200K on it). Modern engines are incredible. The thing that destroys them is lack of oil changes, lots of cold starts/stops and occasional bad luck or bad designs.

Stay on top of repairs. ON TOP OF THEM. Don't ignore clunks and rattles and vibrations, because one bad component can rapidly destroy other good components. Don't ignore warning light. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for routine maintenance. Check the fluids once in a while.

Don't over think it, though. Most cars made these days will go 200K without many hiccups. A Corolla will go farther as long as it doesn't rust away (and there's not much you can do to prevent that). It's a Toyota. Your main costs will be wear items that you don't have much control over (pads/rotors/bushings/ball joints/shocks/belts/fluids/O2 sensors/exhaust system/etc).
posted by pjaust at 6:16 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Right now, you just bought this car, and it feels really important to keep up the care and maintenance. Try to hold onto this feeling.
In another 100,000 miles, the scenario you don't want: you've had this car for 4-6 years, and it's just part of life, the newness has worn off and these days you don't really notice one way or the other, you've worn holes through the carpet with your heel and someday you should really vacuum in there. Half the time at stop lights there's a little whirry noise but the other half not, so it's better if you just turn up the radio and hope for the best.
What you do want is like the old married couple who know exactly what's going on with each other - Odometer just flipped **5,000 so it's time for an oil change, so you'll go tomorrow not next week, drop it off at the place where they know your name, and they'll ask whether the new fan belt is squeaking or if it's fixed. Yes, it's not a new car any more, but you're friends, so when you hear anything abnormal it's not "let's see if that keeps happening all month" but "okay, let's go check with George at the shop".
posted by aimedwander at 6:45 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, meant to add: set aside some money every month in a special "car" bucket. I don't know how your finances are, but of order $100 seems good (shifting from a bit less to a bit more as the car ages?). That way, when you hear a funny clicking noise, it's not the end of the world - you don't have to be scared of taking it to the shop and holy crap going broke, because there's this bank account that's pretty much already George-the-mechanic's money, it's just a matter of when you give it to him. It takes away a lot of the stress of getting minor things checked out, and the earlier you get them checked out, the less of a problem they're likely to be.
posted by aimedwander at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you drive in the snow, clean the salt off regularly to prevent rust damage. Take your car to a $5 car wash place in the winter to get the body and underbody rinsed off.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:12 AM on August 23, 2012


Do not forget an oil change. I went 15,000 km without an oil change in my 1999 corolla and it ruined the engine (started using oil at 225,000 km)
posted by canoehead at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2012


I bought a '98 Corolla in 2001. I've been driving it ever since.

I never (not once!) brought it anywhere for regular maintenance and only had the oil changed about once every 18 months. The only time I spent money on it was when something went wrong (timing belt died, throttle sensor went bad, new tires needed, etc.).

It just hit 204,000 and is still running fine, if a bit rattly.

Imagine how much longer yours will last with actual care!
posted by tacodave at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2012


I have a 98 Corolla with 192k on it and still going strong. I get regular oil changes about every 6000 miles. My husband replaced the timing belt himself at about 100k. I believe I had the water pump replaced. The car started misfiring and losing power going up hills so we replaced the spark plugs and spark plug wires. The shocks and struts need to be replaced. I don't plan to spend the money on that. I'll get another used Toyota most likely.

The car runs great but is ugly because the clear coat failed. I would recommend staying away from the automatic car washes at gas stations. I could be wrong but it looks like two distinct brush lines run along the roof of the car. I recommend a good wax job once in a while.
posted by goodsearch at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2012


Goodsearch: The tire store (where I get my brakes replaced) told me I needed to get the shocks and struts changed. They are the originals and are recommended to be replaced every 50,000 miles. They've lasted 4X that with no noticeable problems.

We're in the same boat, it sounds like.
posted by tacodave at 12:35 PM on August 24, 2012


They've lasted 4X that with no noticeable problems.

Noticeable to you. That doesn't mean 'work as good as new or as they should do. It is extremely unlikely to impossible that the shocks in particular are working as effectively as designed. Shocks are something that the general public thinks is something that needs replacing 'when they break' whereas any drop in performance directly impacts and reduces vehicle stability and road holding.

I urge anyone that has shocks on their car that age to change them, no matter how much they 'can't feel any problem'. They are a service item that seems like they lasts long after someone tells you they need changing, but they are a service item all the same and they wear internally over time.
posted by Brockles at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2012


First of all, why would you want to drive a Corolla for that long? (just kidding)

I would follow the "severe" maintenance schedule. The standard one is usually designed for the "life of vehicle", vehicle's life, not yours, which they define as 8 years, 85K miles or whatever, it varies with manufacturers but it won't be 250K. Also your maintenance schedule does not cover everything, it covers stuff for "life of vehicle".
And don't forget transmission oil, I do transmission oil change/flush every 50K miles on my modern vehicles at the dealer. Getting quality gas, changing fuel filter, cabin air filter and other things will help.
Fix problems ASAP! For example bad alignment ($100 to fix) will ruin your tires ($100/each), a miss fire will ruin your fuel economy and damage catalytic converters (i think about $750 each) which you have to get new or it won't pass emission testing (if you have to do it).
Do not change oil at Jiffy Lube! Dealer probably costs the same but I still would rather do it by myself.
Double check all the work done and your fluid levels. And be familiar with all of your warning lights on the dash, especially which ones mean it is not safe, causing more damage, to continue driving and make sure they work. The owners manual will help you with that.
Learning how to do it yourself saves tens thousands of $ and it is very simple.
Driving easy sometimes is very bad for the car. It makes carbon deposits on intakes, throttle body, oil sludge buildup... My 94 Jeep Cherokee has 264k miles and I do not go easy on it but it works fine. And gasoline engines are most efficient at its peak power output, high RPM, so accelerating to 40MPH over a mile will use more gas than almost flooring it and getting there much sooner. This way you use your fuel in more efficient way to accelerate, when engine is more efficient, and then you get to cruise sooner, saving fuel.
posted by AdamG8GXP at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


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