Car Repairs That Can Get a Vehicle to 300,000 Miles

Second generation Miata (2000)
You have to start with a durable car, but key repairs will help push your vehicle to high-mileage goals. | Mazda

Does your car have a shot at reaching 300,000 miles? There are certain models (e.g., Honda Accord) and brands (e.g., Toyota) that always pop up on lists of cars topping 200,000 miles, so they would be a good place to start. However, it takes more than a solid frame and reputation for reliability. A car’s owner must commit to regular maintenance for years to have a vehicle reach these goals.
Actually, there is no reason to expect a car will die once you hit a high-mile mark. In the past decade or so, the list of cars that passed one million miles has grown significantly. Their owners never spoke of weird tricks or seemed surprised by their car’s durability. To the contrary, they observed maintenance programs so meticulously they sort of expected the performance.
With that in mind, we checked on the advice of experts from Consumer Reports and a few other reliable sources on taking cars the distance. More often than not, their recommendations matched up with the drivers who hit half-a-million miles or more. Here are eight car repairs that will help your car to last forever (or close enough).

1. Cooling system and hoses

SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 05: Mechanic Antonio Ramos works on a car at San Rafael Firestone January 5, 2009 in San Rafael, California. According to a survey by the Automotive Service Association, sales at auto repair shops increased 16 percent in November as people make a small investment by way of repairs and maintenance to extend the life of their cars instead of buying a new one.
Engine failure becomes a risk when a cooling system does not do its job. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While many drivers obsess over engine lubrication (for good reason), too often the same folks neglect the cooling system. According to Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad, this mistake can cause the engine to “literally melt down.” Vehicle owners interested in longevity should make sure proper coolant levels are maintained and hoses work properly. Otherwise, you’ll have the many problems associated with overheating and shorten the car’s life.

2. Rustproofing

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 05: Cars line up to be serviced at Brake and Wheel Service Center January 5, 2009 in San Francisco, California. According to a survey by the Automotive Service Association, sales at auto repair shops increased 16 percent in November as people make a small investment by way of repairs and maintenance to extend the life of their cars instead of buying a new one.
Investing in rust protection helps a car on multiple levels. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ian Law, a Canadian racer and educator, owned a 1982 Volvo GLT that stormed past 500,000 miles in 2012. He raced the car on track days and drove it up and down North America for three decades. Every fall, he had his GLT sprayed with Rust Check. In addition to keeping the undercarriage rust-free, Law says it kept screws and bolts from corroding, too.
Once rust creeps into areas around the wheels or under the hood, it’s only a matter of time before your car becomes unsafe or too expensive to fix. Spend the money on annual rust-proofing if you want insurance for the long haul. (In warm and dry climate, you can get away with every two or three years.)

3. Exhaust system replacement

A woman mechanic fixes a car exhaust pipe as she works in an innovative garage and auto repair workshop catering exclusively to female customers, in Saint-Ouen-l'Aumone, in the suburbs of Paris, on May 14, 2014. Inspired by a similar business venture in the southern French city of Montpellier, the garage offers women an alternative to the often heavily male-dominated and macho environment of most auto repair shops, proposing them hands-on, informative classes on mechanics, and even a massage or a manicure during their waiting time.
Rusted exhaust systems can lead to collateral damage and failed inspections. | Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Somewhere beyond 100,000 miles on your car’s odometer, check on your vehicle’s exhaust system. If you begin hearing noises you don’t recognize or smell fumes, both are signs your exhaust may be failing. Malfunctions may also lead to the vehicle overheating, which will affect other parts of the car. Using a 2008 Camry as an example model, Consumer Reports estimated replacement could between run about $2,000-$3,000. It may sound like a big investment, but it will push a well-kept vehicle toward high-mileage goals.

4. Electrical components

ST AUSTELL, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Chancellor George Osbourne (R) works under the bonnet of a car that is being serviced in the service and repair workshops as he meets apprentices at Hawkins garage near St Austell on April 9, 2015 in Cornwall, England. Campaigning continues in what is predicted to be Britain's closest national election, which will take place on May 7.
Neglecting electrical components could cause you to give up on a car. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Why do electrical components fail? If you drive an old Fiat 124, you can blame the manufacturer. For everyone who bought a car in the last few decades, owners share the responsibility. Law washed and waxed his die-hard Volvo every two weeks to prevent exterior corrosion, and he recommended taking it for a drive afterward so the wind could dry moisture he missed. (He also says to avoid automatic car washes that will scratch a paint job.)
Consumer Reports points to moisture as the path to failure for electrical components over the long haul. How you drive has an impact as well. (Charging through puddles is a bad strategy for this reason.) Repairs usually cost less than $1,000 for the worst electrical problems, and it could keep your car on the road for a long time.

5. Gaskets and lines

A woman works on a car head gasket at the "Fonderie du Poitou Aluminium" a foundry plant which is part of the Montupet group on January 19, 2012 in Ingrandes near Chatellerault. Montupet is a French-owned aluminium foundry and has long been recognised as an industry leader in the manufacture of complex cast aluminium components for the automotive industry worldwide.
A head gasket during manufacturing | Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Though most driver won’t know an exhaust manifold gasket from a vacuum line, remember these things are important once you exit your vehicle’s service contract. Mechanics check on gaskets routinely to make sure there are no leaks coming from the engine. Issues with minor seals, lines, and other engine functions might only run you a few hundred dollars. Replacing the head gasket will be a more expensive fix (over $1,000).

6. Spark plugs

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 25: A view of spark plugs in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 25, 2011 in Fontana, California.
New spark plugs should go in your car every 100,000 miles. | Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Every milestone on the odometer comes with a certain amount of responsibility. After 100,000 miles, treat your car to a new set of spark plugs. These small parts provide the jolt your engine needs to start as well as the power to keep pistons running. If you leave in old plugs, your engine will lack the power to start every time, but there are other effects, too. Fuel economy and performance both suffer when spark plugs malfunction. A new set should cost $200-300 with labor included.

7. Brake lines

WINDSOR, CANADA - AUGUST 21: An assembly line worker installs front brake line brackets on new 2008 minivans, the Chrysler Tow & Country and the Dodge Caravan at the Windsor Assembly Plant August 21, 2007 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
New brake lines are a key repair around the 200,000 mile mark. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Consumer Reports says to check brake lines frequently as you near 200,000 miles on a vehicle. Drivers who live in cold climates should be on the lookout for rust that can come from driving through snow every winter. If you mechanic notices weak spots, replacing the brake lines could run from $1,000-$2,000. Ian Law recommends simple, smart driving techniques to save on brake wear, especially in heavy traffic. While other drivers start and stop violently, try smoother acceleration to keep your car in the game.

8. Shocks and struts

A broken coil and shock absorber spring from a race vehicle lay on the track during day 3 of the Dakar Rallly on January 6, 2015 between San Juan to Chilecito, near the town of Talacasto, Argentina.
A pair of new shocks and strut keep a car running smoothly for less than $600. | Getty Images

You will notice when a car’s shock and struts deteriorate. The overall balance will be off, and you will feel the impact of every pothole more than usual. In some cases, you will even note uneven wear on the vehicle’s tires. Many cars can last until 100,000 miles with original shocks and struts, but it is not unusual to need a replacement after 60,000-70,000 miles. A new pair usually runs about $600. If you need both sets replaced, the cost will rise above $1,000.
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