auto

Extending your car's life and your investment

90,000 to 119,999 miles:
Check timing belt, water pump, transmission fluid, coolant and spark plugs.
For most cars at this mileage, it's time to change the timing belt, if you haven't done so already. Many automakers recommend replacing the timing belt between 90,000 and 100,000 miles, and it's best to heed the manufacturer's recommendations.

"If that belt fails while you're driving, you can bend your valves and cylinder heads," says Vogt. "If that happens, you're looking at $1,000 or $1,500 in repairs."

Replacing the belt can be expensive because of the labor required to access it, but it beats rebuilding a mangled engine. Save time and money by having your mechanics replace your water pump at the same time so that they won't have to take your engine apart again to replace it later on.

If you haven't done it yet, replace your car's transmission fluid and coolant. Depending on your driving habits and your car's make and model, you may also need new spark plugs.

120,000 to 149,999 miles:
Check oil, air filter, tires, brake pads and shoes, fluids and CV joints.
Changing your oil and filter regularly will become increasingly important for extending the life of your engine this year. You may be due for another set of tires, as well as new brake pads and shoes. Check to see how long it's been since you had your car's transmission fluid replaced. If it's been a while, chances are you should do it again. At this mileage, many transmissions begin to show their age.

If your car is front-wheel drive and makes a rhythmic clicking sound in tight turns, your car will probably need new constant velocity or CV joints this year. Get them both replaced at the same time to avoid premature wear on the new parts.

150,000 and up:
Check oil and air filter, transmission fluid, tires, spark plugs.
Congratulations! If your car is in this category, it has or will soon exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation's average lifetime mileage for a passenger car (152,137 miles). You must be doing something right. Continue regular oil and filter changes and inspections. Many engine-oil manufacturers such as Castrol, Quaker State and Valvoline have introduced oil specifically designed to keep high-mileage engines running smoothly. If it's been more than 30,000 miles since you last had your transmission flushed and the fluid replaced, consider doing it this year. Check your tires for wear and have your mechanic inspect the car's air filter, spark plugs, brake pads and shoes.

Hopefully, these general guidelines will help you save money on the care and keeping of your auto in the long term.

Claes Bell is a freelance writer based in Lake Worth, Fla.

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