Getting the Most Miles Out of a Car

By Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) — More people are keeping their cars longer for fear of going into debt or losing their jobs.

R.L. Polk & Co., an auto industry data analysis firm, says the median age of the American ride rose to a record 9.4 years in 2008.
If you do decide to stretch out the life of your car, here are some things to consider.

Just how long you can or should keep your vehicle varies with the make, model and the care put into it during its life, says Thomas Sewell, owner of Sewell Auto Care in Canton, Ga.

The Detroit Three, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, are battling the perception that their cars don't last as long as those made by Japanese automakers, mainly Honda and Toyota. Although the Detroit brands have improved, many mechanics believe that you have a better chance of racking up miles on a Japanese car without too much trouble.

"The Japanese have a good head start on them, unfortunately for the domestics' sales," says Danny Beiler, part owner of an auto repair garage in Sarasota, Fla.

Sewell has seen owners extend the life of their car well over 300,000 miles with little trouble. But as vehicles age, the risk of a costly repair increases.

Automatic transmissions can fail after 150,000 miles. Manual transmissions will need clutches earlier, although a replacement clutch is far less expensive than a new or rebuilt transmission.

Engines also can fail, costing $3,000 or $4,000, says Sewell. When you face a costly repair on a high-mileage car, it's best to decide with your mechanic whether it's worth it.

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