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Car questions and answers


Q. I've got a Subaru WRX with 344,000 miles on it. It has the original engine and transmission. How far can I go? It making a few noises, but it starts up every day.

A. If you don't have a AAA membership, I'd probably get one soon - maybe even today. That's a lot of miles in any type of car. If you're not familiar with the Subaru WRX, they are an amazingly spirited car to drive. They're turbocharged, and develop well over 200 horsepower and have all wheel drive. Because they are so spirited to drive, they often attract equally spirited drivers, therefore have a shorter lifespan.

I happen to know this particular car, and know it has had good routine maintenance, and this year Subaru was one of the most reliable. Thirty years ago, getting to 100,000 miles was a major achievement, now cars still feel fresh and barely broken in at 100,000 miles. I'm guessing that it has some aches and pains at 350,000 miles. It obviously likes to go, so I'd say keep squeezing all the life out of it.

These high mileage cars have either been well maintained, or they are holding up by some unseen divine power, and when they break, it's going to be huge. There comes a time when all vehicles enter the "cascading failure" phase of their life (when things start breaking each month). If your car has been maintained well, I would be perfectly content taking it on a long road trip. If it hasn't had proper maintenance it might be closer to the "cascading failure" mode.

This is what I would do: I'd take it to a reputable independent technician. Have them look it over and come up with a plan on what looks marginal. Go to a shop where you can actually talk to the technician, not a dealership because they're going to try and sell you a new car. A good independent shop will bring out their crystal ball and make a judgment call on whether a problem can wait or if it needs to be dealt with immediately. Probably the most important thing is to have a first name relationship with a good local independent technician. If you need to spend some money on it, realize the value in having a reliable car. A $1200 repair can be 2-3 new car payments, and that's easier to do financially. With that being said, it's not a bad idea to start saving for a new or newer car, because at some point it might not be worth repairing. At this point, this car has saved you lots of money, so it's a good idea to have a little "nest egg" set aside for another car.

Cars are capable of much more than what we expect. All cars have a maintenance log, and it's very scripted on what needs to be done, but that maintenance schedule starts to fade around 150,000 miles. My theory is the car manufacturers want you to sell it and buy a new one at this point. At 344,000 miles, you are definitely entering into an elite higher mileage club. At this point I would say go for it, and keep driving. You could be on your way to setting some records, because not many cars have that type of mileage reading on the odometer. I would rather boast about the high mileage, than complain about a new car payment. Keep that good relationship up with your local technician, and get a AAA membership. Schedule it in periodically, and have it looked over more often than you would if you had a new car. A good auto technician gets a kick out of seeing cars with high mileage (at lease I do). Check the fluids often, and pay attention to that drip on the pavement, because small leaks can quickly turn into big leaks or other problems. It must be a great feeling because this car has paid for itself over and over, and if there are no developing problems, it could keep going for many more miles.

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