Car longevity

Car longevity concerns several things: maximum service life in either miles or time (duration), relationship of components to this lifespan, identification of factors that might afford control in extending the lifespan. Barring an accidental end to the lifespan, a car would have a life constrained by the earliest part to fail. ["Report: Cars, trucks racking up more miles" [ USA Today] 01/28/2006] Some have argued that rust and other factors related to the body of a car are the prime limits to extended longevity. [Bob Sikorsky "Family Car can last 1,500,000 Miles or a Lifetime [ The Auto Channel] ]


An automobile is a highly engineered collection of complex components, each of which has its own lifespan and longevity characteristics. The MTBF of some components is expected to be small, as the easy replacement of these is considered part of maintenance. Other components, many of which have high-replacement costs, are expected to have a longer life; however, a large longevity may very well require replacement of several of these, raising issues of economics.

While the motivation for pursuing longevity can be varied, the fact is that the economic trade-off of purchase versus repair will be part of the equation; though, many factors, such as whether the car is classic, outweigh pure economics. Too, the desire to extend the life of an auto, that is paid off, by fighting "Planned obsolescence" might be considered as part of the bill of rights for drivers.

The life of the auto, as the collection, follows, according to a very common model, a bathtub-like pattern. After an initial phase where failure may be likely (hence the offering of the warranties by the dealer), there may be a long period of unlikely failure, as the probabilities will be low.

Many cars have exceeded 100K miles and even 300K miles; some have approached 1000K miles. For many of these, the efforts at maintenance have not been excessively costly.

Given that the auto has been around for a little over a 100 years; what cars become, and remain, classic and the maximal lifespan for any car are open-ended questions. Perhaps, interest in longevity beyond that related to purchasing used vehicles will improve the science of predicting car life, with such things as a life table for cars.

High mileage clubs

Many car manufacturers support a "High Mileage" club. ["Drive it forever" [ Club Lexus Forums] ] It is not uncommon to see Volvo and Honda automobiles on the road with several 100Ks of miles registered. Even Ford and GM have examples of high-mileage vehicles.

Sikorsky (columnist, and author of "Drive it Forever") sponsors a "High Mileage" club with over 4000 members. Several forums allow discussion of techniques and experiences with trying to extend longevity.

Factors related to longevity

Sikorsky, and others, have developed lists that itemize steps that a car owner can take to ensure maximal longevity. Yonger provides the following list, "10 secrets" for long car life. [Joseph D Yonger "How to keep your car going ... and going" [ AAA's Car & Travel Magazine] ]

:1. Do regular oil changes:2. Monitor the key fluids:3. Maintain the transmission:4. Change the plugs as needed:5. Watch and care for the timing belt:6. Do not forget the radiator:7. Remember the filters:8. Fight rust:9. Know and use your maintenance manual:10. Drive with habits that don't take years off the car

In a public economics sense, Kasmer argues that retrofitting autos with a newer transmission would extend the lifespan while at the same time increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and prevent the sudden influx of discarded vehicles into the waste bin as cars are junked to be replaced by a modern vehicle.


ee also

*Reliability engineering
*Economics of automobile ownership

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