How many trouble-free miles has your car covered? And perhaps more importantly how many more is it good for? Records by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) show there are more high mileage Skoda Octavias in the UK than any other vehicle. That’s currently 1950 UK-registered Octavias with a valid MOT that have done more than quarter of a million miles.
But how do you get that many trouble-free miles out of your car? It certainly doesn’t happen by accident. Here are my tips.
Have your car serviced regularly
Having your car’s engine oil changed when the manufacturer recommends has a huge influence on how well your car runs. The oil ensures delicate engine parts aren’t grinding together and wearing prematurely. It works hard and does lose its ability to lubricate effectively over time so needs changing regularly.
During the service, the filter that ensures the air the engine uses in the combustion process is replaced. The oil filter which catches any foreign bodies in the lubricant is changed too. These simple procedures, usually carried out annually or in some cases when the car’s computer tells you, reduce engine wear and help it to last longer.
Perform regular maintenance
Every month you should open the bonnet and check the engine’s vital fluids. There are reservoirs for coolant and brake fluid which have markers on so you know when your car needs more. And then there’s its oil.
Find your car’s dipstick, take it out, clean it on a cloth, re-insert it and pull it out again. The dipstick has minimum and maximum marks on it, the oil should be between the two. If it isn’t, you will need to top it up. We’ve already covered how to choose the right oil and top your oil up.
Let it warm up
It’s not important to warm up a modern car in the traditional sense of the word. That fell by the wayside when they invented fuel injection. But think of an engine in similar terms to an athlete. You wouldn’t expect a world-class runner to turn in record-breaking times without warming up. And it’s the same with an engine.
Modern day engine oil is generally synthetic so will perform at all temperatures. But the engine still has an optimum temperature where performance is best. The best way to warm a modern engine up is to drive it rather than leaving it to idle. Which brings me onto my next point.
Drive more carefully
To warm an engine try not to rev it beyond 2000rpm before you change gear. You can usually hear when an engine is straining. Driving gently initially will allow the oil to warm up and coat all the parts that need covering. After a handful of miles you’ll be able to start enjoying its performance to the full.
But do remember that the more carefully you drive, the more miles you’ll get out of a car. This is because careful drivers reduce the wear and tear on various components.
When I say careful, I don’t necessarily mean slow. I’m talking about anticipating what other road users are doing and driving appropriately for the road conditions. Do this and you’ll be able to scrub off speed naturally rather than braking hard. It might help you to spot potholes in advance and avoid them. And as well as minimising wear and tear it’ll help you to save fuel.
The proof of the pudding…
The three models that the DVSA says have covered the most miles in the UK are the Octavia, the Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Prius. Look at independent reliability surveys and these three models may appear towards the top of some but not all. However, what the three cars do have in common is they are all popular with minicab companies.
This means three things. First, they cover more miles than ordinary cars so you’re likely to get higher mileages in younger cars. Second, minicabs tend to be well maintained, particularly when large companies are running them. And third, many cab drivers pay for their own fuel so tend towards the more careful end of the driving spectrum. I take the final two points as proof that the above tips for trouble-free miles work!
Damon Jowett is Green Flag’s head of Service Delivery – Rescue