Problems with High-mileage Cars

6 Common Problems with High-Mileage Cars

November 20, 2023

High-mileage cars tell a story of journeys taken, memories made, and the reliability of a well-maintained vehicle. However, as the miles pile up, high-mileage cars encounter their fair share of challenges. 

While used cars are affordable, they also come with a considerable mileage. As a new used-car owner, you must be aware of the risks posed by a vehicle that has run a bit too much. While modern cars have proven their ability to reach mileages of up to 200,000 miles, it's essential to be mindful of certain considerations.

In this blog, we'll take a look at the problems faced by high-mileage cars, exploring the unique maintenance, repair, and care considerations that come with the territory. 


Here are some of the common problems encountered by high-mileage cars:


1. Engine troubles

Cars with high mileage often develop engine issues. The strain on the piston rings, responsible for sealing the engine's combustion gases, can result in accelerated engine oil consumption. And if the car has a history of inadequate maintenance or the use of low-quality engine oil, it's likely that the engine is burning oil at an increased rate.

Before finalizing the purchase of a  high-mileage used car, be sure to thoroughly inspect the oil. If the oil appears gritty or dirty, has a dark color, or emits a burnt smell, these could be indications of engine problems. 


2. Transmission troubles

When a car reaches the 100,000-mile mark, its transmission often starts to show signs of wear and tear. To keep your vehicle running smoothly, it's essential to stay vigilant and recognize the indicators of a failing transmission.

Transmission problems, such as grinding, gear slipping, shifting difficulties, delayed gear response, and unusual noises like banging or groaning coming from your transmission, indicate that it’s time to have the car assessed by a professional promptly. It's also wise to limit heavy towing, as excessive pulling can shorten your transmission's lifespan. In some cases, a damaged transmission cannot be repaired; instead, it necessitates a quite costly replacement.

Look out for the common red flags, and remember to change the transmission fluid every 10,000 miles to maintain its health.


3. Suspension concerns

A good suspension system not only contributes to a comfortable and smooth ride but also plays a vital role in absorbing the shocks and imperfections of the road. 

If you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly or showing signs of accelerated wear, there are unusual vibrations while driving, your driving experience has become unusually rough, with road imperfections feeling more pronounced than before, it's a clear signal that it's time to schedule a suspension inspection.

To uphold the overall performance, safety, and comfort of your high-mileage vehicle, it's advisable to incorporate regular suspension checks into your maintenance routine. Swiftly addressing any suspension concerns can help maintain a smoother and safer driving experience.


Read: 10 Signs of Poor Car Maintenance


4. Timing belt concerns

The timing belt, also known as the cambelt, helps in maintaining the smooth operation of internal combustion engines. It is responsible for synchronizing the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft. When these two components are properly aligned, the pistons and valves in your vehicle function as they should.

When it starts to fail, you might hear a ticking noise while driving, experience oil leaks from the front of the engine, exhaust issues, RPM irregularities, or encounter engine misfires. Typically, timing belt issues arise between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. To prevent severe engine damage, it's crucial to replace a failing timing belt before it breaks. 


5. Water pump leaks

Water pump leaks are a common concern, especially in high-mileage cars, typically occurring between 60,000 to 90,000 miles. These leaks can impact a crucial component of your vehicle, the cooling system. 

The water pump helps in circulating engine coolant to prevent overheating. Signs to watch for indicating a water pump leak include coolant leaks, whining noises, an overheated engine, steam, and rusted areas. 

Additionally, regular replacement of coolant and antifreeze is essential for maintaining your vehicle's cooling system. Keeping an eye out for steam rising from the radiator and any signs of water or rust under the hood can help detect a leaking water pump.


6. Rust 

Rust is a common issue in high-mileage cars, especially those that have weathered frequent rain or snow exposure. The challenge with rust is its propensity to spread over time.

If you notice surface rust on your car's paint, addressing it is relatively straightforward. Sanding, priming, painting, and buffing can effectively resolve the issue. However, neglecting surface rust can lead to the formation of rust bubbles that can corrode the vehicle's metal. This corrosion can result in significant damage, sometimes requiring welding for repair.

In general, high-mileage cars, especially those surpassing 100,000 miles, tend to exhibit rust in various areas. Neglecting rust can lead to structural damage, necessitating welding and incurring additional expenses.


How to maintain a high-mileage vehicle?


To keep your high-mileage car running smoothly, follow these maintenance tips:

  • Change the oil regularly (about every 5,000 miles).

  • Check and replace essential fluids, addressing leaks promptly.

  • Replace air and cabin filters as needed.

  • Maintain your tires with regular rotations and proper air pressure.

  • Care for your battery by cleaning terminals, disconnecting cables for cleaning, and checking electrolyte levels for wet cell batteries.

  • Test the battery every two years and replace it if it struggles to start your engine.

  • Follow the service schedule outlined in your owner's manual.

  • Regularly change oil, air, and cabin filters; inspect belts per your manual.

  • Change the fuel filter every 40,000 miles and inspect fuel lines for leaks at the same intervals.


High-mileage cars come with their unique set of challenges, but with proper maintenance and timely attention to common issues, you can extend their life and enjoy continued reliability. Recognizing and addressing common problems early can help ensure a smoother and safer driving experience for years to come.