How Many Miles Do You Have on Your Odometer?

Vehicles of all makes offer better reliability today than they did two or three decades ago.

Not long ago, 100,000 miles was considered a major milestone in the life of a vehicle. Many cars didn’t last that long, and if they did, they were on the verge of being stripped for parts.

That’s no longer the case, however, and I’m gathering my own anecdotal proof of that. Increasingly, friends tell me about their cars lasting beyond 150,000 miles. And my own family vehicle, a 2004 Honda Odyssey, uneventfully clicked over the 250,000-mile mark on January 1, 2017.

Chuck Murray, Design News editor and author of this blog, with his 2004 Honda Odyssey, which passed the 250,000-mile mark on January 1st.

To be sure, I never previously owned a car that came close to 250,000 miles. Two of my cars have lasted more than 130,000 miles. But most – including a 1998 Ford Windstar that inexplicably decided to shift itself into second gear while traveling at 70 mph – passed on to the great junkyard in the sky before 100,000 miles.

My 2004 Odyssey reinforces what I’ve heard experts say over the past decade-and-a-half. “In today’s new vehicles, there aren’t a lot of powertrain problems,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told Design News in 2014. “People have come to expect 100,000 miles out of their engines and transmissions.”

Indeed, a careful perusal of my car’s 12-year repair history reveals multiple problems with brake pads and rotors, wheel bearings, suspension components and airbag inflators (on recall), but virtually no engine and transmission expenses, other than scheduled maintenance.

Those of us who’ve been around long enough to remember the vehicles of the 1960s and 1970s know it wasn’t always that way. Despite our sometimes-rosy remembrances of classic cars, we know that many vehicles of that era prematurely leaked oil. I owned cars built by American Motors (a Gremlin), Mercury (a Capri), Oldsmobile (a Cutlass) and Chevy (a 1965 Bel Air that I purchased for $5 and a six-pack of Old Style beer), and I can attest to the fact that oil leaks were commonplace, particularly after 70,000 miles. What’s more, fuel pumps and oil pumps of the day were expected to die at 70K, thanks to a clever concept known as “planned obsolescence.”

So, yes, you could say I’m happy with the sturdy reliability of the Honda Odyssey. It made multiple roundtrips from Chicago to Florida, as well countless college treks to Iowa, Minnesota and central Illinois, without ever breaking down.

I suspect my car isn’t alone, however. Vehicles of all makes -- from the U.S., Japan and Europe – offer better reliability today than they did in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Engines, transmissions, pumps, tires and myriad other parts last longer. Sure, there are reliability issues – electronic gadgetry is probably the most notorious – but the majority of today’s problems are less likely to leave drivers stranded on the roadside.

We want to hear about your reliability experiences. What are your best and worst vehicles? How many miles did they travel? In a readership of more than 100,000 engineers, we’re sure to hear some

Comments

Excellent article. This is something I've noticed also. My first vehicle was an '87 Ford F-250 with a big block and standard transmission. It lasted less than 90K. I had a '95 Subaru Legacy that went over 250K before it lost an engine. I currently have an '06 Chevy Cobalt with 180K, and an '06 Ram 1500 with 174K. I had one diesel, a '99 F-350 that was well over 300K when I sold it. It saw 49 states, 7 provinces and 1 territory.

Recently got rid of our Toyota Sienna mini-van: 240K and didn't leak a drop of anything (oil, transmission fluid, coolant). Ran high quality synthetic oil in it since it was new. Engine and transmission in great shape - no valve clatter, quiet as a mouse during idle. 2006 Chevy Impala (bought used with 24K on it) with almost 180K. Also run high quality synthetic oil. This vehicle does have some small leaks (rear main seal mostly). Toyota Camry SE 2009, bought used, 115K. Runs great.

Senior Engineer here driving a 1993 Cavalier with 321,000+ miles. It is so original it even has the factory CV axles. It is a manual transmission and I had to change the factory clutch at 298K miles (I just couldn't make it to 300!). It easily passes the local tail-pipe sniffer emissions tests and gets in the high 30 MPG range. It still doesn't burn oil. The paint is weather beaten, but now I want to see just how many miles it'll go! A friend has a 1993 Cavalier also with 457K miles.

I have 210,000 on my 2006 Cadillac STS, but have replaced: bearings, front calipers, drive shaft/flex dampers, MAP, MAF, Radiator, Roll bushings, Differential bushing, Engine mounts, O2 sensors, water pump, steering joints, steering actuator, shocks, Paint, DVD drive, tail lamps, and sun roof.

I think the worst cars wore the 70's to early 80's not only did the leak oil but the body of my 78' puegoet 504 was so thin I could see the road in some spots and even had to putty the fuel tank 2 times to keep the diesel in it. However the 90's were already much better I have a 93' saturnSW2 with 250K+ and a 95' Crown vic at almost 300k but the body has a few serious cancer spots and the brake lines needed complete replacing. It's amazing both have survived 20yrs of WI n IL weather

My wife and I both drive Jeep Cherokees (not the Grand, just a regular Cherokee). Hers is a '96 and it has 260, 000 miles on it and still has the original engine, a 4 liter inline 6. My cherokee is a 2000 model. It had 250K miles when the engine failed (my mechanic killed it!!). I just replaced it with a used enigne with 140K miles on it. Hope I get another 100K out of it.

I've had the worst luck with American cars. Dodge W250 4WD pickups that start to fail in every possible way at 90-100K miles; Dodge diesel engines with injection pumps that mysteriously fail at 20-40K miles at a repair cost of $2500. My American cars have had similar problems. I haven't owned a US made car made after 2000, but prior to that they seem to be designed to require replacement at 100K miles or less.

Why are you promoting a Japanese car. The car is designed and engineered in Japan. Why not promo North American engineering.

I had an 1984 Airies station wagon, I put over 225K on it, and sold it off after 8 years. I saw it on the road for quite a few years after that. Then I switched to Caravans and had great luck with them. I am now driving a 2003, CRV which has over 265K on it. I am shooting for 500K!! I think the reason for my success is the cars have never been to the dealer since I drove them off the lot. I have a great mechanic who really knows his stuff.

A 2004 Toyota Corolla that had 340,000 miles. I let it go was because it developed an oil leak and the clutch started to slip. The car never had any engine or transmission work, All bolts were untouched as put in by factory. On top of it, the car was only given oil changes on an average of 60,000 mile intervals. The largest repair was replacing a rear wheel bearing at 290,000 miles. The funny thing was the digital odometer stopped accumulating at 299,999 miles,

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