High-Mileage Car Problems: 8 Common Issues (Explained)

Using high-mileage car can be attractive because they tend to be cheap and past their depreciation years. But high-mileage cars also typically come with several issues, because their components are reaching the expiry dates.

Before buying a high-mileage car, it’s important to know about the potential issues that might arise with the vehicle.

This article enlightens you about 8 potential problems with high-mileage cars. 

What Is a High Mileage Car?

High mileage vehicles are cars that have been driven more than the average miles. An average American driver drives an average of 10,000-12,000 miles per year. If a car surpasses this figure, it will quickly rack up the miles on the odometer. Any vehicle that has covered 100,000 miles is a high mileage car. It can be a turnoff for some people because those cars don’t have a warranty cover anymore.

Common Problems With High Mileage Cars

Here are some common problems with high mileage cars:

1. Engine Problems

Cars with high mileage and low maintenance often have problems with their engines. High mileage puts a strain on the piston rings that hold the engine’s combustion gases.

This could cause the engine to burn the engine oil too quickly. The first logical step when buying a high-mileage car is to always check the engine oil. Things to look out for include:

  • The level of the oil
  • The quality of the oil
  • The color of the oil

If It has a gritty or dirty appearance, there might be a problem. If it also has a dark color or it smells burned, the engine might be in a bad shape.

We have a more extensive list of car problems here.

2. Failing Transmission

For all cars, when they reach 100,000 miles, their transmission begins to weaken. It is, therefore, crucial to maintain and watch out for signs of a failing transmission. These signs include:

  • Difficulty in changing gears
  • Burning smell 
  • Vehicle shaking
  • Noises when the car is in neutral
  • Slipping gears
  • Warning light
  • General unresponsiveness

Watch out for these common signs and endeavor to change the transmission fluid every 10,000 miles.

Car experts also discourage the use of high mileage cars for towing because heavy pulling, especially with trailers, directly affects the health of your transmission.

In some severe cases, a slipping transmission cannot be managed and would have to be replaced completely, costing you several thousands.

3. Water Pump Leakage 

High mileage cars are susceptible to water pump leaks. In fact, any car that has reached 60,000 to 90,000 miles has a high risk of water leakage. What do the water pump leaks affect?

They affect one major component of the car, which is the cooling system. The water pump circulates the engine coolant that prevents the engine from overheating. The signs to observe when there’s a water pump leakage include: 

  • Coolant leaks
  • Whining noises
  • Overheated engine
  • Steam 
  • Rusted areas

Asides from these common signs, ensure to replace your coolant and antifreeze regularly. 

4. Failing Timing Belts

A car’s timing belt is the component that aligns the movement of the crankshaft and the camshaft in order to open and close the engine’s valve and allow for smooth combustion.

This apparently shows the crucial need for a good timing belt. A timing belt failure often occurs between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. Luckily, there are several ways to detect a failing timing belt. They include:

  • A ticking noise coming from the engine
  • Unresponsive ignition (the car may not start)
  • Oil leakage around your engine
  • Exhaust problems (emits smoke)
  • RPM malfunctions

Once you notice these symptoms, urgently replace the timing belts before it completely breaks down and damages your engine. Experts have also recommended that your timing belt should be changed every 100,000 miles.

5. Rusted Areas

This is a general phenomenon in all high-mileage cars. Any car driven past 100,000 miles is likely going to be rusty in some areas. It is worse for areas with frequent downpours (rain or snows) and unfortunately, rust usually spreads to other areas.

You can easily remedy this with repainting, priming, buffing or sanding off the rust. Leaving untreated rust eats away the car’s body, leaving holes in it. When this occurs, only welding can solve the problem, giving you more expenses.

Related: Do All Cars Rust Eventually? (Here’s What To Expect)

6. Difficult Financing 

Most lenders hesitate to cover a car with over a 100,000 miles on the odometer.

It is a reason car owners do not appreciate such vehicles and perhaps if you finally find a deal, you might have to pay for it out of pocket.

7. Lacks Modern Features

Each year automakers up their tech game when manufacturing vehicles. This might include the impressive cruise control, automatic emergency brakes, high beams, heated steering wheels, etc. 

Unfortunately, opting for a high-mileage car, specifically early models, might make you miss out on these amazing features.

8. Headlight Issues

High mileage cars often have issues with their headlights. They struggle with seeing properly at night, and this can cause untold hazards for drivers and passengers. However, the dim and unreliable lights come from a weak lens that results from several causative factors. They include: 

  • The car’s vibrations
  • The heat of the car
  • Dust and debris 
  • Solar radiation

The bad part is that some headlights are not compatible with all cars. The connectors simply don’t align, making the replacement impossible. Perhaps you need to replace your headlights. Always check the product to see if it will work with your car’s model. 

Related: 5 Popular Cars With The Least Problems (Ranked 1-5)

Should a Car’s Mileage Be a Deal Breaker?

A car with a high mileage should not be written off completely as some of them still make good cars, even with such usage. 

The major reason 100,000 miles was used as a yardstick to call out a car as a high mileage vehicle was because when the old classic cars reached a certain limit (99,999 miles) the odometer falls back to zero. Since then, it has been used as a determiner for all cars.

Nonetheless, high mileage cars also have their benefits as against what the majority of people think. They include:

Lesser Price

If you plan to save money while purchasing a vehicle, a high-mileage car might just be the right choice for you. They are usually priced lower than other cars, which definitely means they’re budget friendly.

They Depreciate Slowly

High mileage cars do better than lower mileage cars when it comes to retaining value. So if you plan to just buy and sell after a short period or you are just looking for a durable car, high-mileage cars are better.

They’re Well Maintained

Aside from the established proof of trustworthiness, a well-driven high mileage vehicle will probably perform better than an idle one. If a car has over 100k miles on the odometer and it’s still in great shape, that’s a testament to the excellent maintenance habits of the owner.

Related: 8 Popular Cars Without Transmission Problems (Solved)

General Maintenance of a High Mileage Vehicle

Here are maintenance tips to keep your high-mileage vehicle problem-free:

Change Your Oil Often 

We understand this is general knowledge, but there’s no harm in repeating it. Change your engine oil as often as possible.

Car experts recommend changing them at 5,000 miles. If you drive in more demanding terrain or use the car heavily, change the oil more frequently.

Check and Replace Fluids

There are several fluids to always observe before driving the vehicle. They include the coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield wiper fluid.

In addition, also look out for leaks and replace them if there is any. 

Replace Filters

Change your air or cabin filter regularly. A dirty air filter can damage your engine while a clogged cabin filter will affect the quality of the air you breathe. Replace them once clogged or old.

Maintain Your Tires

This directly affects your safety. Rotate your tires as often, keep them pumped with the correct air pressure and change as often as you need to. Good tires reduce your chance of having an accident because it puts less strain on the vehicle and extends the health of your car’s suspension.

Care for Your Battery

Without the battery, a car cannot function. With a high-mileage car, you might go through batteries faster, so it’s best to take proper care of them. Some tips include:

  • Clean off any corrosion from the battery terminals and the cables.
  • Disconnect the cable if you want to wipe off any corrosion..
  • Ensure to check the electrolyte level if your battery has a wet cell.
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