How reliable is your vehicle? Do you think twice about taking them on a long trip? One of my vehicles has 180,000 kilometres and the other has 214,000 kilometres. The one with 180 000 I feel is still reliable and the one with 214,000 I think twice about. Is my trust or lack of trust reasonable?
To me 200,000 km is some kind of magic milestone where the reliability of my vehicle precipitously drops. This is not a scientifically proven fact, it is just my gut feeling. It might come from the fact that almost all the broken cars in my shop have more than that magic 200 000 reporting on their odometers.
I started to do some research on this topic and I did not get very far. Talk reliable and automobiles in google speak and Toyota and Honda vehicles bubble to the top of everybody’s list. One question comes to my mind though. If I purchase a Toyota with 200 000 kilometres that has had no major parts replaced on it, am I buying a ticking time bomb? Would a Chevrolet that has had the transmission rebuilt, a new fuel pump and the timing chain replaced and with 200 000 kilometers, be in a state of higher reliability?
Many reliability reports do not discern what components of the vehicle lack reliability. Some vehicles can have a bad reliability reputation but only because every last one of them has the same problem, but once fixed, the problem is no longer an issue. Fragile power window electrical switches can ruin a vehicles reliability rating but never cause you to be late for work but a fragile ignition switch will stop you in your tracks every time. A 10% chance that your ignition switch will fail is much worse than a 100% chance your driver’s side power window switch is going to fail.
Some vehicles are known for their bulletproof powertrains. Engines and transmissions that never fail. I had one of those vehicles and it spent more time behind a tow truck than any other vehicle I have ever owned. Neither the engine nor the transmission ever failed before the vehicle succumbed to rust, but the things that did fail always stopped me in my tracks.
Many people talk about legendary diesel engine reliability. This implies that a pickup truck with a diesel engine in it and over 200,000 kilometres is worth a lot more money than a similar gasoline engine pickup. Even if that diesel engine might outlast the gas engine, what about the rest of the truck? Many of the other parts on that vehicle are the same gas or diesel and subject to the same reliability issues.
What became very obvious early in my automotive career is the owner has a large effect on a vehicle’s overall reliability. Nothing beats first hand knowledge based maintenance and careful driving for increased reliability and low repair costs.
Your maintenance provider many times will know your vehicle’s weaknesses. Careful inspections and past experience will improve the reliability of your vehicles. Knowing quality replacement parts and repair procedures that solve certain issues with specific vehicles can greatly reduce incidence of repair or even prevent catastrophic failure. Do not fear that 200,000 marker. The sky’s the limit with good maintenance and care.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org