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posted: 2/12/2012 12:01 AM

Under the hood: High-mileage autos likely driven to the shop often

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I was having a conversation with the salesman from one of our vendors the other day. We got to talking about the fact that he had more than 200,000 miles on his Pontiac.

So I started quizzing him on what were some of the big repairs he has had to perform over the life of the car?

He shared he has avoided most of the common major repairs by doing the maintenance required to keep his car in top operating condition. I asked him to share some of the things he did that gave him such success.

The main thing he did was keep all the fluids changed and clean per the maintenance schedule, or earlier if needed.

One of the costlier things that fails on his model of car is the fuel pump, so I asked how many of those he has had to change over the life of the car. I was surprised to learn he is still on the original pump; probing further, I learned he rarely lets the fuel level go below half tank.

The fuel pump sits down in the fuel tank on most cars and the fuel actually cools and lubricates the pump motor. If you are constantly running around with an empty gas tank, you put needless wear on the fuel pump. Most of us, including me, are guilty of running the tank all the way down before filling up.

Here is a guy who has been able to keep from spending $800 or so just by filling up before he gets on E.

Finally, he shared that he is in the habit of having little things repaired right away when they crop up rather than letting them accumulate and turn into much bigger problems. It was good to hear someone actually doing all the things I preach every day and reaping the monetary benefits of good maintenance.

If you want to lengthen the life of your car and experience similar results, a good place to start is your owner's manual. Have a conversation with your service provider on your next visit to the shop to learn how you can save on repairs.

Q. When shopping for tires, what should I consider other than the tire size? It seems I can buy the right size for very little money at some of the discount stores. Is there any reason to not go this route?

A. Buying tires can be a very confusing purchase, so I hope I can help! There are many things you want to consider other than the size.

Assuming you are planning on keeping the car for the next 50,000 miles, you definitely would want to buy something that will last at least that long. So I would consider longevity as very important. You want to take into consideration your own driving habits how do you use your car? A good place to start is what kind of tire is on the car now?

How did they wear? How was the ride and traction? If the answer is good on all fronts, you might want to consider staying with the tire brand that came on the car.

If you go the low-cost route, you may find you are sacrificing the features you have come to enjoy in the original tires. I always recommend staying with the original tire brands or buying up to a higher-level tire.

The next question is where do you buy? It is easy to think of a tire as a commodity but in reality it is not just the tire you will need to consider. With the complexity of today's automobile, the installation of tires is much more involved than years ago.

Almost all cars on the road today have some kind of a TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) on board. These sensors, which are mounted in every wheel, are delicate and have to be treated with care when tires are mounted and dismounted. Many of the tires today are on fancy 18- to 20-inch diameter or bigger wheels that require special care when handling. In many cases, when tires are changed the whole TPMS system needs to be recalibrated with a special tool.

As with other repairs and maintenance, you don't want to make your decision on price alone. Consideration of the experience of the tire tech and the equipment available to him or her is just as important as the tire you choose.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit Send questions to