The Nuts and Bolts of 100k Mile Maintenance

100,000 miles is a long way. The diameter of the planet is just shy of 8,000 miles. That means that 100,000 could take you around the world twelve times with some mileage still left over. Regardless of how short your drives are to work, when your car hits this milestone it means a lot of ground has been covered. Unfortunately, the satisfaction of watching the odometer turn over all those zeros is overshadowed by the fear of costly maintenance and old-age repairs. Many folks simply consider trading up.

But 100k mile maintenance isn’t the end of the road! Sure, there are some bumps and bruises to address, but all is not lost. While it’s important to note that there is no universal recipe of repairs across all platforms, generally speaking, there are some definite areas that often get ignored… and by the time 100,000 rolls around, they can be downright frightening.

Steering Components

The environment and abuse that ball joints, tie rod ends, and bushings are subjected to will play a big role in how long they’ll last. And right around 100k miles, they often start to rattle, pop, creek, and bang. This is often when people start to get really nervous about their car’s condition. And yes, these components being worn out can be dangerous. But it’s not unfixable.

Steering components often have to be addressed as part of routine 100k mile maintenance. MOOG has earned its reputation as a quality manufacturer.

At this point in the vehicle’s life, it’s a good idea to take the time and check out the condition of these parts. Replacement costs will vary with YMM, so consider phasing some of these fixes into your regular budget for car upkeep. Look to a quality brand like MOOG, who’s been outperforming factory parts for 100 years.

Additionally, while the old saying might be, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” 100k mile maintenance requires that adage be taken with a grain of salt. If you find that one of these components is starting to make noises, cause uneven tire wear, or a loose steering wheel, it’s a good idea to consider a total overhaul. Usually when one starts to go, the others are soon to follow.

Struts and Shocks

Speaking of the undercarriage and loud noises, sometimes pops and bangs aren’t the result of bad steering components or even bushings. Sometimes, shock absorbers are to blame. We got our friend Chuck Wallace over at Keystone Automotive to add his two cents about this part of the vehicle’s operating system. “The thing about shocks and struts is that they wear slowly, so we don’t notice the decline in a vehicle that we drive every day,” he says. If they haven’t been replaced yet, he advises you add them to that list of 100k mile maintenance. Click here and here to read through some helpful shock replacement articles by Monroe.

A fresh set of shocks as part of 100k mile maintenance will vastly improve driving and handling. Consider an OE replacement from Bilstein.

Even if the shocks still have some life in them at 100,000 miles, replacing them will offer improvements in performance and driving experience. A fresh set of shocks and struts all around will honestly make the vehicle ride as if it were brand new again. This may be warranted if you feel like your vehicle’s handling could use a refresher.

Exhaust System

Another culprit of loud rattling sounds from down under could be your exhaust system finally giving up. Always make sure to check for wear and tear, holes, and leaks. “As far as exhaust,” says Wallace, “that’s going to depend on the environment the vehicle is operated in, as much as the mileage. I would always recommend replacing as much as the budget allows. If one part is bad others are probably not far behind.”

Part of 100k mile maintenance is addressing the loud rattling from your ancient exhaust system. Consider a performance upgrade from Magnaflow.

Keep in mind, replacing the exhaust piece-by-piece will cost more time and money than replacing the whole thing at once. And while that could mean more of an investment than you anticipated as part of your 100k mile maintenance, think of it as an opportunistic investment. When replacing the exhaust, you can wisely spend your money on upgrades. Swapping to a performance exhaust with stainless steel parts can make the world of difference in your appreciation of your car or truck and how long the system will last. Sound quality, lifespan, and performance will all improve, making this a rewarding upgrade.

Driveshaft U-Joints

You may have noticed that much of this 100k mile maintenance pertains to the undercarriage. Considering most of the important moving parts are under the vehicle, where they’ll be exposed to the harshest conditions, this makes sense. One of those components on the front line are the driveshafts. These parts do have a fairly simple job, but by the time you reach 100,000 miles, all of the abuse will have added up.

100k mile maintenance often requires checking driveshaft u-joints and possibly replacing them. Dorman has a great better-than-OE replacement.

“Here’s an interesting one for many of today’s AWD CUVs,” says Kris Lavery, Marketing Coordinator at Keystone Automotive. “I just had to replace the front driveshaft on a 2011 Nissan Rogue—it was at just under 80k. (If you have an AWD vehicle, it might be worth getting it checked early.) Nissan’s poor design has the U-joint integrated into the shaft, which forces the replacement of the shaft when the U-Joint nears failure. Dorman has a better-than-OE replacement that allows for independent U-joint replacement once installed. DIY cost is between $250-500, and the mechanic would be over $1,000,” he adds.

With the exception of some poor designs out there, the driveshafts generally aren’t the problem—it’s the joints they use for operation. Regardless of the drive type, these joints will wear out over time and the big 100k mark is the perfect time to replace them if you haven’t already.

Spark Plugs

Spark plug replacement should definitely be on the 100k mile maintenance checklist.This is a pretty common item on the 100k mile maintenance checklist. Over time, spark plugs will wear out and power will be lost. Spark plugs have varying lifespans (and they may have been replaced already), but take into consideration that copper plugs usually need to be replaced every 20,000 miles, while platinum and iridium plugs may last up to the 100,000-mile mark. So even with routine maintenance, spark plugs need to be replaced at this point in the car’s life. When this is done, performance, economy and drivability will be vastly improved.

In addition, Chris Turner, Marketing Coordinator at Keystone Automotive, encourages drivers to check their O2 sensors while they’re at it. Swapping in a new set “can help with gas mileage and vehicle efficiency. Good idea to change at 100K or, you know…. when the light comes on,” he joked.

To chase the lost power rabbit even further down the hole, you can take the time to clean up your throttle body. Over time, carbon will build up on the throttle body and this can result in some lack in performance. Sure, it may only provide minimal gains but taking this step must be made when you’re looking to get the vehicle back to prime condition after a long, hard road.

100K Mile Maintenance Chart

Save this helpful 100K mile maintenance chart.Aside from the usual suspects on this list, drivers also should address the cabin filter, something that typically needs to be replaced every 20-30K miles, and inspect all belts and hoses. Turner says take a step further. “Look for leaks or cracks. Now is the time to change it before it goes. A little inspection of those parts can go a long way in saving you cash and keeping your car on the road.

Cresting that 100,000-mile hill is an achievement in vehicle-ownership, but it’s by no means time to throw in the towel. Obviously we all let things slide from time to time, but proper maintenance will ensure your ride can reach this milestone—and hopefully keep running long past it. Even if you feel like it’s time to make a swap for something better, there are a lot of benefits to overhauling a car every 100,000 miles. The biggest ones being no down payment, no monthly payments, and having a vehicle you know you can depend on.

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