Gasoline Engine Lifespan

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Jul 19, 2004
Long Island/New York
How long would a typical gasoline engine last in terms of milage if all maintance was followed?The engine would be your average gasoline engine.No after market items.Regular conventional oil was used and either 3,000-6,000 mile OCI.No towing.Transmission was serviced when needed.Some stop and go driving and mostly highway.i hear people are keeping their cars/trucks longer and some are using regular products on their rides.Thanks Joe
Depends on the manufacturer, transmission (auto or manual). I personally feel that after 200-250k miles, you are on borrowed time.
My mechanic (for over 20 years now) has never seen anyone come into his shop with more than 300,000 miles on their engine.

Doesn't mean they don't exist of course, but they must be fairly rare, considering the volume going through his shop.

So far, I have the highest mileage of any of his current customers, at 264,000 miles.

Originally posted by TomJones76:
Was in a taxi two weeks ago. Crown Vic with 303K on it.

Well sure, easy to run up the miles if the car's never shut off.

I saw a transport last week with over a million miles on it. Couldn't tell how many times around because the odo could only show 999,999.
At a minimum any engine should go 150k. At the far end 250k should be easily attainable if maintenance is performed on schedule. After 250k you are being paid back on your investment. Over the years I have heard several people claim mileage's of 600,000 to 800,000 without engine rebuilds. I have never seen the odometer on any of these claims.
With good maintenance a good gas engine will still be going strong when 99.5% of first owners get rid of the vehicle, 95% of second owners, 90% of third owners and 85% of fourth owners.
I'd expect a minimum 200K—probably closer to 250K now.

My '84 Accord: 205K (still going, rusty)
Friend #1 '83 Accord: 346K (smoking badly then)
Friend #2 '83 Accord: 205K (terminal cancer)

I've seen many reports of Hondas and Volvos over 300K miles.

I think it's LarryL of this board that has >350K on his Honda too.
I have owned 1 car that had 210,000 when traded, and 2 more that were hugging the 200k mark. All ran strong when I traded them. Our company lease vehicles are kept for 4 years regardless of mileage. There are several Focus, and Ranger models with between 130 and 180k on them, all with the cheapest of maintenance, and not all that regular either...
I got 285,000+ miles out of my 1978 SAAB 9000Turbo. Car ran great. It still had the original turbo on it also. It died when it blew a head gasket while my wife was driving. Was pumping out coolant and when those aluminum heads get burned, they are ruined. Had the car towed home and knew it would cost alot more than what it was worth to fix it. I really liked that car too. My 1990 SAAB 900 lasted until 190,000+ miles. I traded it in for another vehicle. Long lasting tough cars. I used synthetic oil for most of their lives. And, it was Castrol!
Mileage alone does not tell the story. Time is also an issue. How many miles per year? IF you are talking about an average 10-15,000 miles per year, then 200,000 miles is not an unreasonable expectation today. Most, if not all 300,000+ mile engines are used constantly, or are overbuilt European ones, such as Volvo, BMW or Mercedes. Even the I-6 in my old Supra was smoking badly at 175,000.

My plumber does have over 300,000 on his 1990 Dodge van, 5.2L/Torqueflite. The frame has cracked and had to be welded, and the body is falling apart, but the powertrain lives on. My mother has only 72,000 miles on a 1987 version of the same van. No way is it going to last even 150,000 with that kind of useage.

My mechanic (for over 20 years now) has never seen anyone come into his shop with more than 300,000 miles on their engine.

That’s because every time a vehicle is traded in with 200k+ miles on it, the odometer gets run back about 50-100K.
I used to drive an airport shuttle...they used Ford vans with 351/auto 15 passengers + pull trailers...they had several mid 90's vans with 800k+ on them. Changing the oil 3k, which would be every week.

The van I drove most would use a quart of oil in a 180 mile round trip if I drove it over 70. If I kept it under 70, it did not burn the oil. The odometers on those were digital and would not go above 400k, they'd keep returning to 300k.

I never experienced a breakdown, either.
We get lots of vehicles in our shop with over 200,000 miles on the original engine. The top three, however, are a Honda Civic Si with 484,000 miles, a Ford E350 (460 V8) with 484,000 miles and a Honda Accord with 424,000 miles... all with original engines.

The secret? Change timing belts (or timing chains), water pumps, thermostats, coolant and have the valves adjusted when you're supposed to (unless hydraulic valve lifters), and of course, change the oil/filter at regular intervals. They don't have to be short intervals, just regular intervals, not exceeding 7,000 miles (in most cases).

And, use good oil and filters.
I'd say most don't make it due to the rest of the car ..but in the cases where the engine is the cause of the disposal of the vehicle, I doubt it's due to lubrication related issues. I think that there are fatigue factors that come into play when you hit the upper mileage ceiling ..and they're just too expensive to bother with on a car that has a higher scrap value then book value.
According to my mechanic, most cars they deal with that have oil leaks eventually die because very few of their customers ever bother to check the oil.

Overheating is also reportedly the most common cause of engine failure.
Out here it appears that late-model cars that get junked and weren't in accidents had automatic transmission failure. Several colleagues and acquaintances got rid of cars that had transmission failures at 100K+ miles because replacements or overhauls were simply too expensive. Many trannies in newer vehicles, especially larger front-drive or AWD, cost $3,000 and up to replace or rebuild, which is well above what a rebuilt engine would cost.

The upshot is that normally it isn't the engine lifespan that determines vehicle life. The transmission is the weak link in most of today's vehicles. Another reason to get a manual transmission!

By the way, my venerable '97 Escort wagon is getting very close to 300K miles (298,500 now), but the head has been off the engine three times (replaced with a rebuilt unit last time). The bottom end (block, pistons, rods, crankshaft) is still original and has never been out of the car. The car has other issues and I am tired of putting money into the car, though, and intend to replace it in the fall. After getting a replacement, the old Escort will probably go to the knacker's. Almost everyone who has worked on the car recently has claimed that it is the first Escort they've seen with that many miles. Hmm. I'm the guy who was using Red Line in his Escort . . .
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