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Making my Camry go 1,000,000 miles

beethoven07beethoven07 Posts: 167
edited March 2014 in Toyota
Hi all! It has been a goal of mine for quite sometime to make a car go 1,000,000 miles with only routine maintenance (read: no drivetrain rebuilds). I've always been intrigued by the challenge this endeavor would pose.

I feel to have a chance of making this happen, multiple things would have to align:

1. The correct automobile would have to be chosen (I think inherently some autos don't have a chance of reaching high mileage).

2. The "right" driving style would have to be used.

3. An exceptionally well thought out preventative maintenance program would have to be instituted.

4. An equally extensive detailing program would need to be developed to keep the body free of rust, etc.

5. A little luck couldn't hurt.

Well... my answer to the aforementioned points:

1. A 2001 Toyota Camry LE 4cy. I bought my new Camry with 12 miles on the clock last July. I chose a Camry based on its regarded history of reliability. I chose the 4cy as it historically has proven to be more reliable than the 6cy (only slightly though).

2. In terms of driving style... I researched breaking in engines, driving styles, etc. for months. I now have 10,000 miles on the clock and have generally driven the car "easy" staying under 4,000 rpm almost continually with few exceptions. I live in an urban area in Portland, OR so I do put a fair amount of city miles on the car. I'm shooting for no more than 40% city driving over a given 10,000 mile span.

3. I developed a preventative maintenance program that is defined both by an organic approach and a cyclic approach. I haven't overlooked anything including cleaning the tape head and CD lens monthly. I have filled my gas tank full everytime it's needed gas, always purchased the same brand of gas, and have recorded mileages in an excel database of every tank since the car's inception into this world.

4. I developed an equally in depth detailing program through over 4 years of research on the subject.

5. As far as luck... So far so good.

I would love to hear tips from other "enthusiasts" like myself on how they maintain their vehicles. I would love to share my experiences in great detail if anyone is interested. I will post periodically on the latest status of my endeavor.

Please help me with your tips. I do want to hand the Camry over to Toyota Marketing Executives at 1,000,000 miles for a free Lexus afterall.


  • I think you started off by picking the best car to attempt this with. Good maintence is a MUST! You are on the right track. Good Luck!
  • I definitely believe in the Camry.

    ... I'm also curious to hear responses from others on additional makes of vehicles that they feel could possibly hit the 1,000,000 mark and why...
  • brucer2brucer2 Posts: 157
    Always using the same brand of gas is probably not the best thing to do. Different brands of gas have different detergents, and work better on some deposits than others.
    If you have an automatic transmission 250 - 300k miles is about the best you can expect, even with doing annual fluid exhanges with synthetic ATF. The oil will also have to be changed every 3k miles/90 days (which ever comes first).
    You do realize that if you only drive 20k miles a year, it will take you 50 years to reach 1,000,000 miles. You will, however, get to verify if Toyota gas filters really are "lifetime", or not.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,046's an intriguing idea, but I don't know if I could put up with one car for that long of a time! FWIW, I've had a few fairly high mileage cars, but nothing approaching a million miles. First high mileage car I bought was a '68 Dart 270 with a 318. It had about 253,000 miles when I bought it in '92, but the engine had just been rebuilt around the 242K mark. Soon after that, the tranny and rear-end went, almost simulaneously, so the owner replaced them. In a lot of respects, I was almost getting a brand new car! It's got about 338,000 miles on it now.

    I also had a '79 Newport that I bought from the junkyard for $250. The odometer read right around 30K miles. I figured it was 130K. Interior still looked very good, except for torn vinyl on the driver's seat. The other seats looked brand new. Well, when the guy at the junkyard handed me the title, the previous owner had bought it in 1986, with 105K miles on it. Well here it was, New Year's Eve 1996, so either that guy drove 2500 miles a year for 10 years, or 230K was more like it. BTW, I broke a vow to go that whole year without buying a car. I made this vow to myself because up until then I'd bought a car every year in the 90's except for 1991, although I bought two in '92, so I guess that made up for it! It's tranny went out on me about 4 months later though. Turns out that was why it was junked to begin with, and I was running on borrowed time for a few months. Thankfully, it died less than a mile from a reputable transmission shop!

    The only high-mileage car my family had that was bought new was a 1986 Monte Carlo. My Mom gave it to me in March 1998 with about 179,000 miles on it. It was still on the original drivetrain, and she and my stepdad were kinda curious to see just how long that car would last. Unfortunately, about 3 months later I got T-boned while delivering pizzas, at 192K miles. So there went that. Well, there is my Grandma's '85 LeSabre, with 155K on it, and still on its original drivetrain. It's gone maybe 10,000 miles in the last 3 years though, so I know it'll never make it to a million!

    Well, good luck on your quest for a million miles! Keep us posted. Hey, this could be better than "The Truman Show" !
  • oldharryoldharry Posts: 413
    I know of that anyone I know personally has put on one car is a local rural mail carrier. He changed his oil religeously, put in brake pads twice a year, and he had to give up at about 435 K miles. The original automatic was still working, but the body rusted out from under him. When he gave up the rear springs came through the body and the rear wheels rubbed on the inner fenders. I never would have thought a Chevy Chevette would last that long. It proves that with careful maintenance almost any car will give reasonable service.

    Good luck with your project.

  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Here you go...something to shoot for.

    Sadly, I don't think a modern Volvo could do this (saying that as a Volvo enthusiast, that kinda hurts to say...) this is on a 1966 P1800 this guy bought new. You've definitely picked the right brand of dad brings his 2001 Tacoma into his local Toyota dealer for routine maintenance; one day he was in for an oil change and met a guy who's got 800,000 miles on his '92 Corolla. Apparently he's a regional sales rep that covers all of New England.

    Good luck.

  • 58vw58vw Posts: 12
    Do you recommend driving VERY cautiously for the first few blocks to get oil on parts?

    Do you recommmend use of any oil additives, ProLong, ER, Etc?

    How often do you change oil?

    Do you use synthetic oil?

    Do you use the old trick of putting in a cup of automatic transmission fluid and driving for a mile or so before oil change to shake loose the junk?

    Do you use gas additives to keep injectors clean

    Just bought VW eurovan weekender, hope it lasts about as long as I do, facing declining income and increasing driving, apprecite your project looking forward to your comments as you have obviously given the matter some thought

  • brucer2 - You bring up an interesting point regarding using the same type of gas. You are correct that different brands of gasoline have different additive packages. Even the same brands often vary between stations and geographical locations. I have studied statistics on most popular brands of gas and have determined Chevron to be superior for "my needs" (I would be happy to post you links on gasoline statistics if you are interested). It is my belief that if you use the same type of gas, and always save your receipts to prove it, that you can fall back on the petroleum company for some things if their gas has proven to cause certain mechanical problems in your vehicle. In terms of deposits... I can always run various types of cleaners through the fuel system as needed.

    In terms of oil changes... I take an organic approach. I switched to a synthetic at 7,000 miles and will probably install a bypass filtration system (I'm still researching this one). This said, oil changes don't necessarily have to be had at 3k/90day intervals.

    I'm curious why you believe that my transmission (yes it is an automatic) will only see 250k miles if I'm lucky??
  • Thank you both for the posts of your experiences with high mileage vehicles.

    Are you serious about the Chevette? If so I may have spent $20,000 to much on my vehicle by getting the Camry.

    I agree andre1969, it would be easy to get bored with a car after owning it for years and putting hundreds of thousands of miles on it. While I may grow somewhat tired of the Camry, I don't think I will ever get bored with the endeavor of trying to make it last to 1,000,000 miles.

    I like the Truman Show idea. I guess I better get a vid cam installed in the car and hook it up to my cell phone for web transmission... obviously kidding... I will post pictures soon though.
  • Thanks for the link. I have heard that Irv may be on a second or third engine. Do you (or does anyone) know if this is true? Anyway you look at it it is still impressive though.

    I know Volvo makes a decent car. The mid 80's 240s are very popular here in Portland among the college age folks. I've seen a few in my neighborhood with 300,000 miles or so on the clock.
  • Here is my take on your questions...

    1. "Do you recommend driving VERY cautiously for the first few blocks to get oil on parts?" - I let my car warm up no more than 15 seconds or so and then I drive conservatively (read: easy acceleration and braking). Older vehicles require different warm up styles. I use a 5w30 synthetic oil so my engine is always well lubricated (even at start up).

    2. "Do you recommend use of any oil additives, ProLong, ER, Etc?" - Candidly, No. I don't think that these types of products affect an engine adversely, but I don't feel based on my research that that they provide any benefit either. Most of the accolades these products have received are from lobbied marketers of the product's manufacturer. All independent tests I've read on these types of products have shown that they don't meet the claims promised, i.e. allowing an engine to run with no oil, etc. I think your money would be much better spent on synthetic oil, a good oil filter, and a good air filter.

    3. "How often do you change oil?" - I have an organic approach to this. By organic, I mean that it will always vary depending on factors such as climate, city -vs- hwy driving, amount of short trips, etc. I changed my oil, using 5w30 petrolium oil, 3 times during the first 7,000 miles. At 7,000 miles I switched to synthetic and have yet to change it since.

    4. "Do you use synthetic oil?" - Yes as aforementioned. When you use synthetic oil you can expand your change intervals. Some synthetics (Amsoil comes to mind) will allow you to go 25,000 miles or more between changes. In this case oil analysis every 5,000 miles or so would be prudent.

    5. "Do you use the old trick of putting in a cup of automatic transmission fluid and driving for a mile or so before oil change to shake loose the junk?" - No, of course my engine is to new to have any deposits. A good synthetic oil will keep your engine clean. I wouldn't run ATF in my engine.

    6. "Do you use gas additives to keep injectors clean" - I don't. I use Chevron gasoline. I usually purchase it at off hours so the tanks are settled. I plan to change my fuel filters often.

    I hope this helps. Don't feel like you have to take my comments as gospel. I'm only sharing my opinions based on my extensive research.
  • adc100adc100 Posts: 1,521
    It won't be possible to put on those kind of miles in the coming years. Population growth, energy consumption, polution, siimply won't allow it. Vehicles/transportation will need to change drastically. I would seek challanges in other areas-such as how few miles can you drive in a year. That would help the planet and save your wallet.
  • armtdmarmtdm Posts: 2,057
    If you drove 30,000 miles a year primarily highway you may have a shot but as several have said the tranny will never make it regardless of what you put in or how often you change it. Too many valves and components involved. However, without the tranny included maybe but by the time this happens so much will have occurred in transportation that this car may not be permitted on the highway (if we still have them).

    You also assume that you can get replacement parts 18 years down the road when you learn that the Camry stopped production in 2006 and new parts not made. Maybe junk yards!

    The other high probability is whether it will survive an accident which in 20 years (@50,000 a year) is a good chance will occur.

    Oh, if you read the Engine Sludge board here at Edmunds you may have second thoughts about choosing the best engine for the job!!!!!!
  • oldharryoldharry Posts: 413
    The Chevette really did go that far. Rod though was fanatical about maintanence, he changed the trans fluid every 30 K. At around 200 K he went to an expandable oil drain plug in the pan because he wore out the threads. Of course you also have to allow that he had some good luck thrown in. Most other Chevettes were all done long before that.

    amtdm, the sludge was in the V-6, wasn't it?

  • newcar31newcar31 Posts: 3,711
    I think the Camry might be able to do it. Mercedes Benz diesel cars are also famous for hitting the 1,000,000 mile mark. Same goes for old Volvos. When I worked at a Ford dealer, I saw a Ford Probe with 750,000 miles on it-original drivetrain. This guy who owned it was a storm chaser.
  • Get this Book. "Drive It Forever" ,by Bob Sikorsky. It has may studies on driveing a car forever. He talks about driving style, the importance of an engine heater, and many other things. He personally has 1 car with over 600,000 miles and another with over 800,000? miles with no major mechanical work done. This book is perfect for your endeavor. I did not agree with he oil additive procedure however, I think a good synthetic is much better!

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,830
    I guess....

    Personally, I get tired of cars after a few years.
  • bretfrazbretfraz Posts: 2,021
    IMO, modern cars simply are not designed and engineered to last that long. Even if the engine was up to it, most other systems in the car aren't. Think of the foundational parts of the car, like the suspension mounting points that literally keep the wheels on the car. Is the steel used in the production of the car of adequate strength to provide that kindof durability? Every time you hit a bump energy is sent throughout the car. Over a long period of time this energy will weaken the steel that makes up the mounting points. One day you'll go over a bump and something structural will fail.

    The comparisons between a new Toyota and various Mercedes-Benzs and older Volvos aren't really valid. The way newer cars are designed and built are vastly different from the way cars were designed and built 20-30 years ago. This is true even for Mercedes and Volvos of today. The kind of longevity were talking about simply is not part of the modern car's DNA - It's not in their genes like it was with the VW Beetle or a Mercedes 220D or many other cars.

    I believe a Chevette can go mega-miles. Just look at it. Rude, Crude, simple to a fault. Repairs are easy, parts have interchangability with other GM cars providing for good supply. Like the Beetle, the Chevette is the antithesis of complexity.

    I think the goal of trying to get 1,000,000 miles out of a car is an admirable one, if in conflict with my own values; I'd buy a new car every year if I could afford it. But perhaps the Camry was not the ultimate choice. The only car available in the US that I think could do this is a Mercedes E-class diesel. And even with that car I think some electronic gremlin will kill it long before the driveline dies.

    At any rate I wish you the best of luck.
  • You raise interesting points... We'll see I guess about the transmission. I feel it has a shot to go the distance with very good preventative maintenance, but I can't prove my belief (it is a belief after all). I'm curious if you can provide concrete reasons why it won't make the distance, or is just your belief that it won't. I know it is more complex than the engine but that doesn't inherently make it more susceptible to breakdown. it is a better sealed system, thus it won't have near the internal pollution of the engine. Heat will be it's biggest chance of failure.

    On another note... Though my goal may seem to the contrary, I do care quite a bit about the environment. This is another reason I bought the 4cy low emissions engine. I will always keep the car well tuned which will keep the emissions to a minimum. I read somewhere (you just have to believe me because I don't remember where) that a modern day 4cy low emissions engine would put out roughly the same emissions in 750,000 miles as a moderately tuned 60's v-8 engine without smog controls would in 100,000 miles.
  • brucer2brucer2 Posts: 157
    Automatic transmissions have clutches that wear. Even if every other part lasted forever, and they don't, the friction material will wear away. I'm sure thoses other super high mailage cars with manual transmissions had their clutches replaced.
    You've also left out all the "soft parts" made from rubber and plastic. They will become hard, brittle and disentergrate over time. This includes things like the electrical connectors and the insulation on the wires. Try finding a working electronic module 25 years from now. Every electrolytic capacitor will have reached its end of life before you're halfway to your mileage mark. Time and old age will kill the car before the mileage if you don't drive at least 50,000 mile a year.
  • As with adc100 you bring up good points - thanks. Here is my take:

    1. Regarding the transmission... see my post above. (I'm curious though if the Chevette oldharry was referring to that had over 400,000 miles had an auto transmission? Usually mail carriers drive an automatic. If it did, and a Chevette's automatic can go that distance, than I really say a Toyota transmission has a shot.)

    2. In terms of whether we'll still have cars in eighteen years and whether parts will be available if we do... I'll have to chance it that cars as we know them now won't be banned. I think there will be many changes to try and make automobile transportation safer to drivers and to the planet, but I don't think they'll do away with our cars. I don't think replacement parts will be an issue for the Camry. You can still by replacement parts for cars that haven't been built for 30 years and weren't that popular when they were around through sources like Hemmings, etc. The Camry is the number one selling car in America - I'm sure that one, they won't stop making it anytime soon, and two that there will be plenty of parts if I ever need them.

    3. In terms of engine sludge... It was the 6cy with the problem in the early 90's. I have the 4cy and am fastidious enough with preventative maintenance that it wouldn't be an issue anyway.
  • Thanks for the tip on the book. I read his book about 6 years ago and enjoyed it. I don't necessarily agree with him on the engine additive point either. Do you know if there is a newer addition to his book (a copyright from '98 or '99)?

    In terms of getting tired of the car, read my post #10
  • Thanks for your post.

    I respectfully disagree with you on the point of some modern day cars not being able to withstand long term metal fatigue like that of their older brethren. I say "some", as I do think there are certain types of cars that have digressed in their durability. Toyota though has extensively studied metallurgy over the years and has some of the best technology out there right now. Mercedes has also done extensive research in metallurgy, which is why you see a lot of durable older MB's. Chassis protection is one of the key processes in my preventative maintenance plan. I will continually pressure wash the undercarriage, waterproof and paint as necessary, and will study the suspension bushings and body welds for fatigue.

    I agree with you that the Chevette is the antithesis to complexity - nicely put! If only GM put a little better engineering into this car you may still see them on the road today. There is something to be said for simplicity. I think the reson a lot of the older MB's, Volvos, VW's etc. are more durable than their moder day counterparts were that they were built much more simply.
  • brucer2brucer2 Posts: 157
    If you wore out/broke a part in an old car, it was probably mechanical or a simple electrical component. Somebody who knew what they were doing could look at it and fix/rebuild/fabricate from scratch a replacement. If one of your electronic "black boxes" dies there's no way to reverse engineer it to figure out what it's supposed to do. Even if you could determine what went bad, if it was a custom IC you can't make another one. The average new car has more electronics in it than a television. Try getting a 25 year old television fixed.
  • adc100adc100 Posts: 1,521
    I do tend to agree with bret.

    My '94 4WD Toyota 22R-E is supposed to be as good an engine as Toy makes. It now has 75K on it and there is no way that engine will go 200K, even if I live that long. I think an automatic tranny adds longer life to an engine, but the auto tranny is still going to fail first. Bearings and seals and clutches just can't get there from here (IMHO)
  • It was updated and a new edition came out in 1998 dealing with more modern cars and synthetic oil.

  • You are definitely correct that older (simpler) parts are easier to fabricate. You are also of course correct that modern day automobiles have more electronics than they used to, and certainly more than a television.

    While a nice analogy, I don't think a television is a good comparison for this scenario. A given TV is only made for a year or two before the next, better (usually at least), model comes out. The average cost of a TV is only a few hundred dollars so there are not very many business's out there who stock parts. The opposite is true for cars. Remember the Camry is the most popular car in America (also the most stolen) thus there are a number of companies who maintain part inventories for them. I suppose you're right, that 30 years from now I may have difficulty getting a CPU if I happen to need one. I guess I'll have to bank on the fact that either I won't need one, or that with the advances in technology in 30 years someone will be smart enough to fabricate me something that would keep the car going.
  • I would sure think you could get your 22-RE to 200k miles. Many others have.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    When I first noticed this topic, I thought it said 100,000 miles. No sweat. But then I saw the extra zero. Now that's a horse of a different color.

    I have an '80 Volvo 240 that I purchased used in 1982. It has just under 236K miles. Rust is starting to attack it in earnest, despite my efforts over the years to keep it clean and free of salt.

    Right now, it has developed a stalling problem that I can't pinpoint to a simple cause. This is most frustrating because I've sunk a fair amount of money into the car in the last year for a timing belt, water pump, tires, and clutch (first time for the latter).

    So now I'm facing another repair bill for a car that's worth maybe $1,000, tops. I'm afraid the day is coming when I'll have to throw in the towel.

    BTW, I also have a '97 Camry 4-cylinder, purchased new. It's approaching 80K miles, and it has been virtually trouble-free.
  • Good luck! I have the exact same Camry('99) with 80K miles and shooting for at least 250-300K.
    No problems to date.
    One thing:make sure yours does not get stolen on the way to 1 million miles!
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