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#1292000 - 11/24/08 09:05 AM Average engine life of vehicles over the years
ZZman Offline

Registered: 03/17/08
Posts: 4237
Loc: Michigan
Does anyone know what the average lifespan of engines have been over the years? As engines, oil and gas technology has gotten better engines are lasting alot longer before needing major engine work. Back when I started driving in the 70's cars were blowing blue smoke and you were having to do valve jobs and stuff on cars. You didn't dare buy a 100,000 mile car as it was worn out.

Any ideas how long cars in the 50's, 60's ,70's etc lasted on average?
2002 Buick Regal GS (3.8 Supercharged) PP, Pure 1 filter
2008 Sebring Hardtop convertible (2.7) PP, Pure 1 filter.

#1292007 - 11/24/08 09:23 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: ZZman]
rg200amp Offline

Registered: 02/10/08
Posts: 3130
Loc: Phila,PA
It all depends on how the upkeep was.

In most cases: If a motor has great upkeep all its life, the car will fall apart before the motor dies.

Most motors today can see 300,000Miles and more with great upkeep.
1,000,000 miles
Have all been done.

I think the older car of the 60s and 70s were trashed early due to things like poorer gas and oil quality. Perhaps some poor engine designs in genral. People not keeping a good 3000 mile oci at the time. Some people back then and some today think oil changes are treats for the car, not a must have.
// 2013 Subaru WRX //
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#1292011 - 11/24/08 09:35 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: rg200amp]
addyguy Offline

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 13793
Loc: Canada
I don't know where it is, but there IS somewhere on here a post on an news article that was done a few years ago about average life of vehicles over the decades. It did set out that the aaverage in the 1970's was something like 80k miles, in the 1980's it was 120-130k miles, and in the 1990's it was 150k miles....don't quote me on those.

Maybe if you did a google search on 'average vehicle life' you'd find it, I don't know. As others have/will say, a LOT has to do with how the vehicle was maintained. My dad got about 150k miles out of a 1967 Mustang in the 1970's before rust got it, but he was pretty finiky about taking care of it....
2003 Mazda Tribute LX V-6, 191k miles.
MM F1 5W-20 conventional + Bardahl B2 additive.
MM MPH2 filter.

#1292016 - 11/24/08 09:40 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: addyguy]
Jim 5 Offline

Registered: 05/25/05
Posts: 4009
Loc: Calgary Canada
My grandfather told me that they would tear down some of the earlier engines and the first v8's at around 30 - 40k miles to do bearings and rings. He was born in 1910, and it was considered normal maintenance. These would have been in the late 20's 30's and 40's I'm guessing.
Jim A
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#1292017 - 11/24/08 09:42 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: ZZman]
1999nick Offline

Registered: 01/14/04
Posts: 1087
Loc: Germantown TN 38138
My experience goes back to the 50's, and I can only cite several individual cars that I had experience with. I had a college roommate in 1955 that had a well used 1950 Ford V-8 with the flathead. It had over 100,000 miles on it, and it still ran well and was obviously not worn out. Another roommate that same year had a 1951 Olds 98, which his father had put a lot of miles on as a traveling man. When it was about to turn over 100,000 miles, we took it out on the highway and watched it turn over as we were doing 100 mph.

I, personally, had a 1954 Ford V-8, the first year of the overhead valve Ford V-8. They had had some initial problems with the valvetrain that year, this had been solved when my Dad bought mine in August of 1954. I used this auto during a couple years of college and 3 years in the Army. By 1959, it had right at 140,000 miles on it, primarily highway miles. It had the 3-speed manual with overdrive transmission. Anyway, those overhead valves, which had solid lifters, not hydraulic, never did need adjusting in 140,000 miles. It did not smoke, or give any other indication of being worn out. I still was using the straight 20 weight oil of that era; It was the practice back then to change over to straight 30 weight when an engine began to consume oil, but mine never did. I do not know how long this engine lasted. I replaced this car as soon as I got out of the Army in 1959.

The only car I ever had to have a valve job done on was a 1967 Volkswagen bug that I bought used as a second car in 1972. I got the valve job at the local VW dealer, and the bill came to $190 for a valve job, new clutch, and oil change.

In the 70's, I began to use Mobil 1 oil, as soon as it came out. I believed their claims, and changed it once a year, usually 18,000 to 20,000 miles. I watched my oil level and kept it topped off, and never had an engine problem until I retired back in 2001 and began to use conventional oil as I was only driving about 6000 miles a year, not enough to justify the use of synthetic.

I do not recollect seeing many cars blowing blue smoke, outside of old beat-up junkers, and Chevrolet Vegas.

#1292024 - 11/24/08 09:48 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: 1999nick]
Kestas Offline

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 11192
Loc: The Motor City
The blue smokers were neglected cars. Our family regularly took cars from the 70s past 140K before the body fell apart. I just took my 71 Cutlass to 170K before the engine needed rebuild for leaky gaskets.

I heard back in the 40s, some cars needed new rings at 40K.

#1292027 - 11/24/08 09:50 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: Jim 5]
XS650 Offline

Registered: 12/21/03
Posts: 12385
Loc: Northern CA
 Originally Posted By: Jim 5
My grandfather told me that they would tear down some of the earlier engines and the first v8's at around 40k miles to do bearings and rings. These would have been in the 30's and 40's I'm guessing.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s I was prepubescent young but interested in cars. Needing to do head and/or oil pan off engine work by 50k miles wasn't unusual. Getting past 100k miles without major engine work was unusual.

It was not unusual to do bearings, rings and a valve job with the engine still in the car.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

--Mark Twain

#1292055 - 11/24/08 10:34 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: XS650]
01rangerxl Offline

Registered: 04/08/06
Posts: 8454
Loc: Birmingham, AL
I can't remember my parents ever replacing or rebuilding an engine.

My dad got about 156K out of a 1985 Cherokee 2.5 he bought new. It leaked oil, burned a little oil, and after 125K water pumps became a routine job, but the engine itself still ran fine when he sold it.

My parents also had a 1986 Ranger 2.3, also bought new. It leaked and burned a small amount of oil, but it ran great. Last I knew it had about 140K on it, but I haven't seen it in years.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s they had a 1972 Fiat, a couple 1960s VWs, a 1978 Mercury Zephyr, and a 1975 Datsun truck. My dad's VW Bus was apparently very unreliable and high maintenance, but I don't know if the engine ever had to be rebuilt or replaced. The Zephyr was pretty unreliable too, but again I don't know the extent of its problems. IIRC, my dad mentioned it having constant issues with the carb. I'm sure it was sold well before hitting 100K. I don't think the Datsun truck ever had any major issues. It was sold to some friends of my parents in the mid 1980s and was running fine then.
2002 Ford Ranger XLT | 3.0 V6 / 5-Speed Automatic / 2WD | 177K miles
1994 Ford Ranger STX | 4.0 V6 / 5-Speed Manual / 4X4 | 175K miles

#1292065 - 11/24/08 10:52 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: 01rangerxl]
Cutehumor Offline

Registered: 12/10/02
Posts: 9328
Loc: USA
Engines last a really long time. in my ahem 14 years of vehicle ownership, the only modern engines that I have seen fail were due to lack of oil , a severe coolant leak, or a severe air intake leak. If you can get by without any of those factors, engines last a really long time. I tell my friends that it takes alot to kill an engine.
09 Chevy Cobalt 2.4L 80k miles
09 Pontiac Vibe 2.4L 92k miles

#1292801 - 11/25/08 03:36 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: Cutehumor]
ARB1977 Offline

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 4663
Loc: North Texas
Alot of it has to do with maintence history.
2002 Tacoma 3.4L 175K (as of 09-24-15)
M1 HM 5W30 / Toyota filter

2008 CRV 2.4L 131K (as of 08-05-15)
PP 5W20 / Fram Ultra filter

#1292826 - 11/25/08 04:59 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: ZZman]
Doug Hillary Online   content

Registered: 05/30/03
Posts: 5052
Loc: Airlie Beach Australia
ZZman - Well of course variables intrude but 50s early 60s;

SV Fords - 35k before oil consumption intruded
OHV Fords & GMs - about 50k
Euro expensive (MB) - about 60k
English broad range of Brands - around 40k

I saw many BMC "B" engines go out to 300k without work

SV Chrysler 6 cyl - hard chrome rings - new technology - used oil from new - never settled down but lasted for years

VW - mixed but anywhere from 30k to 100k

10W-30 oils were the "modern" go in the 50s - 20W-50 took over in the late 1950s and cured a lot of engine design "ills"

Just a few thoughts....................

#1292834 - 11/25/08 05:27 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: ARB1977]
Spector Offline

Registered: 06/10/02
Posts: 3293
Loc: Chattanooga, TN
as noted the engines keep going, it is hte transsmissions and everything else that goes, can be replaced but the cost begins to get to you. replaced a tranny last year and that paid off versus a new car or used one now the timing belt pully became worn and belt slipped off, engine okay but expensive to repair, more then car is worth but then if it goes 6 more months it has broken even versus depreciation, car payments etc.

#1293049 - 11/25/08 11:01 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: Spector]
Steve S Offline

Registered: 01/20/03
Posts: 18449
Loc: East of IGO
Remember not to mix up quality versus technology and improvements due to emmission laws. I have trouble buying a $100,000 Mercedes that can be cut in half with some tin snips. look at what you get in a late 50, and 60s car from the big 3.Todays cars are tin cans .I had a 1979 Ford F150 that was twice the pickup as my wifes 2002 Superduty. My 2006 toyota p/u is a bigger tin can as compared to 1992 Toy that was rear ended by a 1971 ford pickup I wasn't in it and saw the whole thing ,a guy hit some ice and slid into the back of my truck, totalled the Toy and the Ford was unscathed.
Why do people post I want the best for my car,,, When there isn't anything that is the best on the car to begin with.

#1293115 - 11/25/08 11:54 AM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: Steve S]
lovcom Offline

Registered: 08/01/07
Posts: 678
Loc: Chicago, IL
The "tin cans" of today provide MASSIVELY higher chances of the occupants living after a collision, then the "tanks" of yesterday. Sure the tanks sustained less damage, but guess what? The kids inside the tank are battered from taking the full absorbtion of the released enery.

In a crash, I'll take a "tin can" anytime, thank you.

I remember seeing the aftermath of a a crash involving a full sized 1960's Pontiac station wagon. Yea, the car had sustained much less damage then one would expect. But all the occupants were dead from being bounced around and against rock solid infrastructure.

Edited by lovcom (11/25/08 11:56 AM)
2014 Toyota Prius C, City 62 MPG, Hwy 50 MPG.

#1293127 - 11/25/08 12:08 PM Re: Average engine life of vehicles over the years [Re: lovcom]
GMFan Offline

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 1668
Loc: North Carolina
Most cars never reach their "maximum engine life." People junk their cars when the transmission fails, or it needs a new clutch and tires, or it won't pass inspection. Sometimes, the engine only has 150k miles on it.

A lot of people don't want to put $2000 into a 12year old car with 150k miles, a rusted frame and a soon to fail transmission so they donate it for a tax refund.
2011 Mazda6i Sport 6spd MT-72k miles
Castrol Edge 0w20 - Fram TG, 10k OCI
“Muscles aching to work, minds aching to create - this is man.”

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