200,000-mile-car secrets: good care - and some luck
BY SUE DOYLE, Columnist
LA Daily News

 The upholstery on the driver's seat is in shreds. Masking tape patches a cracked taillight. And the odometer reads 223,626 miles. To some, it would definitely be time for a trade-in. But to Suren Rostonmyan, the 1986 Toyota pickup still has a lot of kick left. By staying on top of oil changes and continuing the TLC, he figures the reliable red truck could hit 300,000 miles without a hitch.

Although there's no one secret to getting cars to reach 200,000, 300,000 or
even 400,000 miles, experts say it's a combination of luck and proper
maintenance that keeps the old odometer ticking along.

"It makes noises," said Rostonmyan, 59. "But I know how to handle it."

While it helps that Rostonmyan is a mechanic, you don't have to be one to
keep your car running for a long time.

For starters, change the oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles, said Vince Novak,
owner of Novak Automotive in Canoga Park.

People who bring their cars to the shop for regular oil changes also get
fluids topped off, tire pressure adjusted and other basics checked, which
can prevent serious trouble in the long run, Novak said.

Still, it also helps to have some good fortune on your side, he said.

"It's called luck. There's no such thing as a strategy," Novak said. "The
best thing is to stay on top of your vehicle, and change the oil."

The same advice has worked for years for Carroll Stark, who just got the
oil changed at Hans German Car Repair in Valley Village on his 1989
Mercedes-Benz.

With 337,000 miles on it, it is the latest in a series of high-mileage cars
for the 82-year-old Toluca Lake resident.

His 1965 Oldsmobile Toronado lasted about 220,000 miles. The Chrysler New
Yorker and another Mercedes-Benz each clocked 250,000 on the odometer.

"I tell a lot of my friends that if the auto industry relied on me for
their sales, they'd all go broke in a hurry," Stark said.

Having a reputable mechanic makes all the difference when it comes to
keeping the car around for a long time, Stark said. He warned about the
ones who hoodwink drivers into getting work that they don't need.

That's not a problem for Lupe Barreto and the 1988 Toyota Camry with
178,300 miles that sits in her driveway. All the work on it is done by her
son-in-law Richard Alfonso, owner of Clutch Masters in Tujunga.

Although the Glendale woman would like a new car, she doesn't see that
happening anytime soon, with this one expected to last well beyond an
odometer reading of 200,000.

"I want a new car," Barreto said. "But I will run it till it doesn't run
anymore. These are good cars."

Alfonso said the key is regular maintenance and having a car with the
craftsmanship like his mother-in-law's Toyota. Tinkering with his own cars
has made them last a whopping 500,000 miles.

A Toyota Corolla that family members passed on to one another through the
years had more than 200,000 miles on it by the time it reached Julie
Armentrout of Burbank.

Time had weathered the car's appearance, making it an eyesore compared with
sleek, newer models on the road. But its history of routine oil changes and
maintenance kept the car going, she said.

"The car wouldn't die, no matter how ugly it got," said Armentrout. "It was
die hard. It was good."