My Million Mile Chevy
During the summer of 1999, I was facing a career change. I was involved with a marketing business that produced a respectable income for the past several years, but that income stream began to evaporate. Here I am at age 52 trying to figure out how to get my financial legs back.
Needing and finding a new career opportunity
During the summer of 1999, I was facing a career change. I was involved with a marketing business that produced a respectable income for the past several years, but that income stream began to evaporate.
While doing some errands in Dayton, Ohio that summer, I was thinking, what could I do? The question came to me: Well, John, what are you good at? Hmm, what am I good at? Here I am at age 52 trying to figure out how to get my financial legs back.
On the way home that day, I happened to drive by the Dayton Airport, just outside of Vandalia, Ohio, and noticed airplanes taking off and landing at the Emery Hub, a large freight facility that has since been shut down.
A few weeks earlier, I came across a man in my hometown who used his cargo van to haul freight out of the Emery hub. I drove over to the Emery hub, into the entrance and asked security if there was an expediting office in the hub. They said yes and put me in contact with a gal named Karen Darlin.
Karen said they would like to put another cargo van on in September, and if I was interested, she would hire me on as and independent contractor. That meant I would have to provide my own vehicle. In return for each delivery I made, they would pay me for each loaded mile. That was August 1, 1999.
Seeing the USA in my Chevrolet
After test-driving a couple different makes of cargo vans, I decided to purchase a 1999 Chevy G3500 Express van. My nephew Scott Dohme, the general manager at Paul Sherry Chevrolet in Piqua, Ohio, sold the van to me on September 7, 1999. It had 2,865 miles on the odometer.
As I drove my Chevy van off the lot and headed home to Greenville, little did I realize I was about to go on a million mile journey. I was going to see the USA in my Chevrolet!
At around 12 a.m., September 14, 1999, the telephone rang. It was the Emery hub calling me for my first pickup and delivery. They wanted me to pick up at 3:30 a.m. and deliver direct to the Lear Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky.
That trip was about 160 miles, and by 7:00 a.m. I had made my first delivery. That would be one of several hundred deliveries over the next 8 years and 9 months. After two years and four months of driving, my odometer showed 249,308 miles.
2001: Gasoline bill was $10,191.00. My average price per gallon was $1.31
2007: Gasoline bill was $20,731.00. My average price per gallon was $2.64
Who would have guessed that prices would have doubled in just six years!
Million mile formula
I knew early on that I would have to develop some type of scheduled maintenance program. Parts wear out and I was about to put all the GM/Delco parts to an extreme test. I did not want to wait until a part wore out to replace it. I cannot afford to have a breakdown in a delivery business where the freight is time sensitive.
After talking with several drivers in the expedite business who run GM and Chevy vans like mine, I got a pretty good idea of what parts to replace before they wore out. I made up a maintenance schedule, printed it on a post-it-note and attached it to my spiral note pad, that I carry inside my vehicle and refer to often.
Maintenance schedule provides peace of mind
- Chg Motor Oil/Filter:@25,000
- Clean Air Filter/Chg Fuel Filter:@25,000 / 40,000
- Chg Serpentine Belt:@100,000
- Chg Fuel Pump:@130,000
- Chg Trans Oil/Filter:@150,000
- Chg Rear/Diff Oil:@150,000
- Chg Water Pump/Hoses:@300,000
- Chg Anti-Freeze:@150,000
- Rotate Tires:@20,000
- Chg Spark Plugs/PCV:@100,000
I fill in the mileage to the left of the miles that you see. Example: I change my oil and filter every 25,000 miles. Whatever the mileage was on my speedometer when I changed the oil, I would add 25,000 miles to that. If it was 950,000 miles, I would write 975,000 miles, and that would be my next oil change.
I found that replacing parts on my Chevy van before they wear out is good insurance against breakdowns! When I hop into the seat of my Chevy van…I always have peace of mind that it will take me anywhere I want to go.
Synthetic oil and lube extends service intervals
At 68,250 miles, I switched the engine, transmission and rear differential over to Amsoil synthetic oil. I use synthetic grease to lubricate the front suspension, drive shaft and pack the front wheel bearings.
I went from changing my engine oil and filter every 5,000 miles (twice a month) to every 25,000 miles; and the transmission and differential oil from 50,000 miles to 150,000 miles! Using synthetic oil and lubricants can make your vehicle almost immortal!
Million mile statistics
- Total Miles Driven: 1,000,000
- Gasoline Consumption: 68,461 gallons
- Average MPG: 14.6, including 6,112 hours idling.
- Gasoline Bill: $125,486
- Oil Changes: 50 (192 oil changes if I had used regular petroleum oil).
- Original Ball Joints: Replaced at 792,700 miles.
- Original Radiator: Replaced at 843,845 miles.
- Original AC: Replaced at 872,538 miles.
- Original Engine: Replaced at 930,599 miles.
- Exhaust System: Still original after 1,000,000 miles.
- Transmission: Still original after 1,000,000 miles.
- Tie Rods / Steering arms Front Suspension: Still original after 1,000,000 miles.
- Bridgestone Tires: Four sets used, got over 230,000 miles out of each set.
- Windshields Replaced: Five due to rocks coming from tires, almost like bullets fired from a gun.
- Total Deliveries: 1,346 (never missed a delivery).
- Traffic Tickets: One
- Drivers: One
- Wives: One
I feel the preventive maintenance plan and synthetic oil played a crucial role in keeping my Chevy van on the road. They will most likely keep it on the road for another two to three years.
I want to give thanks to the Lord for His generous protection. To drive one vehicle a million miles is an incredible blessing! I heard a preacher say, "When you're driving down the highway, you're just three feet from eternity! That's the distance between the yellow line and the other vehicle coming at you!"
The one thing interesting about the expediting business is the adventure of it. You’re always going to a different place, taking a different route, seeing different people, eating different food and seeing the diversity of America. It has been a very fulfilling adventure.
In 2005, I held my nose and jumped in by starting my own expedite business. After five years of working for Emery/Menlo/UPS, I had observed and studied the business from a distance.
I really enjoy being self-employed, although the headaches of bookwork and being on call 24/7 can be a little hectic. Financially, it has been very rewarding. I’ve been blessed with five part-time drivers that know how to handle time sensitive freight and give me a break whenever I need one.
The icing on the cake is my wife of 42 years. Barbara has supported me with her prayers of protection around my van and lends a helping hand at the home office.
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