Two Million Miles of Advice

When you have driven more than 2.4 million miles in one car and you reside in East Patchogue, New York, you're going to have more than your share of experience driving in winter weather.  So it's not surprising that Irv Gordon, the retired Long Island science teacher with the record-setting Volvo, should offer up some winter driving tips.

"It takes plenty of planning, a true understanding of your car, and the right music to make your winter driving safe and relaxing," Gordon said.  Gordon favors Johnny Cash, by the way.

The 64-year-old has done more winter driving than just about anybody, and he has gained worldwide fame for being the first person to drive more than two million miles in the same car, a shiny red 1966 Volvo P1800. Gordon takes delight in driving his Volvo to Philadelphia for lunch, Montreal for dinner or California just for the fun of it.

"In the snowy states and in some sunny states, winter driving is as inevitable as that crazy, belligerent uncle visiting for the holidays," Gordon said. "Sooner or later, you're just going to have to deal with it."

So how does he deal with it?  First he has his car professionally prepared for winter.

"I like to have a qualified mechanic give my car a full winter physical -- checking tire inflation, treads, battery, brake wear, fluids, etc," he said. "Get the cooling system flushed. Have him check all hoses and belts for cracks, bulges, soft areas and leaks. Inspect the brakes, rotors and the action of the emergency brake. The last thing you need on a cold morning is a frozen emergency brake because you failed to make sure all the linkages were free of road dirt and salt. And, for the love of Pete, put winter blades on your wipers!"

He's also a proponent of treating your car like a wife should treat a husband.  Keep it warm and full.

"Is it a myth that you need to warm up your car or keep your tank full in the winter?" he asked. "Who cares? Don't gamble. On cold days, warm your car a few minutes to get its heart ticking. And, always try to keep the gas tank at least half full lest water, condensation, dirt and debris find their way in there. And remember, don't warm up your car and fill it up at the same time, okay?"

Not only is Irv funny, but he also is one of those rare people who actually reads the owners' manual.  One thing he learned concerns the proper lubrication.

"You really are supposed to use different grades of oil over winter months," he said. "Check your owners' manual and make the adjustments."

He's also a proponent of snow tires.

"Instead of all-season tires, try four genuine snow tires," he said. "And buy the best snow tires you can afford. It's still cheaper than paying for what happens after you skid into your friendly neighborhood light pole."

Gordon purchased his Volvo P1800 in June 1966 from a neighborhood Volvo dealership for $4,150. His 125-mile daily commute to and from work, his passion for driving and his meticulous car enabled him to clock the miles. In 1998, The Guinness Book for World Records honored Gordon's car as the vehicle with the "highest certified miles driven by the original car owner in non-commercial service."

Gordon breaks his own world record every time he drives his celebrated car. Some time in 2006 -- the car's 40th anniversary -- he'll mark his 2.5 millionth mile, in hot pursuit of turning three million miles by decade's end.

Based in Villeperce, France, Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley is in hot pursuit of understanding the auto industry and the human condition.