Vehicles are built a lot better in the last 20 years than they have been in prior decades. The result: people are holding on to their old cars longer than ever. This is likely due for a number of reasons but the point is that with proper maintenance, you can hold onto an old car for a long time. Here’s what you should know:
Old car maintenance
Your car's user manual gives you a schedule for maintaining certain things. To make your car last a long time, follow the manufacturer's recommendations. You should find items such as this:
- Change oil and oil filter routinely.
- Keep all fluids filled properly.
- Replace spark plugs at the appropriate mileage.
- Replace coolant and flush the system at the appropriate mileage.
- Periodically check brake fluid.
- Rotate tires as recommended by the tire manufacturer.
- Check tire pressure of all tires once a month (plus the spare tire.)
Especially important item #1
Change Engine Timing Belt at the appropriate mileage. The timing belt or chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft. It controls the timing of the valves in an internal combustion engine. They are made of rubber and if they break, they can cause massive engine damage.
Here’s the story: there are two types of engine designs: interference and non-interference. If you have an interference engine and the timing belt breaks, you will do massive damage to it. You may even need a new engine. Vehicles that don’t have an interference engine will not suffer much damage when the timing belt breaks. It will just stop running. The car will still need to be towed, but the repair would require just the replacement of the timing belt. In most cases, this is not terribly expensive.
Important note: our subject matter expert, Reedman-Toll Chevrolet of Exton, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Exton, PA suggests that when you have your timing belt changed, ask your mechanic to:
- Change all the belts
- Change the water pump
- Flush the cooling system
This will save money in the long run. Since they have to remove all the belts anyway to get to the timing belt, there is no extra labor charge for putting on new belts. The same logic goes for the water pump. It would be costly to change the water pump should it ever start to leak. While the timing belt is being changed, the labor is already included.
Things You Can Do Yourself
There are several items that you can perform yourself that will keep your car running well.
- Change wipers when they are worn.
- Vacuum the interior and keep it clean
- If you have a leather interior, maintain it with a good conditioner
Especially important item #2
Use a tankful of high-octane gas a few times a year. High-octane gas usually contains powerful detergents that are designed to clean off the deposits on the pistons and valves. Keeping them free of deposits helps keep the car running clean and more efficiently.
Especially important item #3
Repair scratches before they rust. Body scratches just tend to appear. People brush up against your car in parking lots. People open doors next to you and hit your car. Hail, road gravel, you name it.
It is quite important to get some paint over those scratches before rust sets in. You can get touch up paint from various places. For exact color match, go to your car dealer. For convenient “approximate match,” go to your local auto parts store.
Instead of buying a new car, you can take care of your old car properly and have it last many rewarding years. Sure, there will be some repair bills along the way but that’s just part of the deal. Drive that old car for a couple hundred thousand miles and then you are good and ready for a new car.