OK, so you probably won’t drive the same car forever, but you can definitely keep it alive for the next 10 to 15 years. The trick is to stay on top of routine maintenance and not be too proud to replace a busted part here and there.
“These days, cars have become more reliable than ever before,” says Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds. “Even though there’s encouragement to turn your car over quickly from the media, keeping your car for a long time is an incredible way to save money.”
We asked Reed and Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, to spill their longevity secrets.
The days when mechanics told drivers to change their oil every 3,000 miles are long gone.
'Today, cars are going for longer and longer intervals,' says Reed, noting that some German-manufactured vehicles are using more quarts of oil, and synthetic oil at that.
A Porsche, for example, has a 20,000-mile change interval because it uses so much.
Short of reading the owner's manual, drivers should mind the change oil light on their dashboard.
With older cars especially, 'drivers should find a really good mechanic that they trust who is independent,' says Reed.
It's beats visiting a dealership where you'll have to communicate with the mechanics through a service advisor. That quality time with your car doctor will put you at ease.
Really want to keep your car forever young? Have your oil checked in a lab, says Reed. You'll find out when it really needs changing, and get the first word on pressing maintenance issues.
'They'll check to see if there are any metals floating around in the oil that indicate the car will break down soon,' Reed says, 'and they'll pick up if any coolant mixed with the oil.'
The latter is a big one since any leak in the gasket can destroy the engine.
'If you catch it early on, you can pre-emptively change it,' says Reed. All for $35, or the price of an oil change.
Drive too fast and too furious, and the brakes will go quickly. And when they do, they'll screech like crazy.
Solve the problem by investing in some new brake pads every now and then. In many cases that's all you'll need, rather than replacing the whole outfit, says Reed.
It may be the least-read book in the U.S., but it's 'chock full of great information,' says Nerad.
In it you'll find the car's maintenance schedule, along with useful tips for troubleshooting problems like leaky coolant.
'If you follow the book, you can go a long way in preserving your car and keeping it running for hundreds and thousands of miles,' he says.
Those fancy new tires won't last long if you don't have them rotated on a regular basis, Reed says.
Do it every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, so that they wear evenly. If you don't, you'll risk having a blowout--not fun.
Saving a little gas money isn't the only reason to keep an eye on the check engine light.
'It's useful to have that stuff checked because your car might be operating in a mode that's not optimum,' says Nerad.
If the light goes on then off, don't worry. If it stays on, better take it in for service.
Like fuel pumps and hoses, batteries are doomed to fail.
Routinely check the wiring that connects the battery to the car for corrosion. You'll know what is by the light, crusty coral appearance ('ugly stuff,' says Nerad).
Clean the gunk with a wire brush--just don't get it wet.
'It used to be you'd pull into a full-service gas station and most people would do it for you,' says Nerad.
Today, you should do it yourself.
Just pull out the dipstick and check for the mark that indicates the proper oil level. Not enough oil? Fill 'er up.
Cutting a check for new tires doesn't have to cost your rent. You can buy them online from a site like TireRack.com, which ships directly to your house so you can take them to the garage and have them installed.
'If you treat them right, they'll take you 50,000 miles,' Reed says.
There's a joyride and then there's a bouncy ride. When the struts (shock absorbers) go out, it's the latter.
'If your car is bouncing around on the road, the shocks are shot,' says Reed.
Plunk down $400 to $600 to have them replaced, or do the repairwork yourself.
To check your struts, sit on the right on or left front corner of your car, pressing all your weight down. Jump off, then check to see if the car gets bouncy.
'It should spring back and remain in the same position,' Reed says.
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