For a lot of people these days, buying a new car to replace that old one in the driveway isn’t an option. Also, it’s often cheaper in terms of monthly outlay to keep that old faithful ride running than to take on several years of payments and a higher insurance premium. Here are some pointers to a long and happy relationship with your older car.
Find out all you can about your particular year and model. Talk to your buddies, consult a professional mechanic, and surf the net for forums dedicated to your car––but remember, people with gripes post more than people who are satisfied with their cars, so don’t panic if a handful of posts are negative.
Go to the library and look at back issues of Consumer Reports, which publishes an annual car buyers guide with data on reported problems going back a number of years. Knowing what goes wrong with other people’s cars can help you avoid trouble with yours. Your library might also have shop manuals you can check out.
Now’s not the time to skip scheduled maintenance. Regular changes of oil, coolant, and other fluids are vital to the health of any car, new or old. Keep an eye on belts and hoses to prevent small problems from turning into big, expensive ones. Pay particular attention to the recommended interval for changing the timing belt, which if it breaks usually takes some valves out with it. [more[
Small things like chipped glass, broken trim, and rips in the seats or carpets don’t seem like very big deals when they happen, but if you let them accumulate they can overwhelm you, and before you know it you’ve lost the will to fix them all. Keep on top of repairs, and use each one as an opportunity to check out nearby parts of the car for potential problems. Don’t ignore those funny noises you hear sometimes. Check them out before they get louder––and costlier.
Keep your car clean. Wash and wax it regularly to preserve the paint and prevent rust. Keep an eye on the chrome, too. Spots of dirt that stick to it can corrode the thin layer of chrome and expose the metal underneath to the elements. Keep the interior clean, especially the carpets, which can be worn down by dirt ground into them by your feet.
Finally, even though your old car might not be the quickest or flashiest thing on the road any more, treat it the way you’d treat a favorite old pet, with respect and affection. You can stand on the loud pedal now and then, but don’t forget it’s an older car. Instead, think about the monthly payments you don’t have to make, and the lower insurance rates you’re paying—and when the economy picks up and you can finally afford a new car, you’ll get that much more for your old one.