Taking Care Of Your Older Vehicle


More people are keeping their cars longer than ever before. The days of trading in a vehicle after two years seem to be over for a growing part of the US populace who have decided to keep their cars and drive them until they drop. In today’s economy many owners hang hoodpay onto their older cars because they can’t afford a new one.

Older cars do offer advantages over newer models. Financially, all of the initial depreciation has already happened, so you don’t lose the value initially that you would when you drive the new car off the lot. You can buy a five year old Porsche for the same price as a brand new Honda Accord. Figures from CNW Marketing Research also show that a car purchased new in 2008 would cost around $25,500, with the same car now being worth $13,000. If you were to purchase it now, you’d have saved about $12,000 over a five year period.

In addition to being cheaper, older cars generally have lower insurance costs and cost less to register. The difference in registration can be as much as $1,000 depending on the state and whether the car is less than three years old. Older cars cost less to insure because they’re cheaper redribbonlive to replace if stolen or wrecked.

Some times we may refer to older vehicles and some times we use the term ‘high mileage’. High mileage can be understood to mean high miles per year, such as over 15,000 miles per year. For our purposes here, we’re thinking of older vehicles that have accumulated high total miles. How many miles? If you are driving a car or truck with 75,000 or more miles on the odometer, investing the time and money to properly maintain your older vehicle may turn out to be the right move.

With that in mind, we bring you The Guide to Maintaining Your Older Vehicle. In this resource we will cover the important priorities you should consider in maintaining your older vehicle, important maintenance points for when you acquire a new-to-you older car, ristomanager and when you should consider finally replacing your older vehicle for a newer one.

The Important Priorities

Keeping an older car running well can be a daunting task when you’re unfamiliar with what to do. What should you do first? Last? What things can you ignore and what things do you ignore at your (and your car’s) peril? There’s a lot of think about.

To simplify things, break it down into manageable bits. When owning and maintaining an older car, there are three types of priority areas that need to be addressed.

Priority #1:Items that may cause unsafe operating conditions when driving your vehicle. This includes your car’s braking system, tires, steering system, and what we call “the driver vision system” which is ensuring the clarity of all glass and keeping the windows and windshields’ free of MATRIX CRACK cracks or anything else that would obstruct vision.

Priority #2: Proper maintenance on potential things that could leave you stranded or cause other components such as the engine to fail. This includes radiator hoses, fuel lines, constant velocity (CV) joints, clutch fan and timing belts.

Priority #3: Normal maintenance like changing the engine oil, transmission fluid and engine coolant. This type of maintenance doesn’t prevent catastrophic breakdown but is essential to keeping your older vehicle running its best for the longest possible time.

Recommended Maintenance Procedures

Being proactive in the maintenance of your older vehicle will extend its life and save you money. Consider the following areas to target.

Oil Changes – The Life Blood of the Vehicle

Oil changes conducted at the recommended intervals are the single most important step you can take to keep your vehicle healthy. An oil change is cheap insurance because it removes grit and combustion by-products that end up in the crank case and can cause premature wear.

What to do?

Change the oil every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, which is fine for most vehicles. If you drive under severe service conditions (dusty environments, lots of short trips in cold weather), you should change it a little more often. Exactly how often is best dictated by whatever the vehicle owner’s manual says.

Some oil change places push high mileage oils for older cars. These high mileage oils are supposed to be formulated with higher doses of additives to prevent oil burn-off and deposits. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use a high mileage oil like this or even to use synthetic oil. But the frequency and regularity with which you change the oil is the most important factor.

Brakes – Driving’s Not Fun If You Can’t Stop

Brakes are one of your vehicle’s most important safety features and you should replace brake pads and shoes when they wear out. How often you need to do this depends on your driving habits and where you drive. Lots of city driving with stops and starts will wear the brake pads faster. So will towing trailers and carrying loads. On average, pads may last 30,000 to 40,000 miles. Some more expensive pads can last twice as long.

You can tell that your pads are worn thin if you hear a squealing noise when the brakes are engaged. When the pads are getting thin, the brakes will start to squeal. This is due to built-in wear indicators that are in contact with the rotors, producing that sound. Squealing is kind of a warning sound to you that you need to check your brakes. If you continue on without servicing the brakes, the squealing will turn into grinding. Grinding is the sound that the brakes have ground past the wear indicators and into the rotors themselves, which means the rotors are being damaged when the brakes are engaged. What was a cheap job of replacing pads just became more expensive when you have to re-surface or replace the rotors as well.

Rotors and Drums

It is wise also to pay attention to the other parts of your brake system – rotors, drums and calipers. All of these parts have to work together for the system to function properly and effectively. Over time, brake rotors or drums can be worn down. Excessively worn pads, as noted above, can lead to scoring of the rotor’s surface. If you feel pulsating when stopping, you know it’s time to have the rotors looked at.

Proper care of the rotors involving “turning” or resurfacing at the mechanic’s shop, giving you a fresh surface for the brake pads to grip onto. Resurfacing them saves money you by keeping you from having to replacing them completely. Of course, rotors and drums can only be turned so many times, so it is possible with an older vehicle that you will have to replace these parts.

Machinist turning rotors

Brake System Troubleshooting

There’s more to assessing brakes than simply listening for strange sounds. You can get some solid clues on the health of the vehicle braking system (and what you’re going to have to do to get it healthy again) by noting any of these unusual symptoms.


    • Pulling or Grabbing to One Side:This can happen for many reasons, none of them good. The brakes can be misadjusted, there can be leakage of grease, oil or brake fluid, or the brake cables may be frozen.


    • Loss of Brake Pedal:This happens when you’ve lost brake fluid to a leak. Leaks can be a result of brake line leaks or faults or even a bad master cylinder. Any good mechanic can diagnose the problem pretty easily.


    • Vibration of the Brake Pedal:This results from warping of the brake system surfaces. Excessive heat coupled with excessive wear warps the surface of the rotor or drum and results in the signature vibration. Unfortunately when the wear is up to this point, you’re probably going to have to replace the brake parts instead of being able to resurface them.


    • Clicking Noises During Braking:Clicking is simply a result of worn or broken devices on the brake pad that are supposed to stop movement of the brake pad. If they break, the pad will be loose and rattle during braking.


  • Excessive Drag During Acceleration:If you don’t use your emergency break very often, the cable can become rusty and may freeze.


What About Lost Brake Performance?

Catastrophic brake failure is something you want to avoid. But it doesn’t just happen overnight; some of the following factors can contribute:

1. Crystallized brake pads and/or shoes: Brakes function when the pad material is able to grab and hold the surface of the rotor or drum. Heat is generated as the brake functions in this way. When brakes becomes overused from stopping too fast too many times or from riding the brakes, the surface of the ad material crystallizes and becomes hard. This makes the brake pad surface unable to grab the rotor surface and unable to stop the car effectively.

Hot brakes under stress

2. Oil or grease soaked brakes. An important reason you should fix broken boots (the rubber sleeve that fits onto the end of the axle) and trans-axles. If they’re broken in some fashion, oil and grease can leak onto the brakes and reduce the stopping effectiveness.

3. “Hot Spots” on the brake drums or rotors can develop from excessive overheating in the same fashion as brake pad crystallization. These hot spots are really hardened areas that have been “cooked” by excessive heat. The brake pads can’t grip the surface of these areas effectively and this reduces stopping ability.

What To Do?

Don’t let the brakes in your older vehicle get to this point. If you can’t check the brake pads or rotors yourself for wear and tear, have them looked at by a mechanic every six months or so, as part of a vehicle checkup such as when you have the oil changed. It will save you money and headaches in the long run.

Belts and Hoses

The battery, air conditioning and cooling systems of the car all use belts and hoses to perform their essential functions. You have the timing belt, which keeps the crankshaft and camshaft synchronized to maintain engine timing, and transmits power from the front of the engine to power-hungry systems like AC and the fan. Cooling hoses distribute coolant to needed parts of the engine to prevent overheating. These belts and hoses, made out of rubber, will wear out over time. If one breaks, it can leave you stranded.

The remedy? Replacing them before they have a chance to fail. But how often to do this?

There are serpentine belts and there are v-belts. V-belts last about 3 years or 36,000 miles. The three year cutoff is important to note because research shows that the failure rate for this belts skyrockets when you get into year four.

Serpentine belts last longer at about five years or 50,000 miles. But they cost more to replace so there is a tradeoff there. It’s true for both types that you don’t want to be around when they break, so pay attention to their life span and plan accordingly.

For rubber hoses like in the cooling system, these develop tiny cracks that turn into big cracks, splits and leaks. This process is accelerated by oil contamination, atmospheric ozone exposure (urban driving), and extra engine vibration which may causes the hose to rub against something it wasn’t intended to.

What to do?

You can do visual inspections of the hoses, pinching them and inspecting them for signs of cracks and brittleness. But this only goes so far because coolant hoses especially wear from the inside due to the conductivity of the coolant flowing inside of it.

So the only real way to be sure is to bite the bullet and replace the hoses within the recommended lifetime guidelines.


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